What good does it do for us to preach the gospel to the world if we are not living the gospel? What good is it to give a warning message if we are not heeding that message ourselves in our daily lives? What good does it do to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel and teach them God's way of life if we are not being a good example of living the way we preach?
That is the issue I will address, but the biblical answer may not be what you expect.
Consider this statement: "Without our obedience to the gospel, preaching it to others means nothing."
Is this a true statement or a false statement? Think about it before you answer. How you answer may speak volumes about your spiritual perspective.
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Notice especially the last verse, "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing." I could paraphrase it in relation to preaching the gospel, like this: "And though I give all my goods to preach the gospel to the world, and though I sacrifice all that I have to deliver the Ezekiel warning to Israel, but have not love, it profits me nothing."
There is one word that needs to be emphasized in Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 13:3 and my paraphrase of that statement. Later in this post, I will emphasize it to make my point.
Look at something else Paul said: "Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice" (Philippians 1:15-18).
In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Paul said, if he served others, but did not have love, it profits him nothing. Yet here, Paul rejoiced that Christ was preached even by those who did it from a wrong motive. Apparently, in Philippians 1:15-18, Paul was not concerned that those who preached Christ from selfish ambition did not do it from a motive of love.
One more passage: "I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen" (Romans 9:1-6).
Did Paul really say, if he bestowed all his goods to feed the poor, but have not love, it would profit nothing? No he did not.
Now I will repeat 1 Corinthians 13:3, and this time I will add emphasis on the word I want to draw attention to. "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits ME nothing."
If Paul does good deeds towards others, but without love, perhaps being motivated by selfish ambition, does it profit nothing? It depends on your point of view, and actually, it depends on whether you have love for others. If Paul serves others from a bad motive and without love, it does not profit Paul. It does not profit the one doing the good deed. Nevertheless, it profits the one helped.
If Paul gives his goods to feed starving poor people, but his motive is selfish ambition because he does not have love, his good deed does not profit Paul, but it certainly profits the poor people he is helping.
So, if you have not love, but sacrifice to help others, perhaps motivated by selfish ambition or some other wrong motive, does it profit? It depends on your perspective. If your perspective is helping yourself only, then no, from that point of view, it does not profit, it does not do any good, because it does not profit YOU. But from the perspective of the people you are helping, yes, it profits, because it profits them.
A starving person may not know your motive for giving him food. You may be doing it out of love or some selfish motive. But the food helps him just the same. It helps you also to give the gift if your motive is love, but if it is vanity or selfish ambition, perhaps to make you feel good about yourself, then it does not help you. But it still helps the other person.
So if you say, "Well, if my motive is wrong, then it is useless to do good deeds for others", that right there shows a wrong perspective. That shows that you think it is useless to help others unless God rewards you for your good deed. You are thinking of the benefits for yourself, not the other person.
This is why Paul was glad when Christ was preached, even when Christ was preached by those who did it for selfish ambition, not love. Why? Because it profited those who did the preaching? No, without love, it profits them nothing. But because it profits those who hear the message, whether the person doing the preaching has love or not.
So the very answer to the question shows if the person answering has outgoing love for others, or not. If you are only thinking of yourself and the reward God will give you in this life or in the Kingdom, you will say, "No, if I preach the gospel, but do not have love, it does no good." What you really mean is, it does no good for you, and you would be right, you can expect no reward from God for doing the right thing but for a wrong motive, not in this life or in the Kingdom of God. But if you really do have outgoing love for others, then you would answer, "Yes, if I preach the gospel, but do not have love, it won't help me but it will still help the people who hear the gospel", and that kind of answer would show that you do, in fact, have love for others, because you are not evaluating the answer to the question on the basis of what profits you but on the basis of what profits others.
I am reminded of a conversation I had with a Church member in Worldwide during the time Mr. Tkach was making doctrinal changes. The Church member had been considering participating in a public service program to tutor people outside the Church in English, people for whom English is a second language, to help them in their reading or speaking skills at a local community college or someplace. I do not remember the details of the doctrinal issue that prompted the conversation, but it may have been something along the lines of us being saved whether we do good deeds or not. And his comment was something like: "Well, if we don't have to do good deeds to be saved, then it really doesn't matter if I serve in this program to help others improve their English skills - what good will it do?" And my thought was, "Well, it will do good for the people you tutor."
