“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel…”—2 Timothy 2:8 (ESV)
There is a popular quote always misattributed to St. Francis of Assisi. It has been flying around for centuries and preachers love to throw it around all the time. It says: “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Am sure you have heard it before.
All claims that St. Francis said those words are baseless. He would never come up with a rusty and careless statement like that one above. A few months back, a worship leader in the church I was attending said these words:
“Sometimes you may be the only bible unbelievers read.”
What he meant was that you should strive to be a good person because your life is a stone tablet on which the words of salvation and grace are scribbled. The way you walk should show it, so that souls will flock to you and receive mercy.
Jeez! How careless and unreasonable to think that someone will be saved from God’s wrath and at the same time receive eternal life by watching your “Christian walk”! The bible nowhere suggests that we are the gospel or that our lives preach the gospel.
When Jesus tells us to be the salt and the light of the world in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:13-16), His intention is not that we do what He says, rather those impossible demands meant to break our backs and point us to Himself who comes to do for us what we can never do for ourselves. Christ is the salt and light of the world (John 8:12).
When James says: “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18), he is speaking in the context of Christian growth. Works or deeds in this sense are a “fruit of faith”, something that grows from the “root of faith” which is the gospel of God’s free forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. This has nothing to do with our lives preaching the gospel.
Now what does the bible say about the gospel? In Acts 10:43, Peter says that the prophets of old bore witness to the forgiveness of sins that would come in Christ Jesus. Paul, in Acts 13:38-39 defines the gospel as “the forgiveness of sins” through Jesus. Again, as Paul introduces the gospel to the Romans, he says that the gospel was “promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son.” (Romans 1:2).
What we glean from all portions of scripture this is not just that the entire bible points to Jesus but also that He is the gospel. When we weave beautiful words about grace, mercy, salvation and God’s free forgiveness of sins by grace, we preach the gospel. Why? Because then we have located gospel outside ourselves.
Contrary to erroneous theology, you and I are not the gospel, and the lives we lead do not preach the gospel. Instead the gospel is located outside of ourselves in Jesus Christ in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
That is your Lifeline, AMEN.