“I don’t want to be ‘preachy’ to people. I choose to be an example through good works and a good attitude. Only if they ask about Christ, I’ll tell them.”
I’ve heard this quite a few times. And most every time I hear it, the person speaking it means well. Many truly believe that by simply being a light, it will draw people to know Christ.
Except that this isn’t a Christian thing to do.
I know many people who are shining examples of good moral values. Some of them are even Christian.
We don’t have exclusive rights to doing good things, or to being giving. Quite a few of my atheist friends are more giving than many self-proclaimed Christians that I know.
And this is the problem with only living our lives in a caring way. Anyone can love their neighbor. Anyone can give to the poor.
Only Christ can provide everlasting life.
You may have heard the phrase, “Preach the gospel, use words if necessary.” This is bad theology. Jesus tells us to baptize all nations, teaching them all that He told us. Teaching is a transfer of knowledge. This requires words. So a better phrase should be, “Preach the gospel, and since it is necessary, use words.” (source)
Yes, we are to teach others of the word of God, using words to explain it.
“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? … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Ro 10:14-15, 17)
If we do not speak the truth to those we know and those we meet, we are keeping them from knowing God’s good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. And if they are not told about His sacrifice on the cross, it’s like seeing someone drowning and not throwing them the lifeline to save them.
Penn Jillette, one half of Penn & Teller, is a well known atheist. Yet even he says, “How much do you have to hate someone to not tell them about the gospel?”
There is also a second side of this coin. In addition to teaching the Word of Christ, we are to make sure it is taught correctly. After all, if the wrong thing is being taught, it can easily lead people away from Christ.
I’ll give an example. If I am taught that if I pray hard enough to God, He will reward me with that promotion or that new house.
A verse from Jeremiah is frequently used incorrectly to persuade people into thinking that God will reward them in this life for doing something good. The verse says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes.”
Except, in these verses, God is talking to the nation of Israel and Jeremiah is prophesying, through God, that He will return them to their homeland after a 70 year exile because of their disobedience to Him. It was a prophesy to a certain people in a certain time. It isn’t teaching that God’s plans for you are to give you fortunes.
And when people are taught this bad theology, when they don’t get that promotion or they don’t get fortunes, they feel disappointed. Either they feel it was their fault that they didn’t love God enough, or, worse they even second-guess God’s love for them.
The end result? They fall away from God because they were taught something wrong.
“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1-15)
One of the biggest trends I’ve seen in church circles these days is that “Jesus Loves” and “Love Wins.” As a result, we should simply love people for who they are and let everyone ‘find their own path’ to God.
A result of this thinking is that it becomes wrong to help someone who is suffering from sin (though we all suffer from sin). It has even become so taboo to talk about sin these days, that many don’t even acknowledge sin as sin, despite the bible clearly calling out these specific sins.
The result is thinking that sounds like this:
“The Holy Spirit has called me to love people the way God loved me. That means I will care for you to the best of my ability without rules. I will love you and leave your sin between you and God. “ (source)
The first sentence may be true. But the second and third become dangerous. God does have rules for us. And He is clear about them.
Imagine that your friend joins your gym. Your friend wants to be healthier and more fit. When you watch him working out, you see he doesn’t use the fitness equipment exactly right or workout correctly. You see him doing leg lifts wrong, and you realize he could hurt his back. He means well and his intentions are in the right place.
Do you speak up and say something? Do you leave his fitness to himself?
What if, after working out incorrectly for several weeks, you then see that he brought a friend to the gym and is now teaching his friend to do leg lifts incorrectly. Your silence on the matter is not only harmful to your friend’s health, but also other people’s health.
Your love for your friend would compel you to intervene to prevent this destructive behavior. You would want to do so in a loving way, not condemning him or judging him, but with gentleness. Just as God instructs us.
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any sin, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” (Gal 6:1)
In the same way, sin destroys (James 1:15). Love is preventing destruction: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).
What about those that are not even trying to help themselves like our friend at the gym, but have destructive behavior? If someone we love were an alcoholic, do we show them we love them by saying, “I will love you and leave your sin between you and God,” and let them be? Or do we intervene, telling them of their destructive behavior?
We should remember Proverbs 27:5: ”Better is open rebuke than hidden love.”
Loving someone is preventing their destructive behavior, regardless of their own intention. This does not mean shouting at them, condemning them, or making them feel small. This means intervening and helping through love. The love of preventing destruction.
Jesus was grace. He was also truth (John 1:14). In Ephesians 4:15, God commands us to “speak the truth in love.”
We do this by using God’s word to help.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 3:16-4:4)
This is why we must be ready, at all times, to help those who are interpreting God’s word incorrectly. This means, as Paul says to Timothy, to use all scripture to reprove, rebuke, and exhort.
“Reprove, rebuke, and exhort means the communicating of all that Scripture includes—doctrine, instruction, correction, and encouragement.” [Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2342). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.]
Correcting false interpretations and teaching proper doctrine is a key teaching throughout scripture. To show our love, we must correct incorrect interpretations. Let’s go a little deeper and look at the Greek. (Bold emphasis is mine)
The third imperative is ἔλεγξον (first aorist active of ἐλέγχω), used here with the meaning “reprove, correct.”
It is used elsewhere in the Pastoral Epistles of reproving one who continues in sin (1 Tim. 5:20; cf. Mt. 18:15), of correcting an opponent (Tit. 1:9, 13), and as one of the duties that Titus must perform with all authority along with λάλει καὶ παρακάλει (Tit. 2:15).
In the third imperative Timothy is charged to speak to those who are in error or doing wrong and to attempt to convince them of that; in the fourth he is charged to tell those doing wrong to stop.
The fifth imperative (the fourth distinct action commanded) is παρακάλεσον (see 1 Tim. 6:2). The rendering “appeal to” comes close to spanning the spectrum of nuances the word has. Here the imperative, used alongside κήρυξον and the other terms, would seem to have the particular nuance of “urging” truths upon hearers and “exhorting” them to respond.” [Knight, G. W. (1992). The Pastoral Epistles: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 454). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.]
So we are to urge truth. To leave someone to deal with sin on their own would be to go against the very word of God.
And in Collosians 3:16, Paul says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.”
Paul’s teachings are not the only place we see this. Jesus says the same just before His ascension. Jesus’s words are given to us in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
We are to not just love, but teach people all that Jesus has commanded. Earlier, Christ says, in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Please don’t be a ‘silent Christian’ when it comes to telling people about Christ’s sacrifice. Please don’t be a ‘silent Christian’ when it comes to correcting false teachings. Please don’t be a ‘silent Christian’ when it comes to helping brothers in Christ with sin.
We are not to be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16). Instead, preach the gospel boldly (Acts 4:13, Acts 9:28, Acts 13:46, Romans 15:15, 2 Cor 3:12, 7:4, Eph 3:12, 6:19, Phil 1:14, 1 Thess 2:2, Philem 8, 2 Peter 2:10).
Preach the gospel at all times. And, please, use words.
Hi. I'm Scott Sullivan, a slave of Christ and husband to my awesome wife Angie. I'm an artist and writer,
living in the beautiful countryside of Lancaster, Pa.