Monday, 20 October 2008

If Necessary, Use Words

I came upon this phrase again this past weekend. It is attributed to St Francis of Assisi, who may (or may not) have said something like,
"Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary use words."

I was reminded of what Pastor Terry once said, that the true gospel cannot be communicated in anything but words.

Nowadays the term, 'gospel' is used in all sorts of applications and has been assigned all sorts of meanings by people of all sorts of theological stripes. But the Apostle Paul tells us clearly exactly what the real Gospel is:
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

In short, the Gospel is simply that Jesus died and rose again so that those who believe in him may have forgiveness of sins and eternal life with him. How do you communicate that without words?

Now, I am not trying to diminish the thought behind the initial quote, but I think it applies more to a verse like Matthew 5:16:
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16
Or another,
"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35)

These two can indeed be shown without words, and Christians are called to do so, but they are not the Gospel. They may be a prelude, or a means of gaining the opportunity to present the Gospel. But the true Gospel of Jesus Christ still requires words, either spoken or written. There is no other way.

Take Care