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Word versus Deed: Resetting the Scales to a Biblical Balance

By Duane Litfin

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Word versus Deed: Resetting the Scales to a Biblical Balance

By Duane Litfin

... Show All

The Bible teaches that the church is called to a balanced ministry of both preaching the gospel in words and showing it with deeds. Yet the church has often found it difficult to find and maintain this balance. Today some are emphasizing deeds at the expense of words, while others hold fast to “talking” and forsake the doing. This is an imbalance that must be righted.

Standing at the helm of a leading Christian college, Duane Litfin has had a first-hand look at the issues students and alumni are talking about. Many Christians are excited to debate the importance of social justice and evangelism now more than ever before. Seeking to level the balance, Litfin steers the conversation toward the biblical harmony of word and deed, pointing out the church’s tendency to overcorrect—either cutting out the preaching of the gospel or forgetting the application of action.

An elder statesmen in the church, Litfin’s training in communication theory and in detailed exegesis is brought to bear on this important subject, bringing verbal proclamation in sync with the witness of one’s actions.


Duane Litfin


Duane Litfin (DPhil, University of Oxford; PhD, Purdue University) is president emeritus of Wheaton College where he served for seventeen years. He is the author of numerous articles and books.

Product Details

Category: Evangelism & Missions
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 224
Size: 5.25 in x 8.25 in
Weight: 10.4 ounces
ISBN-10: 1-4335-3112-7
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-3112-5
ISBN-UPC: 9781433531125
Case Quantity: 52
Published: April 30, 2012

Table of Contents

Part 1: The Importance of Our Words
1. Verbal and Nonverbal Communication 
2.  The Gospel Is Verbal 
3.  Evangelism Is Verbal 

Part 2: The Importance of Our Deeds
4.  Abstractions and Their Uses 
5.  Theology Applied 
6.  Gospel-Worthy Deeds 
7.  Living Wisely 
8.  Obeying the King 
9.  Serving the Kingdom 
10. Adorning the Gospel 
11. Stewarding the Creation 

Part 3: The Importance of Handling Scripture Well
12. Rightly Dividing the Word 
13. Three Key Passages


“Duane Litfin’s Word versus Deed addresses a topic of perennial importance for the church and pressing relevance for our own generation. Litfin is thoroughly convinced—on the basis of Scripture—that the gospel cannot be preached merely with deeds but must be proclaimed with words. He uses his extensive background in rhetoric and theology to explain why this is so and then employs his wisdom as a pastor to show the proper relationship between gospel words and gospel-worthy deeds in Christian life and witness.”
Philip Graham Ryken, President, Wheaton College

“Duane Litfin has written a book that needs to find its way into every preacher’s briefcase or backpack—and quickly. With care and candor, he reminds us all of the Bible’s priority of verbal proclamation. Evenhanded and deeply biblical, Word versus Deed does indeed reset the biblical balance. I am very thankful for this book, and you will be, too.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Today, as powerful voices inside and outside the church are insisting that the gospel is best proclaimed by deeds rather than words, Duane Litfin provides a wholly biblical answer that establishes the full primacy of proclamation together with the role of deeds in demonstrating the gospel to a watching world. Litfin’s answer is finely wrought and judiciously reasoned as he travels the ladder of abstraction and the range of biblical revelation in respect to the preaching of the gospel. And it is utterly compelling. Word versus Deed is sure to be read, reread, and much discussed. This is a wise and timely book that brings biblical clarity to a life and death debate.”
R. Kent HughesSenior Pastor Emeritus, College Church, Wheaton, Illinois

“With interpretive skill and theological insight, Duane Litfin has given us a masterful treatment of the Bible’s teaching regarding the necessity of gospel proclamation and the importance of good works. Litfin’s thoughtful exegesis and pastoral wisdom provide helpful guidance that enables Christ followers to handle the difficult challenges associated with the themes of ‘word’ and ‘deed’ with greater responsibility. I am hopeful that this readable volume will point pastors, teachers, and church leaders toward a more informed understanding of God’s Word—resulting in faithful living and convictional proclamation.”
David S. Dockery, President and Distinguished Professor of Theology, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; President, International Alliance for Christian Education

“Many people like to make us pick between word and deed as the best way to reflect our Christian call. It is choice we need not make. In a book that shows how both word and deed are important and necessary, Duane Litfin also reminds us how important having the Word is. It is a needed reminder that allows us to reflect on how to live our Christian lives in balance, both proclaiming and reflecting the truth that God is at work among us.”
Darrell L. Bock, Executive Director of Cultural Engagement, The Hendricks Center, Dallas Theological Seminary

“Getting the pendulum of truth to cease its drift from side to side is a perpetual challenge. For many decades in the not-too-distant past, the gospel was a proclamational priority with little emphasis on the gospel’s call to feed the hungry, care for the poor, and break the bonds of oppression. The social gospel was what those ‘liberals’ did. Many of us have now lived long enough to watch the pendulum swing to the opposite extreme with the deeds of the gospel being seemingly sufficient. Thankfully, my friend Duane Litfin has articulately and persuasively brought these issues of the gospel into balance. His fresh, intriguing treatment of key passages and his usual precision in developing an argument make a much needed contribution that leads us to empower the gospel with both word and deed.”
Joseph M. Stowell, President, Cornerstone University; author, The Upside of Down and Redefining Leadership

“There must be a sharp distinction between the gospel—the message about what God has done in Jesus, supremely in his death and resurrection—and how the Christian acts as an implication of the gospel. This book is a positive, helpful articulation of the importance of maintaining the distinction between the gospel preached (word) versus the gospel lived (deed).”
Ben Peays, Executive Director, The Gospel Coalition