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This is a popular saying, often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. However, he never said it.  Furthermore, it is a saying that makes no sense.  Most importantly, there is no support for such in the Bible.

“Preach”

To preach anything, one must use words – either verbal or written. Words are how people communicate, and words are always necessary in communicating the gospel.

“The Gospel”

We know the gospel is the good news of Jesus’ life, death, burial, resurrection, and the saving grace He offers everyone. And Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing, which means hearing words proclaiming who Jesus is and what He has done.  The Bible does not say that faith can come by watching how others live.

Let’s look at the Romans 10 passage:

Rom 10:13  For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”  How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher [someone to speak the words]?

Rom 10:15   And how shall they preach unless they are sent? [We Christians have been sent, commissioned by Jesus, to preach the Gospel with words ]  As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

Rom 10:17  So then faith comes by hearing [words preached], and hearing by the word of God.

Rom 10:18  But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.”

Words are Always Necessary

The problem with the pithy saying, “Preach the Gospel and When Necessary Use Words,” is that it implies we can preach the gospel with our actions. 

I’ve often heard, “I’m not called to evangelize,” but that’s simply not true.  While we are not all called to be vocational evangelists, we are all called to preach the gospel and make disciples of all nations (Mat 28:19) — and that’s only done by evangelizing.  Furthermore,  Jesus commissioned us with a command to do so.

The Great Commission

All four Gospels include the Great Commission, given by Jesus after His resurrection and glorification.  (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:44-49; John 20:21-23)  Each Gospel gives a command to preach or teach — and Jesus meant that we are to speak using words.  

Mat 28:19-20  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them [words are necessary] to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Mark 16:15  And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel [with words] to every creature.

Luke 24:44-45, 48  Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”

   And He opened their understanding [with words], that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

   “And you are witnesses of these things….” [A witness is to testify, i.e. speak of what he has witnessed].

John 20:21  Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.  [God sent Jesus to preach and proclaim with words. Luke 4:18]

Even in the first chapter of Acts, before the Lord’s ascension into Heaven, Jesus commanded that His followers preach the gospel — again, using words.

Acts 1:8  “…you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me… [Witnesses always use spoken words. A silent witness is no witness at all.]

So why the phrase, “when necessary use words?”

The saying suggests that how we live will be a witness and will preach the gospel.  That is simply WRONG.  Just like our good works can’t save us, our good works can’t preach the gospel.  If good works could, many unregenerate people are preaching.  Of course, they aren’t.  They are caring people who simply do good works, but their good works do not glorify God, nor do they preach the gospel.

We must use words to testify of Jesus’ saving grace. 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  How we live is very important.  It is essential to support the testimonies that we speak with our words. A redeemed life is a changed life and an empowered life. If we speak the gospel and don’t live in a way that demonstrates we have been changed by it, our testimony will be of little value.

So why is this saying so popular?  

I would suggest it is because not using words lets many “off the hook.”  Some feel uncomfortable speaking about Jesus.  But I suggest they are letting the fear of man’s disapproval or rejection control them.  They fear they won’t have the answers to questions, or they think they don’t know the gospel message well enough to explain it.  

Such fears must be crucified because Jesus has commissioned us to testify of Him. He has also equipped every one of us to do so.  All Christians must remember that we are simply the mouthpieces of the message. The Holy Spirit lives in us, and His job is to teach and guide us —- including our verbal and written communications.  

Beautiful Feet or Busy Feet?

We all have “busy feet.”  We all do good things that show love to others.  I know many non-Christian people who have very “busy feet.”  They exceed me in charitable giving and good works.  But none of their works are in service to the Lord.  Their feet are “busy,” but my feet are “beautiful.”

The prophet Isaiah spoke of the beautiful feet of those who love and serve the Lord by proclaiming the gospel with words.

Isa 52:7  How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims [with words] peace, Who brings glad tidings [words] of good things, Who proclaims [with words] salvation, Who says [with words] to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Preach the Gospel, Trusting The Spirit Will Give You the Words

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to tell the world of the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are His ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20), and ambassadors speak!  We are to speak His message of redeeming grace to a lost and dying world.  

BE BOLD

Acts 4:13  Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

Peter and John were not unlearned or ignorant.  They had been with Jesus.  And we have Jesus with us.  BE BOLD — knowing and trusting Jesus — and fulfill your commission, knowing you don’t do it by yourself but by the power of His Spirit.  

Acts 4:20  For we [Peter and John] cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.

Conclusion

  • Speak the gospel, for it’s necessary to use words.  
  • Live the gospel, for it’s necessary to support the testimony of your words.
  • Do both and glorify the One who lived and died for you and has given you eternal life with Him.

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***A Hidden Message in Psalm 23?***  

Hidden in the six verses of Psalm 23 are 11 names for Jesus.  When you subscribe to our newsletter, we’ll send you The Names of God in Psalm 23 PDF that reveals all 11 names and Scripture verses of comfort and hope (link will be sent in your confirmation email).

A Room with a View of Eternity—The Last Will & Testament of Jesus Christ   Take a seat at the Master's table. Learn about the riches He gives to all who are His. This book will bless and encourage you, give you hope, and help you live in the joy of your salvation and the riches of Christ that are yours.

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