“Preach the gospel, and, if necessary, use words.”
This phrase I heard quite often in high school, and was meant to encourage Christians to live a life representing the change that had happened within them through the grace of God. I get the sentiment behind this phrase, and I think the intentions were good, but the truth is that it is impossible to share the gospel without using words.
Romans 10:13-14 and 17 (ESV) says, "For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' 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?... So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
As Christians, we are to be bold in our boasting of Christ (Galatians 6:14), and always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that we have in us (1 Peter 3:15). It’s been said that we often talk about the things that we love most. Is the Word of God the thing that is quick off of our lips? Are we afraid to speak the Truth of God out of worry that we might offend someone? We have a war going on around us and people need to hear the gospel as God has given it to us, not some watered-down, fluffy gospel we create so as to not make someone uncomfortable.
We are called to share the gospel, and live the gospel. Not one or the other.
Granted, we are to speak with wisdom, letting our words be seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6), but gracious speech sometimes is difficult to receive when it’s bringing to light the sin in our lives and the sin in the world. I think that the phrase “preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words,” has given us an out when we are intimidated by the command to preach the good news to those around us. Be bold. Stand firm in your faith. Be diligent to read the word and share it as it is, and not succumb to what “feels good” or “sounds good.”
There will be days when what the Bible calls us to do doesn’t feel good because we are sinners and our flesh still has some hold on us (as it will until Jesus returns), but we are still commanded to submit to Its authority. And we should share it with those around us in a way that shows we understand this truth.
This doesn’t negate the importance of living well. The Bible calls us to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel (Colossians 1:10) and to be a light in our dark world. But our actions shouldn’t be the only way we try to “share” the gospel. Our actions indicate that we truly believe what we’re saying to those around us. They are proof of a changed heart. That's why James teaches that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). We'd be hypocrites if we shared that Christ is Lord and lived as if He wasn't.
That's why the phrase "preach the gospel, and, if necessary, use words," is wrong. We are called to share the gospel, and live the gospel. Not one or the other. Let us not be ashamed to speak the truth to a dying world. All have sinned (Romans 3:23), so all are destined to hell apart from Christ. Let us offer hope. We have a reason to boast! Not in anything we have done, but in the sufficient work of Jesus Christ for our salvation.
So, let me ask you…Are you being bold in sharing the gospel? Or do you care more about what the world thinks of you?