I’ve often heard the seemingly profound Christian proverb: “Preach the gospel; and if necessary, use words.”
Recently, I heard John MacArthur quote that same proverb: “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” MacArthur then said, “That’s got to be the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard.” He went on to teach how the gospel requires words to express objective truths about Jesus Christ, His cross-work, and His resurrection.
Just tonight, I read the parable of the lawnmower on Andrew Wilson’s blog:
Let’s say I have a neighbour, and I want to “preach Christ” to him using my deeds. I greet him over the garden fence. I invite him and his wife round for dinner, where I show them the best hospitality of which I am capable; I explain that I am a Christian, but make no attempt to shove the gospel down his throat. Noticing that his garden could use a bit of work, I offer him my lawnmower, which he accepts, and eventually, through repeated usage, breaks. I do not complain, or ask him to replace it; I replace it myself, and continue to allow him to use it whenever he sees fit. I help whenever I can. In all things, I seek to display unconditional kindness towards him, and to love him as I love myself. Eventually, he dies.
Now: what have my actions preached to him? They have preached that Christians are people who do good things for their neighbour. They have preached that niceness, and kindness, and morally upright behaviour are what make you a Christian. In short, they have preached justification by works.
Your works have indeed “preached” something. But it isn’t the gospel.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for bit is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher (Romans 10:14)?