From the book, The Memoir of David King - Ministry in the Church of Christ.
Evangelists (pages 269-281).
"Do the work of an Evangelist." 2 Tim. iv:5.
Apostles and prophets have ceased, because the work for which they were given is finished, and because the Lord does not now, by supernatural gifts, qualify for the prophetic and apostolic offices. Without these gifts there can neither be prophet nor apostle: and, hence, we have them not, because, in the very nature of the case, they cannot be had. But with reference to evangelists, pastors, and teachers, it is otherwise. The Lord gave these at the first, and for a time, even as He gave apostles and prophets; that is, He qualified for the work, through the Holy Spirit, by direct impartation of fitness. There was this difference between the two classes - all that evangelists, pastors, and teachers were thus qualified to accomplish they could have attained in process of time by the exercise of powers natural to man; while time, application, and natural ability, without supernatural endowment and demonstration, could never develop apostles and prophets. But what is there appertaining to the office of apostle or prophet which could not be acquired by natural processes? Apostles must be witnesses of the resurrection of Christ, and demonstrate their apostleship by signs and wonders and mighty deeds. Paul could not have been an apostle had not the Lord appeared to him to make him a witness of the fact that He was verily living. Prophets speak by inspiration; and inspiration is not acquired, but given. Apostles and prophets, then, are considered as gifts, because supernaturally endowed. The same holds good in regard to evangelists, pastors, and teachers, when, by like endowment, they are fitted for their office: but not so when fitness results from natural processes, and is reached by learning, experience and devotion.
But some there are who insist that evangelists were extraordinary ministers, whose office was temporary. Dr. George Campbell so held. He wrote:
"Of this kind evidently was the office of evangelist, a title which, like apostle, fell with those who first enjoyed it. Such was Philip, such was Timothy, such was Titus. The last mentioned, I own, is nowhere expressly called so. But from a proper attention to what we learn concerning him and Timothy, both in the Acts of Apostles and Paulís Epistles, we find their situations, services, and trusts so perfectly to correspond, that we cannot hesitate a moment in affirming that their functions were the same, and that they both served as assistants to the Apostle Paul."
The error of the learned Dr. consists in supposing, that, because certain evangelists were deputed by Paul to act for him in places where, by virtue of planting the church, the responsibility of setting in order devolved upon him, therefore, all evangelists were in this way deputies of the apostles. But in proof of this assumption there is neither fact nor precept in the whole Bible. Philip, at the time of the persecution, when all save the apostles were dispersed from Jerusalem, went down into Samaria and preached Christ. Men and women hearing and believing were baptized, and, as a matter of course, were formed into a church, or churches, as number and locality required. Philip was neither an apostle nor an apostleís deputy. ALL the dispersed disciples went everywhere preaching the Gospel, and they did so on the warrant of their common discipleship. That warrant was enough for each, and nothing in the history suggests that Philip had, or needed any other. In going to Samaria he broke up entirely new ground. The Gospel had not been there preached, and he did the work of an evangelist, in preaching, baptizing, and setting in order the disciples, without being interfered with by any. To do this he was well qualified, inasmuch as he came from the church in Jerusalem, where he had filled the office of deacon and enjoyed the advantage of seeing the church set in order by the apostles. The apostles did not interfere with his labours, except to supplement them in one particular, in which none but an apostle could act - that of ministering the Holy Spirit, by the laying on of hands. Peter and John were sent down that the church in Samaria might, by the laying on of their hands receive spiritual gifts. Those apostles did not go to occupy the ground broken up by Philip; having ministered the spirit to the converts, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching on their way in many villages of the Samaritans. Philip was left to pursue his work in the district into which he had been led. Presently he was directed by the Spirit to go into the desert, and there was effected the conversion of the Ethiopian. From there he was caught away to Azotus, and, then, preaching in all the cities on the way, he came to Cśsarea. In all this there is no trace of his being the agent or representative of any apostle, nor of all the apostles. He was the servant of the Lord, doing the Lordís work, and not the deputy of any man. Cśsarea seems to have become the centre of the district in which he laboured, for there he established his family, and there, in his own house, after, perhaps, twenty years, he entertained the Apostle Paul; in the account of which he is spoken of as "Philip the Evangelist." - Acts xxi:8.
