It's simply impossible to preach the gospel without words. The gospel is inherently verbal, and preaching the gospel is inherently verbal behavior.Read the rest.
But perhaps we should lighten up, we may say. Let us view the phrase as a mere aphorism and avoid pressing its language too literally. According to this reading, the saying is a rhetorical trope designed to emphasize the importance of backing up our gospel words with Christ-following lives.
This is an immensely important and thoroughly biblical idea. If this is all our maxim is affirming, we should deem it useful indeed. But unfortunately, many seem to want to treat it very literally indeed, precisely because they see no difficulty in doing so. They will insist that the gospel can in fact be "preached" without words. Sometimes this is called an "incarnational" approach to evangelism whereby we "preach the gospel" by incarnating it in the world.
What should we make of this claim? Can we, or can we not, "preach the gospel" with our actions? Who's right, and does it matter?
As it happens, it matters a great deal.
The stakes are surprisingly high in how we answer this question. This is not some esoteric debate reserved for theologians or technical Bible scholars. Faithful obedience to Jesus Christ is our goal, and that applies to all who call him Lord. Such obedience must begin with clear thinking about what Jesus calls us to be and do.
Get Duane's lasted book, Word versus Deed: Resetting the Scales to a Biblical Balance.