A Walking Bible

I fully understand the criticisms of the popular saying “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Words are essential (Rom. 10:14-17; Acts 8:26-40).  Nevertheless, this saying does point to an important truth:
  • Yes, pastors need to preach the word of God boldly and faithfully.
  • Yes, missionaries need to be sent to the ends of the earth to preach the gospel.
  • Yes, it is appropriate to engage in all sorts of evangelistic activities that involve sharing the gospel.
But alongside of and in support of these things is the way we live, including and perhaps most especially, the way we live together. How we express and maintain the unity we have in Christ is a key component to our evangelism. Thomas Manton made this point in his sermons on John 17.
Upon observing that Jesus prayed that we may all be one so that the world may believe that the Father sent him (John 17:21), Manton said that the children of God ought to “express such fruits of their union with Christ that they may convince the world.” The fruits of union that he had in mind are:
  1. Love and mutual serviceableness to one another’s good.
  2. Holiness and strictness of life and conversation.
  3. A disdain for the baits of the world.
  4. A cheerfulness and comfortableness in the midst of troubles and deep wants.
  5. Faithfulness in the duties of your relations.
  6. A constancy in the profession of faith.
God uses our holy lives as individuals and as a church to convince the world by way of support and confirmation of the truth of the gospel. College basketball coaches may passionately and confidently preach to recruits that their program is the best one to prepare them for a chance to play in the NBA. But if no one from their program actually makes it to the NBA, then their message will fall on deaf ears. The message is either corroborated or undermined by reality. Likewise, the gospel message that Jesus has come to save sinners from their sins is either corroborated or undermined by Christians and the church. We either convince the world by our love for one another or we “breed atheism in the world” by our divisions in the church.
Manton says that God appeals to us who are union with Christ “for the truth and reality of his grace.” Christians, he says, are Christ’s epistle and that every Christian is to be a “walking Bible.” We are living proof of the reality of the gospel message. “In the scripture there is Christ’s mind in words; in a Christian there is Christ’s mind in deeds in his conversation.”
It is particularly important that we walk together in a manner worthy of the gospel because the world won’t be studying the Bible at home or getting up early on Sunday morning to attend church. They won’t read the Bible but they will read you and the church. If you are a “walking Bible” then they may “be convinced and preparatively induced by your lives.” But if not, then we provide “a dangerous temptation to atheism.” Bruce Milne put it this way in his commentary on John, “The biggest barriers to effective evangelism according to the prayer of Jesus are not so much outdated methods, or inadequate presentations of the gospel, as realities like gossip, insensitivity, negative criticism, jealousy, backbiting, an unforgiving spirit, a ‘root of bitterness’, failure to appreciate others, self-preoccupation, greed, selfishness and every other form of lovelessness.”
In his farewell prayer, Jesus prayed that we might all be one so that the world may believe that he is the Christ. The one thing that Paul wanted to hear about the Philippians was that they were standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. Our unity is an essential component to our evangelism.
The church is to be a “walking Bible.”