“You shall not bear false witness,” said the Father.
“You shall be witnesses for me,” said the Son.
Shall is an imperative. He didn’t say, “Will you?”
We have free will. We must decide if we will follow instructions, advice, or laws.
The law says “you shall”, and we make a choice: “Will I obey this law? If I don’t, what shall the consequences be? If I do obey this law, the consequences should be good.”
FYI: I am an old woman and when I was a young woman I had a dictionary where the differences between the words shall and will were more distinct than they are today. Shall was imperative and will was conditional.
When the Son said “You shall,” I believe he neither said, “you must,” nor did he ask if we had the will to obey.
I think of “You shall be witnesses…” as a law of nature. The son was telling us how it would be. In the same way that we have no choice in our birth, we have no choice in our height, and we have no choice in the direction of the wind or rain; we have no choice in this. When we are born into the family of God, we automatically become a witness of the character of our Creator. Whether we are true witnesses to the character of our Maker depends, or a false witness is where our will comes in.
We, in Adam, were originally created to be his mirror image as he is recorded as saying in Genesis 1:26-28. We were created to reflect his glory and do his will on earth, but as I see it, because he has free will and we were his image, we have free will. We, in Adam, made the choice to disobey and marred that perfect image. We no longer had direct access to our Maker – death is separation and the result of sin is death. Now when we are born into this world, we separated from our Architect by the weakness that dwells in our bodies through this natural estrangement.
Through the Son, who is the exact representation of the Father, we are destined to again reflect his glory as we spend time with our Savior. We can spend a lot of time memorizing pat phrases that we believe will identify us as good Christians and still be false witnesses. Some people get what they believe is a fire insurance from hell by repeating a prayer and then going on with their lives as though they had never met the Savior. They are false witnesses. Some well-intended people spend a lot of time in church doing good works and don’t have time to spend in private fellowship with their Savior. They are false witnesses because God’s character can’t rub off on them since they hardly ever come in contact with him.
I want to be a true witness so I will spend time with the Son through the pages of his Word and world. He inhabits the praises of his people so I will tell of all his wondrous works – both in word and deed. I will be his hands and feet and voice, ready to be uses when he is ready to use me. I will wait upon the Lord and my strength shall be renewed – and I shall mount up with wings as an eagle and soar on the power of his love.