“A Key Witness”

“But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”

(1 Timothy 1:16)

Trial lawyers know the importance of evidence and the value of a witness. But things get challenging when a witness has something to gain by testifying one way or the other.

The “Hearsay Rule” says that statements made out of court by a witness can’t be admissible in court if they are being used to prove the truth of the matter asserted by the statement. This is a convoluted way of saying out-of-court statements can’t be trusted because they can’t be cross-examined in court. 

There are a number of exceptions to the “Hearsay Rule” and one of them is an admission by an opponent called a “statement against interest.” In other words, when someone on the other side of the case makes a statement that admits the weakness of his own case and the strength of the other.

For example, if a major corporation is being sued for dumping chemicals into a river and the CEO of the corporation admits (out of court) he ordered the dumping, he has made a “statement against interest.” Since his statement harms his side of the case it carries more weight and can be used in court.

Now let’s pretend you were trying to prove the validity of  the resurrection of Jesus and the inauguration of God's kingdom in a court of law. Who would be the best witness for such a case? Whose testimony would carry the most weight?

Some say that the Bible was written by Christians who had a vested interest in Christianity being true. I think there are good answers for that, not least of which is the fact that the apostles and early Christians lost a great deal for their convictions. But, for the sake of argument, let's grant this criticism. A more credible witness would be an enemy of the Christian faith, one who actively opposed and publicly denounced the movement.

Can you think of anyone who would fit this description?

In a court of law, Saul of Tarsus would be the most valuable witness for lending credibility to the good news of the King. A good trial lawyer would put an eyewitness like Saul, a former enemy turned ally (Gal. 1:13; Phil. 3:4ff), on the stand and let him sing his song to the jury over and over again. Saul was willing to change his mind and it cost him dearly. He was severely persecuted for “switching sides” which gave him credibility as a witness for the truth. 

And how did God use Paul in the book of Acts? In every place, He was in a position to share his testimony publicly. When Paul was eventually arrested and put on trial in front of a string of government officials, none of the charges for treason or rebellion stuck. But he used this ready audience not simply to defend his innocence but as a platform to promote the message of good news. Paul was a key witness. (Acts 1:8; 9:15)

“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Tim. 1:12ff)