The Gospel in the Hole
Have you ever noticed a hole in personal testimonies?
A personal testimony is a relating of our own experience of salvation. It is an account of the powerful work of God in our own life. Some berth must be given for the “personal” aspect, though certain things are always, or should be, the same. Some allowance must be made that not everyone is a theologian or preacher on the order of Paul, yet all testimonies should have some things in common with Paul.
Paul had a dramatic experience on the Damascus road, but he didn’t consider himself to be in a different class of conversion from others. He wrote:
Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
~ 1 Timothy 1:16
If I were to combine and summarize many testimonies I have heard, it would go something like this:
- Personal crisis. This could be a financial loss, medical issue, death of a loved one, etc. In this part, words like “strayed” and “disconnected” are common.
- Help. This could come from a friend, family member, or through a church. In this part, words like “reconnected,” “community,” and “serving” are common.
- Solution. This is where the crisis is resolved or worked out in some way. Words like “peace,” “victory,” and “blessing” are common.
My comments are not intended to be negatively critical of those elements. It’s not so much what is said, but what is not said that is concerning. Such testimonies rarely refer to sin or repentance and you seldom hear much about God or Jesus Christ. There is a gaping hole in these testimonies and primarily the Gospel is missing.
Paul gave his testimony before Agrippa in Acts 26:2-23. There are some marked differences between Paul and what we hear prevalently today. It’s not that Paul did not relate personal experiences, he did. But he also told the truth of the Gospel that gave meaning to his experience.
Consider some of what Paul included.
- The hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers (v. 6)
- That God should raise the dead [resurrection] (v. 8)
- The name of Jesus Nazareth (v. 9)
- I was not disobedient I (v. 19)
- They should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance (v. 20)
- Saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come (v. 22)
- The suffering of Christ, His resurrection, and light to the people (v. 23)
I don’t suggest we have to be theologians or preachers to give our testimonies. I don’t suggest we should embellish our testimonies to sound like we are saved. I do suggest there is a hole in our testimonies and we should put the Gospel in the hole.