Paul was not just concerned about his own salvation and his reward in God's kingdom. He was concerned about others. He had real outgoing love, which is why he said in Romans 9:1-6 which I quoted that he could wish that he himself was accursed from Christ for the sake of his fellow Israelites - he was willing to give up his own reward or salvation for the sake of others. Of course, God does not require that, but this shows where Paul's heart was at.
Would you be willing to give up your salvation if it would help others to be saved?
At the beginning of this post, I made this statement and asked if this is true: "Without our obedience to the gospel, preaching it to others means nothing." I said that your answer will say something about your spiritual perspective. And now I say that it says something about your love for others vs. your love for yourself.
For if you answer, "Yes, that is a true statement. It does us no good to preach the gospel to others if we do not live it ourselves", then you are showing that your love is primarily for yourself. You are looking to the reward. You know you will not benefit from preaching the gospel if you are not living it, so from your perspective, "it means nothing."
But if you answer, "No, it is not a true statement, because preaching the gospel to others means a lot to the people who hear it, whether we live it or not - they will have same opportunity we had, to make their own choice, and if God is calling them, they can be saved, and if not, at least they will remember that they heard a warning, and that will help them later", then that shows that your love is outgoing towards others. You are not evaluating the statement in terms of your own reward, but how preaching the gospel affects other people.
You might say, "If we are not living the gospel, God will not bless us, open doors for us, and give us good success in preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning". Absolutely true, and that should certainly motivate us to live the gospel. We should be motivated to obey God more because we know that the more we obey Him and the more our ways please him, the more He will bless our efforts to preach the gospel and the more we can help others.
But we have to be preaching the gospel for God to bless our efforts. He can't bless our preaching of the gospel if we are not preaching the gospel.
And the idea that we cannot preach the gospel until we are perfect or until we draw closer to God is nonsense. God can bless us in proportion to our obedience. If we are obeying a little, God can bless us a little, but if we obeying a lot, God can bless us a lot. Paul never said, "Those people who are preaching Christ motivated by selfish ambition are doing no good at all." He said, "...in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice." He REJOICED that those who were motivated by selfish ambition, not love, were preaching Christ. Why? For the sake of the ones who did the preaching? No, if they have not love, it profits them nothing. But for the sake of those who hear the gospel, Paul rejoiced, because it profits those who hear the message even when it does not profit those who preach the message.
Jesus sent Judas to preach the gospel (Matthew 10:1-8)!
Were the people who heard the gospel from Judas helped? Of course they were helped. What about the people Judas healed? What about the people Judas cast demons out of? Did they profit from the work Judas did? Of course they did. Was Judas right with God? Was he living the gospel? Absolutely not. Jesus said he would have been better off if he were never born (Matthew 26:23-25). But Jesus still used him. He sent him to preach the gospel and heal the sick. And those who heard the gospel from Judas and were healed by him were helped, whether Judas was living what he preached or not. And he was not living what he preached, for he was a thief and took money from the money box (John 12:4-6).
God sent Jonah to warn Nineveh. Look at Jonah's character. Was he living righteously at that time? He had such a bad attitude, not only did he run away from the job, he was angry even that Nineveh repented and God did not destroy the city. But God used him, and Nineveh benefited (Jonah 1:1-3, 3:1-10, 4:1-4).
There have been people, evangelists, who have served God's work in modern times who had spiritual problems, even serious faults, yet people benefited from the work they did. I used to listen to Garner Ted Armstrong on the radio in the late 1960s or early 1970s, and I learned from him, and many were benefited by many ministers and evangelists who were with Mr. Armstrong, but they were not perfect, and some embraced the changes Mr. Tkach introduced. I have seen pastors I have learned from, who have helped to teach me God's way, leave the truth, and they may not have been converted.
