f The Wittenberg Door: Preach the Gospel, Use Words if Necessary

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Preach the Gospel, Use Words if Necessary


Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary

The above quote, attributed to Francis of Assisi (1182 – 1326), is sometimes used by Christians to spur other believers on to works of service. The thought being that we show the gospel through our deeds. The quote has made its way onto tee shirts, coffee cups, bumper stickers, and has even been used in church advertisements. Here’s an example of its use by one Christian ministry [italics in original]:

May we take to heart the wisdom of Saint Francis of Assisi who stated that he was compelled to preach the gospel at all times, in all places, with all his might even if it meant resorting to words. People must see the gospel in action before they can hear the good news.

The quote, whether actually said by Assisi or not, fits in with early Roman Catholic Mysticism, and more broadly with Rome’s soteriological view. But it does not fit with biblical Christianity: Contrary to the “Use words if necessary” part, the gospel can only be preached through words. The message of the doing and dying of Christ is not proclaimed though my works (I am not the gospel). Regardless of how many old ladies I help cross the street, or of how many poor I feed, or of any other good work I might perform, none of these actions will answer the question, “What must I do to be saved?” Only words can do that.

This is in nowise meant to discount our responsibility to be, as Paul calls us, ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), and to have our works follow our faith (Js. 2:14-17). But it is the faith that comes first, and that only comes through the working of the Spirit via the preached word (Rom. 10:14-17).

--The Catechizer

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