Word and deed ministry should always go together in the mission of the church. I take this from (1) the example of Jesus, (2) the mission of the Twelve, and (3) the practice of the early church.
I believe Matthew 4:23 and 9:35 are intentional summaries of the earthly mission of Jesus. They encapsulate the word and deed ministry of Jesus together. Consider the similarities:
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
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.
I think Matthew has these summary actions (preaching, teaching, and healing) placed to serve as a sort-of book ends for Matthew 5-9 wherein the relationship of word and deed is unpacked in various scenes from the life of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) highlights Jesus’ word ministry while Matthew 8-9 highlights His deed ministry (lepers, demon-possessed, paralytics, dead girl, blind men, etc.). Both of them are intended to indicate two things: the kingdom of heaven is “at hand” and Jesus’ authority is unparalleled and reveals that He is not just any man, but the God-man.
Then comes Matthew 10 where he calls His disciples to join Him on the mission. But notice that the same word and deed togetherness comes with the mission of the Twelve (and generally ours as well). Jesus says:
7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.
Verse 7 = word ministry. Verse 8 = deed ministry. What kind of word ministry? The very words John the Baptist (3:2) and Jesus proclaimed (4:17). What kind of deed ministry? The very kind of deeds Jesus performed in Matthew 8-9 (healing sick (8:14-17), raising the dead (9:18-26), cleansing lepers (8:1-4), and casting out demons (8:28-34). Basically, what you see Jesus proclaiming, you proclaim. What you see Jesus doing, you do.
The question we should ask ourselves is whether the early church understood the mission of the church in word and deed. Again, consider two summaries of the early church from the book of Acts.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
Again, it is quite remarkable to see the similarities here. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (2:42) and were “giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (4:33) which speaks to the emphasis of WORD ministry. At the same time, they “were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all” (2:45) and “sold (their houses and lands) and brought the proceeds . . . to be distributed to each as any had need (4:34-35) which speaks to the emphasis of DEED ministry.
Like Matthew, Luke unpacks these summaries, revealing the interplay between word and deed. In fact, you can basically break down the first eight chapters of the book of Acts accordingly:
Word: Peter’s Sermon (2:14-41)
Deed: Lame Beggar Healed (3:1-9)
Word: Peter’s Gospel Explanation (3:11-26)
Word: Peter and John’s Defense (4:1-31)
Deed: Signs and Wonders of Apostles (5:12-16)
Word: Temple Preaching (5:17-42)
Deed: Daily Distribution Need (6:1-6)
Word: Word of God Spread (6:7)
Deed: Signs and Wonders by Stephen (6:8-15)
Word: Stephen’s Sermon (7:1-7:53)
Word and Deed: in Samaria (8:4-8)
Notice that the deed ministry of healing the lame beggar led to multiple word ministry opportunities (and nearly two chapters of gospel exposition). The same is true in Acts 6 with the deed ministry office of the deacon and appointing of Stephen as a deacon who was “doing great wonders and signs among them” (6:8). This deed ministry led to Stephen’s powerful explanation of the gospel in word ministry (and eventually scattering the church in Samaria where word and deed continued to flourish together).
There is so much more that could be said about this relationship of word and deed ministry together, but I want to succinctly lay out some of the biblical rationale why I believe it is so important. We can err on either side, emphasizing one to the neglect of the other, but the mission entrusted to us by Jesus is one where the in-breaking of the kingdom is manifested through kingdom words and the realization of the kingdom is manifested through kingdom deeds. May we be faithful to both aspects of our mission!