The Testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses

The Testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses

Eye-witnessFor PDF of this article click – HERE

“By the testimony of two or three witnesses let every word be established.”

This is a very well known statement in many parts of Christ’s body. More often than not it is used as a means of establishing the veracity of a doctrine. If a tenant or teaching can be found in 2 or three separate locations, representing more than one independent example, then it is considered established doctrine due to this “rule”.

This brief article is here to examine whether or not this is a legitimate practice for establishing the dependable veracity of a teaching as Christian doctrine.

Well of note is that this statement appears under both covenants. What may be of particular import to some is that the majority of them appear in the New Testament and are used in the exact same manner as in the Old.

These examples are found in Deut. 17:6; 19:15; Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19 & in Heb. 10:28.

To be thorough I will list all of these with enough surrounding verses to correctly understand their individual settings. 

Deuteronomy 17:2-6, 

“(2) If a man or woman among you in one of your towns that the LORD your God will give you is discovered doing evil in the sight of the LORD your God and violating His covenant  (3)  and has gone to worship other gods by bowing down to the sun, moon, or all the stars in the sky–which I have forbidden–  (4)  and if you are told or hear about it, you must investigate it thoroughly. If the report turns out to be true that this detestable thing has happened in Israel,  (5)  you must bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing and stone them to death.  (6)  THE ONE CONDEMNED TO DIE IS TO BE EXECUTED ON THE TESTIMONY OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES

NO ONE IS TO BE EXECUTED ON THE TESTIMONY OF A SINGLE WITNESS!”

Deuteronomy 19:15, 

“(15) ONE WITNESS CANNOT ESTABLISH ANY WRONGDOING OR SIN AGAINST A PERSON, WHATEVER THAT PERSON HAS DONE. A FACT MUST BE ESTABLISHED BY THE TESTIMONY OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES.”

Matthew 18:15-16,

“(15) If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. (16)  But if he won’t listen, take ONE OR TWO MORE WITH YOU, SO THAT BY THE TESTIMONY OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE ESTABLISHED.”

2 Corinthians 13:1-4,

“(1) This is the THIRD TIME I am coming to you. ON THE TESTIMONY OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY WORD WILL BE CONFIRMED. (2)  I gave warning, and I give warning–as when I was present the second time, so now while I am absent–to those who sinned before and to all the rest: if I come again, I will not be lenient,  (3)  since you seek proof of Christ speaking in me. He is not weak toward you, but powerful among you.  (4)  In fact, He was crucified in weakness, but He lives by God’s power. For we also are weak in Him, yet toward you we will live with Him by God’s power.”

1 Timothy 5:19-21, 

“(19) Don’t accept an accusation against an elder unless it is supported by two or three witnesses.  (20)  Publicly rebuke those who sin, so that the rest will also be afraid.  (21)  I solemnly charge you, before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing out of favoritism.”

Hebrews 10:28-29, 

“(28)  If anyone disregards Moses’ law, he dies without mercy, BASED ON THE TESTIMONY OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES.  (29)  How much worse punishment, do you think one will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God, regarded as profane the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and insulted the Spirit of grace?”

As is abundantly clear – each of these cases is NOT regarding establishing a doctrine, but the truthfulness and reliability of a moral or legal claim against a brother or sister in the faith. All of these verses speak of confirming a thing’s truthfulness by these eye-witness testimonies.

So can this be used to establish doctrines? Personally I believe it can! I own this as a personal belief, but one in which I believe is warranted based upon the spirit of the reason for this rule in regard to properly judging people. 

If something only appears once in all of scripture, it hardly warrants claiming it to set the precedence for a Christian doctrine in all similar cases. Such is too subjective to stand the test of honest scrutiny. 

If however, we see a teaching or example at least three SEPARATE times, confirmed by Jesus, the Apostles or the scriptures at large – I believe it is warranted to assume it is an established doctrine given that all of the particulars in each case are the same.

So while such was not the original use of this statement nor its ongoing mentions throughout scripture – I believe it sets a bar by which other truths may be established, including doctrine!

Blessings!

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!

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