Others have urged that we cannot now have evangelists, because at the first they were supernaturally gifted and, therefore, fitted to discharge their important functions without error, and because those gifts are not now given. True, the first evangelists were thus gifted; and so were the first deacons, the first pastors, and the first teachers. In this sense pastors and teachers were as much given (supernaturally endowed) as were evangelists. Yet teachers we must have, so long as it is needful to learn; pastors we must have, so long as there is a flock to feed; evangelists we must have so long as there are sinners to whom it is needful to preach the gospel. It is nowhere implied, that fitness to preach, baptize, teach, and set in order churches, cannot be obtained otherwise than by supernatural bestowments; not is it ever hinted that, obtaining the required fitness by miraculous agency was a pre-requisite to the work and designation.
But to discuss whether evangelists continue is to dispute over words rather than things. The designation comes by the transference of a Greek term in place of translating it. Taking that term in the light of its relation to the family of words to which it belongs, nothing appears save that which all admit we have now, and must ever have. Euangelion and Euangelizo stand out for notice when we enquire concerning the signification of Euangelistees.
Euangelion signifies good news or glad-tidings. It is found in the New Testament some seventy times; is translated gospel, and refers to the good news or glad-tidings of salvation by Christ Jesus.
Good news invites to proclamation - who would keep Glad-Tidings to himself? Hence also we find euangelizo used somewhat frequently by the writers of the New Testament. It signifies, to address with good tidings. Rev. x:17; xiv:6; to proclaim as good tidings, to announce good tidings of. Luke i:19. It occurs over fifty times and is generally represented by preach, preaching, preached. It is applied alike to persons sent forth to preach the gospel, and to those who proclaim it without special appointment. In Romans i:15, Paul uses it in declaring himself willing "to preach the gospel" at Rome; and in Acts viii:4, it expresses that preaching of the word which was participated in by the whole Church, excepting the apostles.
Euangelistees is used in the New Testament only in three instances - once applied to Philip and twice to Timothy. It signifies simply a bringer of good tidings, and, in its New Testament usage, one who proclaims, announces, or makes known, the gospel and teaches the things commanded by Christ, to the end that sinners may be converted and disciples congregated into churches and duly set in order. The word does not imply the possession of supernatural powers; nor does it, in the remotest degree, suggest a deputy. It matters not, then, about the name. Take it away, if you please, but the work remains and also the men who do it.
The installation of evangelists is not anywhere alluded to in Scripture. No mention is made of ordination to that office, because every disciple who does the work of an evangelist to an extent to warrant the appellation, is all the name imports; and every disciple who, by personal fitness and providential surrounding, is placed in position so to do, is in duty bound to respond. It is not said, that as every disciple at times announces the Gospel, therefore every disciple is an evangelist, for, as while some who occasionally baptize, receive not the appellation Baptist, John who was devoted to that work was called John the Baptist, so only those who do the work of an evangelist over and above every other work, or to the extent requisite to make disciples, set them in congregations, and teach them to observe all things commanded by the Lord, can be designated evangelists - as, in like manner, the person who occasionally makes a loaf, or repairs a garment, is not called a baker or a tailor, while those whose business it is largely, or chiefly, to make bread and garments are thus designated.
The foregoing presents an antidote to priestly pretension. No man can constitute another an evangelist - he who has the gospel may proclaim it - in the workshop, in the parlour, by the roadside, in the public hall, before any company small or large, from any platform or pulpit, and in any way and manner he can command, due regard being paid to the solemnity of the theme and the honour of the Lord.
The apostles were the first evangelists; not however by virtue of apostleship, but on the ground of discipleship. They, therefore, never delivered one sentence limiting preaching, baptizing, planting, and setting churches in order, to apostles, or to persons chosen or ordained by apostles. Paul "conferred not with flesh and blood," but went forth immediately and did the work of an evangelist, and, in addition, the work peculiar to an apostle. Philip, chosen by the church, was ordained to serve tables, that others might give themselves to the ministry of the word, but, being driven from Jerusalem by persecution, he was found with those who went everywhere preaching the gospel, and was, therefore, afterwards known as Philip the evangelist. Paul placed Timothy at Ephesus and Titus at Crete to do the work of evangelists, particularly such portion of it as remained to be done ere those churches could be placed in a state of complete organization. They were to set in order the things that were wanting, and ordain elders in every city.
