This statement has been bugging me since Tuesday’s DiM post. This seems to be a prevalent notion among the “missional” or “relational” churches who push the notion that “living out the Gospel” is somehow preferable to “preaching the Gospel”.
We live in a society that extols the man-made virtue of “Freedom of Speech” especially in voicing one’s opinion; however, that freedom of speech is routinely abridged whenever the speech invokes God, the Bible, or preaching the Gospel. That is to be expected based on what Jesus taught His disciples:
John 15:18-20 (ESV) | The Hatred of the World
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
What we should not have expected, was for the church to have accepted this upside-down concept of the Gospel, where we can freely share our opinions, but don’t you DARE share TRUTH without having earned the right to do so. What garbage, and again, it is completely upside down from what God’s Word teaches. Let’s look at what Scripture says regarding preaching, beginning with John the Baptist.
Matthew 3:1-12 (ESV) | John the Baptist Prepares the Way
1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’”
4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan,confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor andgather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Words… they are necessary for preaching. Let’s look at the start of Jesus’ Ministry after spending 40 days fasting in the wilderness, resisting the Devil.
Matthew 4:12-17 (ESV) | Jesus Begins His Ministry
12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying,“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
So, one might object, “oh but John the Baptist was specially anointed and Jesus is the very Son of God”. Fair objection. Let’s move to Acts chapter 8.
Acts 8:4-17 (ESV) | Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria
4 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was much joy in that city.
9 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.
14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
We know that the signs and wonders were of God the Holy Spirit operating through Philip. Notice here, though, that words are needed (necessary) even in the presence of miraculous signs and wonders such as unclean spirits being cast out, and the lame and paralyzed being healed in their midst. Words are necessary, at all times, for the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One might argue, “but these are descriptive texts, you cannot make a prescription from them”… to that I would say, “you are mostly correct, and I’ll remember you pointed that out in future conversations”. Let’s look to some prescriptive texts regarding the preaching of the Gospel.
Romans 10:13-15 (ESV) 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written,“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
1 Corinthians 1:20-25 (ESV)20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Ephesians 3:8-12 (ESV)8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV) | Preach the Word
1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Now, to be sure, if we do not submit to the Word of God we preach, then we work contrary to the Gospel, unless we also confess our sin one to another, repenting and forgiving as we have been forgiven by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this point, we will return to 1 Corinthians and better understand what it is Paul is teaching in chapter 9.
1 Corinthians 9:8-27 (ESV) 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. 15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. 16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. 19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Sorun that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
And this is why I boldly state that this idea that one must earn the right to speak Truth (often reinforced using the Francis of Assisi quote) is completely backward. The preaching of the Gospel requires words at all times. However, when such preaching opens a door for relationship or fellowship we must live in step with the Spirit, lest we disqualify ourselves for our lack of self-control.
Opinions… everyone has them
Let’s look at the difference between opinions and Truth. There is a difference and we need to be very careful how we divide the Word of God to “prove our point”. Scripture is very clear about a great many things, and it is also clear about opinions.
Romans 14:1-4 (ESV) | Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another
1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Romans 14:13-19 (ESV) | Do Not Cause Another to Stumble
13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building.
That is NOT to say that all opinions are equally valid. As long as there is TRUTH (Scripture) then there is a standard by which we can declare certain opinions to be false, and we are not to simply allow every opinion that is false to go un-checked.
2 Corinthians 10:1-6 (ESV) | Paul Defends His Ministry
1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience,when your obedience is complete.
Therefore, let us not compromise the Word of God for the sake of a short-lived, human-defined, sense of fellowship. We must preach the Gospel and by the Grace of God we must live out that Gospel in a manner that demonstrates the love of God, so that we are not disqualified. That doesn’t mean we have to live perfectly under the Law, though that should be our aim, it means that when we fall short of the Law we demonstrate repentance and embrace the Gospel that we preach. You are a sinner. I am a sinner. While we walk in our mortal, sinful flesh, we will sin. The Gospel isn’t that somehow we suddenly stopped sinning, but that in Christ Jesus we have the forgiveness of sin and the promise of a new body, one free of sin and death, that we will inherit either when we die or when Christ returns. That is the Gospel we must preach and live, and it words are always necessary, for faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Words of Christ (Romans 10:17).
May the Grace of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ fill your words, actions, and thoughts,
In Christ Jesus,