Saturday, November 11, 2023

Words Are Necessary!

By Joe Slater
    “Preach the gospel at all times. And if necessary, use words.” Rightly or wrongly, the saying has been attributed to “Saint” Francis of Assisi and is often paraphrased, “Preach the gospel; use words if necessary.”
    Let me be the last to discourage anyone from setting a good example. I understand the gist of the lines from Edgar Guest’s poem: “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day; I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.” Countless doors for the gospel have been slammed shut and permanently locked due to poor examples and outright hypocrisy of professing Christians.
    That being said, your kindness, morality, pure speech, and honesty cannot inform anyone of their need for salvation, much less answer the question, “What must I do to be saved.” Words are necessary! Nobody will know who Jesus is or what He did for us merely by seeing your example. Peter didn’t say to Jesus, “You have the example of eternal life.” He said, “You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
    The quip, “Use words if necessary,” strongly suggests that words probably aren’t necessary and may not even be desirable; it translates into a comfortable excuse to disobey the divine directive to speak the truth in love. “Use words of necessary” ignores God’s own stated goal and wish: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).
    Yes, there’s a message to be preached, not just an example to be set. Nobody will know of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, much less how to respond to it, simply by seeing your example of clean living.
    You open the door with your good example. Then go through that door with the words of the gospel!

- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

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