But here it may be asked why Paul did not set those churches in order before he left them. The answer is, they were not ready. When he sent a brother to do the work of an evangelist, by setting in order the wanting things and ordaining elders, his doing that for which he was sent, depended upon conditions which he might not find in existence. He was to ordain only brethren possessing certain important qualifications, which cannot be manifested in a newly-planted congregation. Elders, it thus appears, are not essential to the being, but to the well-being, of a church, and, till they can be ordained, the over-sight of the church devolves upon the evangelist who planted it, or upon those to whom he may commit it.
Upon this principle it became the duty of Paul to provide for the church in Ephesus. Had that church been planted by Peter or Apollos, Paul would have had no right of appointment - as, also, Peter was without authority to enter the field of Paulís labours. As apostles their authority was alike everywhere; for the same decrees were given to each church. As evangelists each possessed his own field, and overlooked, till its completion, his own work. It was, then, as an evangelist, and not as an apostle, that Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus - which sending, however, was not an ordination to evangelistic work - that work was the privilege and duty of Timothy in any and every field he could find unoccupied; and to all churches he might succeed in planting, he would stand as an evangelist, in the same relation that Paul stood to the church in Ephesus. As an apostle Paul would ever stand above him. The laws of the kingdom were given through the apostles, and to them all must be subservient - evangelists, bishops, and deacons as executive ministers, regulated by the decrees of the apostles, have their own fields of labour, and in their respective fields are equal.
But, would you commit the ordination of elders to one man - should not the church take all responsibility in a matter so important? The church should take nothing which the Lord has not given to it.
"For this cause left I thee in Crete that THOU shouldest set in order the things that are wanting and ordain elders in every city as I had appointed thee" -
thus it was in the churches of Crete. Paul and Barnabas laboured as evangelists in Lystra, Iconium, Antioch, and the region round about. Having planted churches, they left them not fully set in order, evidently because fitness for oversight had not thus early been manifested. After preaching the gospel in other places and teaching many, they returned and confirmed the souls of the disciples - that is to say strengthened them by suitable instruction and help.
"And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed."
Thus also it was in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, and in fact in every church; and, thus it should be with us.
But what is intended by ordination, and who are to be ordained? Exactly that which is brought before us in connection with the table-serving of the first church. The apostles were the first evangelists, and in Jerusalem was the first church planted by them. As instruments used and honoured of God in gathering that church, they had oversight in every department - they were virtually its first bishops and its first deacons, and the like position belongs to the evangelist in every church he plants. But this arrangement is only temporary. It arises out of the necessity of the case, for who could ordain men, as elders and deacons, who only yesterday confessed the faith? But the evangelist who seeks to retain charge in these departments, - who neglects to bring brethren forward so that the oversight which he possesses may be transferred to them is injurious to the church and unfaithful to the Lord. He who seeks to make his presence a necessity and to settle down as the ONE MAN over the church, subverts the order of the Lordís house. Accordingly the apostles, who had in charge the contributions of the brethren, said unto the multitude, -
"Look YE out from among yourselves seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom WE MAY APPOINT over this business, but we will give ourselves unto prayer and the ministry of the word."
Now the same word which Paul used when he commanded Titus to ordain elders is here translated appoint. The multitude look out or choose the men; the apostles appoint, set over, or ordain - that is, they commit, in formal and appropriate manner, to the disciples elected by the multitude, the charge till then held by themselves - and this is precisely the course now to be taken by the evangelist and the church he has been instrumental in planting.
What we have here said upon the ordination of deacons holds good in regard to bishops, with one exception. The number of deacons is limited by the requirement of the church. There may be twenty brethren qualified and you may require but seven, five, or three; and in that case only the wanted number should be elected. But for the bishopís office, election, in the sense of choosing a number from a greater number of qualified brethren, has no existence. The oversight is committed to all the elder brethren who possess certain qualifications and are willing to labour in the important work. They are not, as has been supposed, to put themselves into office on the ground of their own conviction of fitness, but their qualifications having been discerned and declared, they will be ordained or set over the church by the evangelist; who, by that ordination, imparts to them the charge which till then has been in his keeping.
