Tell of His SalvationThe Quote

Not too long ago, in the span of a few of days, I saw several people refer to a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi in the most glowing terms. I say attributed, because no one actually knows for sure if he coined the phrase, or even used it. On the other hand, in today’s climate, that really doesn’t matter. Well, that’s a whole other story, as we say in South Mississippi. For the sake of simplicity, we will go ahead and give him…credit. So to what am I referring? This statement:

“Every day preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

Doesn’t that sound profound? I wish I could come up with a phrase people would quote hundreds of years after I die. Eh, it’s unlikely. Anyway, back to the quote. What is this often quoted, simple, ten-word sentence saying? Let’s break it down.

The Meaning

St. Francis said, “Every day preach the Gospel.” What Jesus-loving Christian could disagree with that? All Christians should aspire to such a level of commitment, every day communicating the Gospel. Certainly, we don’t always succeed, but it should be so much a part of who we are that we naturally communicate it. The real question is, “how does one do that?”

St. Francis would have you believe the default method of communicating the Gospel is non-verbal; the wordless Gospel. We should use words only, “when necessary.” The inference is that we should communicate the Gospel through our actions. Don’t you remember what we learned as children, “Actions speak louder than words?” How does one preach the Gospel without using words?

Okay, I’ll take a run at it. Christians should love everyone, believers and unbelievers alike. Okay, I buy that. We should serve them. I buy that, too. Believers should love their families and be committed to their wives or husbands. Talk to me! Christians should behave ethically and morally in all things. Preach it, brother! Christians should be the hardest working and most honest and loyal employees of all. AMEN! I’M IN!

See, preaching the Gospel is mostly wordless. Well, St. Francis says perhaps sometimes, if it is necessary, we should use words. I have one simple question about that. Where is the Gospel? I know numerous people are reading this right now thinking that I am missing the point.

The Problem

 

Some of you would like to tell me that St. Francis of Assisi is just trying to say that we should be doers of the Word. We are to serve, be an example, do good to others, behave, love, share, and all the other things the Bible tells us to strive for. This is the essence of the Gospel. You would be right; this is exactly what St. Francis meant. However, you would also be wrong. That is not the Gospel.

That’s right, all of the things listed above are what we should be doing as Christians, but they are not the Gospel. Let me give you a real life example to illustrate what I mean.

We currently live in the country of Turkey and we have met many people who know very little of Jesus. They did not grow up in a culture that speaks of Jesus much, except as a prophet who came before Mohammed. Most people here certainly don’t know the Christian Gospel.

Some American Christian friends met a local family and they became very good friends. The local family kept telling our friends that they are so good! They have never met people as good as them. “You are such good people!” they exclaim. The example our friends are living is truly a new experience for their unbelieving neighbors. However, it is not the Gospel.

If our friends never told them the Gospel, either verbally or in written form, they perhaps would just go on wondering why, how, and what makes our friends different from just about everyone they know.

Have you thought about this, a person doesn’t have to be a Christian in order to serve someone well, be honest in his or her business, or to be a good employee? I know non-Christians who fit this description. Could their “goodness” be confused with a Christian’s “goodness”? (For all you theologians out there, I am not talking about “good” in the “righteous” sense, but in the worldly sense.) The motivation should be different, but the behavior can be the same. Living a good life as an example is not enough to communicate the Gospel. We have to do more.

Communicating The Gospel

The Gospel is what Christ did for us on the cross. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah is the Gospel. This is a message that must be communicated, and one must hear it in order to believe it. However, don’t just take my word for it; look at the Scriptures.

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15

“And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom…” Matthew 4:23

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Romans 10:14

“But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:16-17

“Gospel” means good news. Paul, Peter, John and the disciples didn’t live a good life hoping people would just “get it”. They told people what they needed to know in order to be saved. In the book of Acts chapter 22, Peter shares the good news with the people of Israel.

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know–this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:22-42

Living an exemplary life is what every Christian should strive to do. We should live in a way that non-believers cannot readily explain. We should be different, separate, holy. That is what Scripture teaches us. However, these are all evidences that we have been transformed by the Gospel of Christ; it is not the Gospel. The Gospel must be proclaimed, with words. Otherwise, you are just a good person and no one knows why.

Edited 4 October 2015