The spoken word is vital to Christianity. Indeed, in many respects, Christianity is an oral religion. Of course, this is not to deny that the gospel transforms the entire life of a believer, nor is it to overlook the practical and liturgical components to the Christian faith, such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Yet, at its core, Christianity hinges upon the spoken word, for it involves both speaking the gospel to unbelievers and exhorting believers with the Word of God.
The New Testament reveals that in many contexts Christians are obligated to speak. As was just noted, a fundamental tenant of Christianity is that believers are to share the gospel with the lost (see Matt. 28:19–20) and are verbally to “confess Christ” (Matt. 10:32) before all men. The oral nature of Christianity can also be seen in Paul’s exhortation to “comfort the fainthearted” (1 Thess. 5:14), presumably with words. Later, in his instructions to Timothy, Paul wrote, “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear” (1 Tim. 5:20; see Matt. 14:3–4; Eph. 5:11).
Even in the Old Testament we can see the importance of the spoken word, as David reminds God’s people to praise God out loud (see Ps. 40:9–10) and Solomon observes, “A word spoken in due season, how good is it” (Prov. 15:23). Note, however, that Solomon also taught that there is “a time to keep silence” (Eccl. 3:7). In accord with this idea, the prophet Amos instructed God’s people, “The prudent keep silent . . . [in] an evil time” (Amos 5:13). Therefore, while Christianity has essential oral elements, there are times when it is best not to speak.