The evangelist may "live of the gospel," for, even so hath the Lord ordained that they who preach the gospel may live of it. But he who, like Paul, finds it desirable to labour with his own hands, is not on that account less an evangelist. In this great and honourable work those who contribute, and those who receive, are alike brethren - stewards, helpers in the Lordís enterprise. They never stand in the relation of employer and employed. There is no hirelingism in Christianity. Fellow-helpers in the one great enterprise are all the saints. And just because there is no hirelingism in Christianity - no market for talent - the evangelist has no claim for compensation, according to the income he might derive from law, medicine, or trade, relinquished that he might do evangelistic work. He may "live of the Gospel" - he may have that which the circumstances in which he moves fairly require, and no more. Let him remember that if he surrender earthly riches, home comfort, and many things generally prized, his reward is double honour - to be esteemed highly for his workís sake - and, that those who turn many to righteousness will shine, like the stars in the firmament, ages without end.
Upon whom does the support of evangelists devolve? Upon the brethren. John, writing to his well-beloved Gaius, says:
"Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; which have borne witness of thy charity before the church; whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well; because that for His nameís sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth." 3 John 5-8.
Here, then, responsibility rests upon every church and upon every disciple. Not that an evangelist has power to demand, he has only the right to receive. Those who should bestow are the Lordís stewards, not his, and to their own Master they must give an account. If they please to neglect His labour they have the power so to do, but it will not be in their power to escape the reckoning. Questions have been presented concerning collecting and distributing funds for the support of evangelists. Primitive example supplies all that is necessary and leaves every individual a full measure of liberty.
A brother addicted to the work of evangelization journeys from place to place, the churches help him by contributions, derived through the fellowship, or otherwise, as they determine - or this is done by individuals according to ability and readiness of mind. In another instance, a brother labours in a given locality - a church there, or not far distant, may be able and willing to supply his need, or to do so with the help of distant brethren. In such case, churches and disciples are at liberty to respond either to the church or to the evangelist. Or it may be that, after conference with brethren, an evangelist concludes to labour for the purpose of breaking up new ground. His brethren say - "Give yourself wholly to the work, and the Lord will supply you by our hands." In such case individuals and churches can communicate to the evangelist, or, they may (which in many cases is preferable) appoint messengers to receive contributions; visit the evangelist, or forward from time to time the needed help. In a word - the manner of collecting and distributing is not fixed by divine law, and, therefore, any convenient method may be adopted, provided that the liberty of the disciple and that of the church be not interfered with, and the churchís privilege of supporting the evangelists be not transferred to the world.
And now may the Lord of the harvest send forth labourers into His harvest! Surely the fields are white and ready!
QUERIES AND OBJECTIONS.
I. You seem wise above what is recorded. You say that Jesus did not give the apostles an outline. In what then consisted the preparation which you intimate they were subjected to?
We intimated that there was not given, during the sojourn of Jesus on earth, such an outline of the order and government of the church as enabled the apostles at its commencement to understand that order and government in their entirety. The Holy Spirit was to guide them into all truth, in these and other particulars; and that guiding was not begun and finished in a day. It was vouchsafed as needed. It was seven years before the apostles understood that the Gentiles were to be received into the church in the same way as, and on a perfect footing with, the Jews, and it was still longer before they fully comprehended the requirements concerning circumcision, things strangled, etc. The Saviour, in person, taught them many things concerning the church, and thus greatly prepared them for their work, but no such outline was given as enabled them at the first to understand the order and discipline of the church as they did when their labours were brought to a close.
II. Perhaps you will oblige several brethren by placing in a clearer light than your space, perhaps, permitted you to do in your concise paper upon "Apostles," the meaning of the Holy Spirit as to that equivocal expression, "Some apostles, and some prophets," Eph. iv:2. Are we to understand "some men", i.e. a few of a kind were given; "some churches" only received them, or, that the ability to be evangelistic, etc., was bestowed upon certain individuals for the common good?
Paul asked in another place, Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? The answer implied is, "No, only some are apostles; only some are prophets, etc." Jesus gave not apostles to some churches or Christians, and prophets to some others, but he gave "some apostles" and "some prophets;" that is a few of the former, and larger number of the latter, and also a number of evangelists and pastors. We have shown that the giving consisted in supernaturally qualifying for the respective offices named. They were thus given (few comparatively) for the benefit of the whole of the churches; and the blessed results of those excellent gifts reach down to us notwithstanding that (as that which is perfect has long since come) the gifts, which were in part, have been done away, and therefore the Lord does not now give prophets, pastors, etc.
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