If we, the Church of God, have serious spiritual problems, we can still benefit others by giving them the warning and the truth. All we are doing is sharing with them the knowledge others have shared with us. They can make their own choice to obey or not just as we must choose. And if we choose not to obey, we will lose out, but the people who hear us can still choose to obey.
And if we have spiritual problems, will this hurt our effectiveness in preaching the gospel? Yes, it will, because God will not bless us as much as He will when we repent and overcome. But we can still reach some people with the truth, and they can begin to benefit immediately. Then, as we grow spiritually and overcome our sins, God will increase the effectiveness of the work of preaching the gospel we are already doing. If God can use Judas, He can use us.
God even used Balaam to bless Israel (Numbers chapters 23 and 24). Yet Balaam was not a righteous man (2 Peter 2:15-16, Jude 11, Revelation 2:14).
Wanting God's blessing and help for preaching the gospel can be an excellent motive for us to repent and seek God, once we are preaching the gospel. We start preaching the gospel, we start running pay-per-click advertising, and we start to pray for the success of the ads as they are running. There will be an announcement, "We are running an advertising campaign for our article on the United States in prophecy this week, please pray for the success of these ads during the week." Then each night, the members will pray that God will bless the campaign. But as our consciences' convict us, we realize we need to do a better job of obeying God so God will answer our prayers. So we repent and seek God more fervently so he will hear our prayers for the advertising campaign, not for our own reward or salvation, but because we love our neighbors and want them to hear the warning message and the good news of God's coming kingdom.
And how should we preach the gospel? There are several ways, but one way to start, one door that is open right now, is to set up a website that teaches the gospel and the warning, then advertise it with Google pay-per-click ads. That door is always open for those willing to walk through it. It is not a door you have to knock on. It is wide open, you only have to walk through it.
So it is not a matter of trying to figure out how to preach the gospel, as if we do not know how to do it. It is not a matter of knocking on one door, and if it does not open, knocking on another, until we find one that is open. We already have one that is open - we don't have to knock.
And if we go through that door, we show God we are serious. Then He can open other doors for us: radio, print, TV, public meetings, etc. But it all starts with that first step, to walk through a door that is already open.
That door is so wide open, you don't even have to be a minister or a Church of God fellowship to go through it. Even a single lay member, with the ability to write an article and a bank debit card to buy the ads online, or a group of lay members working as a team, can go through that door, with or without a minister.
If lay members are able to do it, how much more can ministers do it?
But only if they are willing.
And those who hear our message, even when we go through that first door, will benefit from it.
We are judged by what we do, not just what we say we will do.
" 'But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, "Son, go, work today in my vineyard." He answered and said, "I will not," but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, "I go, sir," but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?' They said to Him, 'The first' " (Matthew 21:28-31).
"But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46).
There is a lesson in this. God will judge us by what we do, not by what we say we will do. Likewise, when we want to know what someone will do, don't just listen to what they say they will do, watch WHAT THEY ARE DOING.
For someone to say, "Preaching the gospel is very important to me, and I am going to do it, but I don't know when", that doesn't carry much credibility with me, no matter how sincere they seem, how smooth their words, how charismatic their sermons, or how good their excuses. But if someone says, "Look, I am preaching the gospel, I have a website, I ran ads, I am getting responses, and I am going to continue to preach the gospel," that has credibility with me. I know that preaching the gospel has some importance to the second person, but not necessarily the first.
Here are links to posts related to this post:
" 'Beam in the Eye', and Preaching the Gospel to the World", dated January 14, 2014, link:
"Decision Time for Ex-COGaic Ministers and Brethren - Where Will they Stand?", dated January 17, 2014, link:
"Will the Nine 'Mutually Submit' to Some among the Fifty?", dated January 22, 2014, link:
"Fasting to Know God's Will and Isaiah 58:6-8", dated February 6, 2014, link:
"Peter Nathan Is Going with Living Church of God", dated February 15, 2014, link:
"Update on Church of God, a Family Community (COGFC)", dated February 19, 2014, link:
Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:
CHAPTER 4 - WHY PREACH THE GOSPEL? - A LESSON FROM THE HOLOCAUST
CHAPTER 5 - SHOULD THE CHURCH FEED THE FLOCK ONLY?