Having said that, here is a caution: Although the significance of practical Christian living cannot be undermined, I have seen there are those who have gone to such an extreme that they just focus on living an exemplary life without verbal communication of the gospel. They say, “Your life itself is the gospel. You don’t have to necessarily speak the gospel. Whether in neighborhood or in workplace, simply live a good life and that declares the gospel. People should witness the gospel of Christ Jesus by seeing your life, not by hearing your words.”
Now, there is an element of truth in the above statement and I understand the good intentions behind such declarations. However, in our endeavor to focus on practical Christian living, to obliterate the necessity of proclaiming the gospel with our words is unbiblical and even deceptive, a wile of the devil. Beware of such extremes, for it is the devil’s horse on which he often delights to ride.
Jesus, Paul, Apostles and the Early Church
Give thought to this: None lived a glorious life like Jesus. He claimed of being the light of the world. On one occasion, He challenged the Jews to prove any sin in him. He was tempted in every way and yet was without sin. He lived an impeccable and absolutely holy life. Nevertheless, the gospels are replete with Jesus’ verbal preaching about the kingdom of God. (Jn. 8:12; 8:46; Heb. 4:15; Mr. 1:38)
If practical Christian living is enough, why should Jesus have to speak so much, constantly preaching and teaching to people about God’s kingdom and righteousness?
Consider Paul. Who can doubt his commitment in following Christ? Although he had human weaknesses, his life was sharply marked with holiness and love. He imitated Christ and even challenged others to imitate him as he imitated Christ. Nonetheless, he was passionate and committed to the verbal proclamation of the gospel of Christ Jesus. In fact, he considered his life worth nothing, except to testify to the gospel of God’s grace and to preach the gospel where Christ was not known. (1 Thess. 2:10; 1 Cor. 11:1; Acts 20:4; Rom. 15:20)
If practical Christian living is sufficient, why should Paul have to be so passionate and diligent in proclaiming the gospel of Christ Jesus? Incidentally, it is interesting to notice that even when people preached Christ out of false motives and selfish ambition, Paul rejoiced saying, "The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice" (Phi. 1:18).
And what should I say about the book of Acts? Is it not filled with the accounts of how the apostles and the believers were scattered everywhere, taking the message of the gospel to various people? (Acts 4:33; 5:42; 8:4)
Why should they have to labor so much in testifying to the good news of Christ when practical Christian living is all that matters?
Further, when reading the Holy Scripture, one should understand that when we find words such as preach, preached or preaching, it obviously means public announcement or verbal proclamation. And these words are found numerous times in the New Testament. I am sure you will get tired of counting them.
In our zeal to exalt good living, therefore, it is unbiblical to undermine the verbal proclamation of the gospel of Christ. Remember, it is in consideration of the significance of both exemplary living and teaching that Paul said, “Watch your life and teaching closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16).
How we live and what we speak—both are essential to Christian living.
No Proclamation of the Gospel, No Persecution
Besides, if Jesus, Paul, the apostles and the early church were focused only on practical Christian living, then they wouldn’t have faced so much persecution. There may probably be no persecution if you live just a moral life and do good to others. There may be indeed lots of fans we would gain who admire our good life.
With all due respect to Mother Teresa, who reflected love through her works of charity, I say this—she has gained an admiring place in the hearts of many unbelievers because she was not quite active in verbally communicating the gospel and motivating people to believe in Christ alone for their salvation. She did acknowledge the name of Jesus in what she did, but like Paul who said in 2 Cor. 5:11, “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men,” she is not known for persuading people to believe in Christ for their eternal life, even though she had great opportunities to do so.
You see, when we proclaim the gospel of Jesus, apart from people believing in Christ, we will inevitably produce many enemies. Perhaps, this is one reason why many are not proclaiming the gospel of Christ and simply focus on minding their business in living a good life.
Preach the Gospel through Word and Deed
Friends, we should be careful of bringing notions which contain more human fat than biblical vitamins. Such beliefs do more damage than good, such as living a good life to the exclusion of preaching the gospel. According to the Holy Scripture, we are commanded to preach the gospel through word and deed.
Take note of this—How we live confirms the life changing power and the reality of the gospel but it does not eliminate the necessity to preach the gospel. To believe words are not as essential as living is like “telling a reporter he should broadcast the news but that words are optional.” [I borrow this phrase from Justin Taylor]
So, let us preach the gospel at all times, with both words and life, not with either. Jesus exhorted us to do both. He not only said, “You are the light of the world. . . let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven,” but also, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Matt. 5:14-15; Mr. 16:15).
Moreover, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that while they preached the gospel to them, they were not a burden to anyone and lived holy, righteous and blameless among them (1 Thess. 2:9-10).
Have you observed—both words and life go together, not alone? In obedience to God's word, are we willing to carry the responsibility of holy living and also of proclaiming with our mouth the gospel of Christ Jesus? Let us be found faithful and diligent by the Lord in both living the gospel and sharing the gospel.
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