We’ve all heard the saying from Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary use words.” He never said it.
I’m in Acts at the moment. It’s full of the witness of words. Peter at Pentecost; Stephen on trial; Phillip with the Ethiopian eunuch; Peter before Cornelius and his household; Paul wherever he went.
What did they say? Surprisingly nothing about being good. Theirs are not the sermons and exhortations of moralists.
According to CFD Moule,
This is precisely what distinguishes the New Testament Gospel from a great deal that has passed for Christian teaching ever since. The moment you get to “second-generation” Christians, the danger arises that they may forget the vital thing which changes life—the power of Jesus, crucified and risen—and preach and teach instead the results rather than the cause.
Evangelism in Acts starts with what God has done and what we have done to warrant his judgment.
Some people respond with ridicule and persecution. Others ask, “What must we do to be saved!” The answer is, Repent, be baptized and your sins will be forgiven and you will receive the Holy Spirit (Acs 2:37-38).
Why didn’t the apostles exhort their audience to try harder? They knew their best efforts had ended in shame and defeat. Only the death of Christ and his life through the Holy Spirit could transform them from cowards to bold witnesses.