The Gospel is For Proclamation By YOU and ME
“Where Christ is not preached, there is no Holy Spirit to create, call, and gather the Christian church, apart from which no one can come to the Lord Christ.” Large Catechism II.45 (Kolb/Wengert, 436)
“Wherever there is God’s Word, no matter whether it is in Baptism, in Absolution, in the Sacrament [Lord’s Supper] there God Himself speaks to us. In the Absolution, He Himself absolves us from [our] sins. In the Sacrament or the Lord ’s Supper, Christ Himself feeds us with His body and blood. We thus have God’s Word in the church, indeed, in the home. Whenever the pastor speaks to us in the church or the father in the house, then God Himself speaks to us.” Luther, sermon on Luke 18:31-43 (1534). Quoted in J.T. Mueller, “Notes on Luther’s Conception of the Word of God as the Means of Grace” in CTM 20 (August 1949), 588.
“The Lutheran assertion that…preaching, in so far as it is Lutheran preaching, is God’s own speech to men, is very difficult to maintain in practice. Instead, it is very easy to slip into the idea that preaching is only speech about God. Such a slip, once made gradually alters the picture of God, so that he becomes the far-off deistic God who is remote from the preached word and is only spoken about as we speak about someone who is absent.”
Gustav Wingren, The Living Word: A Theological Study of Preaching and the Church (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 1960), 19.
“It is remarkable that during his sojourn in Corinth, Paul was day and night wrestling with the problem how to bring Christ into people’s heart and how to lay a solid foundation for their faith in Christ and their joy in Him. Jesus Christ was the marrow and substance of all his preaching, the golden thread that ran through all his sermons.” C.F.W. Walther, 39th Evening Lecture in Law and Gospel (CPH, 1929), 405.
Quotes taken from Faithful and Afire, Participant’s Guide, Rev. Dr. Peter Nafzger, www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=1161.
I am amazed at the excuses we make for not using words, more specifically, THE WORD, to proclaim the Gospel. I have heard it said, “I do not know the Bible as well as others do.” Or, “I am not a good speaker.” Or, “Evangelism is not my ‘Spiritual gift.'” Or, “I am not a preacher.” Or, “We just need to model Christ, be a good example.” The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” He also writes to the Romans:
“For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
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? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 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 10:5-17, ESV.
This faith that we are given, this faith that we live is more than simple belief and trust. That is what it is in its most basic form. Yet this faith is more than simple belief and trust, it is living, breathing. It is made alive by the very Word of Christ. In us, it is like the mustard seed that, although it is the tiniest seed of the garden plants, grows to be the biggest. Not because of any work or obedience on my part, but because of the working of the Word that quickens my soul. So it is with the Word of God that is sown in us, it produces tremendous yields of fruit working in and through us. It is the Word acting, working, producing yield beyond our wildest imaginations.
This Word is not just in our hearts so that we can be an example for others. It is, as Paul says, in our mouth — your mouth, my mouth. Ezekiel and St. John give us pictures of eating scrolls containing the Word of God, something that we can chew, taste, ingest, absorb. But the Word is placed in our mouth, not simply for our own personal benefit, to nourish only me — the Gospel must be proclaimed. It is the Word of faith that we proclaim. We confess — that is we, publicly declare, praise, give thanks, declare, speak with another to a reasoned conclusion — with our mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord. The Greek — and I am no scholar — always seems to have a deeper connotation than our English. This confessing is more than simply saying I believe. It is coming together with another person and speaking to them the Good News of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. For if the Gospel is not spoken to another, they cannot hear, and so cannot receive the faith that comes from Christ.
But you say, I can lead a godly life and provide a Christ-like example for others. They will know Jesus, by seeing the Jesus in me. All I need to do is share the love of Jesus with others, and those who are speakers will do the rest. God will take care of that. We must, certainly, lead a godly life and be an example for others — our actions must show that we are followers of Christ. A good tree bears fruit, while a bad tree bears no fruit or, even worse, bad fruit. But our deeds MUST match our confession — there must be a profession of the faith we have been given.
Christ Himself tells us that we must proclaim Him before this world. In Matthew 10, He speaks of persecution that will come to His followers. He tells us that we will be called to bear witness of HIM before this world, its kings, princes, and rulers. Our Lord tells us not to worry about what to say, that we will be given the words at that time. If He promises to give us words to speak when we are called before great and mighty people, how much more so will He give us words to speak to the least of this world? Do not be afraid, speak Christ! Proclaim the Gospel! A city on a hill cannot be hidden; do not put the light of the Gospel under a bushel! It is meant to be seen! Christ issues a stern warning to those who would hide Him, when He has made Himself known to us: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33, ESV.
Hide who you are, who Christ has called you to be, remove references to Scripture in your print materials, provide a different face than who you claim to be at your core, and you are hiding Christ. You are, in effect, denying Him before men. Whatever the reason — marketing decision, attempt to appeal to the world, self-preservation, not a good speaker, more of a behind the scenes person — there is a deception involved when dealing with others. More importantly, there is a failure to trust in the God who comes to you in your Baptism, and in the very Word we are called to proclaim. Just as you do not get the full import of God’s saving message by reading only bits and pieces, for the Gospel encompasses all of God’s story (you cannot have the Law without the Gospel), so too the Christian life is not complete without confessing Christ before men, sharing the Word verbally with others. Moses was not a good speaker and God found a way to use him and his voice. But what if he only led by example? What if Moses never proclaimed the salvation of Israel before Pharaoh? Better yet, what if Jesus said nothing? No, the good news is always proclaimed before men by divine imperative. God’s Word never returns to Him void, in spite of our attempts to circumvent His plan for us.
The next time you are tempted to make an excuse as to why YOU cannot share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others, why you can only be an example by sharing the love of Christ, remember our Savior’s parting words to us: “I am with you always, even to the close of the age.”