I recently saw an advertisement for a necktie in a Christian book catalog that said “Express your faith with this ‘fish and cross’ necktie.” Part of me wishes this were true–that we could fulfill the Great Commission by merely donning the right kind of T-shirts and neckties! Making disciples by mere T-shirt totting would be so much easier than setting out to make disciples by proclaiming the gospel and living a honorable life before unbelievers!
I think, however, sharing the gospel is a little bit messier than wearing the proper apparel.
The word “gospel” literally means “good news.” It may seem obvious but it must be said that the gospel is a message–it isn’t a skit or a TV show or a video or a t-shirt. It is a message that must be proclaimed (Rom. 10:14-15). It is a message that has specific content. It is a message about God’s holiness and our sin. It is a message of creation, fall, and redemption in Christ. It is a message with specific content and if we are to be faithful in proclaiming the gospel, we must be faithful to accurately convey its content. If we really want to be faithful to the great commission we must be intimately acquainted with the content of the gospel, for there is no other way to God (John 14:6).
There has been much debate in recent years, about whether relational evangelism or confrontational evangelism better reflects the pattern of the New Testament. I personally think that both are present in the New Testament. In fact, if we were as zealous for the gospel as the Apostles were, we probably wouldn’t be having that debate. That said, 1 Peter has much to say about how the way we live our lives affects our proclamation of the gospel. Here is one example:
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12).
What we see in 1 Peter 2:11-12 is that our fight against sin cannot be divorced from our proclamation of the gospel. If we really want to see the lost “glorify God on the day of visitation” then we will heed Peter’s command to “abstain from” the passions of our flesh.
I think the more we grow in likeness to Christ by putting sin to death, the more we are likely to be slandered by the unbelieving world. Peter seems to set forth the idea that our being slandered is an opportunity for the gospel go forth. Thus sharing the gospel isn’t always fun by the world’s standards, in fact many times its messy. We have to be honest with people about sin, God’s holiness, and God’s promised judgment for sin–things that are offensive to the world.
No one is likely to come to know the Lord because of the T-shirts we wear, but if we live consistently before the world, fighting sin, and proclaiming the gospel, there is hope that we will see some of those who slandered us glorifying God on the glorious day Christ returns!
The gospel isn’t a message we can merely speak or one we can merely live out–it is a message that must be preached and one that must be lived honorably before the Gentiles. They will not know that we are Christians by our T-shirts. They will know that we are Christians by the way we wage war against the flesh.