God’s glory is displayed when the good news of His salvation is proclaimed and the good works of His people are carried out. Though they must never be confused with each other, ministries of both word and deed are essential to the ongoing work of God’s kingdom.
Jesus announced the purpose of His incarnational mission at a gathering in His hometown synagogue in Nazareth. After His baptism and temptation in the wilderness, on a Sabbath day, He read these words from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19).He then declared the significance of what He had read by adding, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21).
As the Messiah — the Anointed One — Jesus came to minister in word and deed. The four gospels depict Him doing exactly that, healing the sick (Matt. 8:16; 12:22; Luke 4:40), feeding the hungry (Matt. 15:32–39; John 6:4–13), and delivering the demon-possessed (Matt. 9:32–34; 12:22) as well as preaching and teaching the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 5–7; Mark 1:14; Luke 20:21; John 6:59; 18:20).
Very often, Jesus’ word ministry and deed ministry are displayed simultaneously. As Matthew 9:35 summarizes, “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” Preaching and doing. Jesus carried out His mission by both word and deed.
It is also the way that He taught His followers to minister. When Jesus commissioned the original apostles to enter into and extend His ministry, He said to them: “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay” (Matt. 10: 7–8). Their ministry, like His, was to declare and demonstrate the presence of God’s kingdom.
Wherever the kingdom of God comes in power, lives are transformed through belief of the gospel, wrongs are made right, and divine blessing spreads. This is what happened to Zacchaeus. When Jesus brought salvation to his house, he was changed from an unscrupulous tax collector into a generous believer. He repaid those he had defrauded four times the amount he had stolen from them, and he blessed the poor by giving them half of his wealth (Luke 19:1–10). When the Word of God takes root in people, it is inevitable that they will do the works of God.
This is by God’s design — His glory is displayed when the good news of His salvation is proclaimed and the good works of His people are carried out. Though they must never be confused with each other, ministries of both word and deed are essential to the ongoing work of God’s kingdom. God’s reign is explained through the preaching of the gospel. It is made visible when acts of mercy and love are done in the name of the King.
Maintaining a proper integration of word and deed in Christian ministry can be difficult, as history testifies. Failure to distinguish Word from deed gave rise to the social gospel movement that asserts that doing good deeds (such as pursuing justice) should not merely accompany evangelism but actually is evangelism. This error discounts personal conversion for social improvement in the name of salvation.