In the New Testament, there are primarily two words that are typically translated as “preach.”
The first of those terms is εὐαγγελίζω (euangelidzo), which means to evangelize or to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. The emphasis here is very clearly on that of pointing lost souls to Jesus Christ and to call them to faith and repentance.
The second of these terms is the word κηρύσσω (kerusso). Similar to εὐαγγελίζω (euangelidzo), this term means to declare or to proclaim aloud some information, though the terminology is a little more general and does not necessitate that the Gospel is being declared. For instance, that is the language used by the Apostles in Acts 15:21, when speaking about people in every city “proclaiming” or “preaching” Moses.
There is a great deal of debate as to what the goal of preaching ought to be. On one side, there are those who say that the sermon ought to be evangelistic in nature. In this worldview, evangelism is primarily a practice of inviting people to attend church with you so they hear the Gospel and come to faith in Jesus Christ. For indeed, how are they to believe of those they have never heard and how are they to hear without someone preaching? (Romans 10:14-17) — κηρύσσω (kerusso).
On the other side of the debate, there are others who believe that the purpose of the sermon is to be a matter of discipleship — namely, that of teaching believers to obey everything that Jesus has taught them to do (Matthew 28:18-20). In the great commission, the word for “preaching” never even shows up. Jesus does not say that we are to preach to the nations, but to disciple them unto obedience. In this worldview, evangelism is the work of the church during the rest of the week — sharing the Gospel with those they meet along the way. In turn, the role of the gathered church is discipleship — a place where learning and growing in faith takes place.
In the first model, preaching tends to “lower the bar” so as to reach everyone in the room, believer and unbeliever. In the second model, preaching tends to aim at “raising the bar” for all who are present because those present now have a commitment to Christ. True, there will be varying degrees of commitment reflected in the church body, but there is at least a basic assumption that those who are present desire to learn and grow from where they happen to be.
The question, then, has to do with how the New Testament uses this terminology, particularly in those areas that are descriptive and do not just presume we, the reader, understand of what is being spoken. In my seminary years, I had a dear friend who used to remind me that “preacher” is never spoken of as an office in the church nor is it one of God’s gifts to the church — “shepherds and teachers” are, though.
Because the term εὐαγγελίζω (euangelidzo) is primarily used in the context of evangelism — declaring the Gospel, it seems to make more sense to focus on the term, κηρύσσω (kerusso). Also, we will not be looking at all of the uses of this term in the Greek New Testament, but will instead simply focus on those places where definition is given to the purpose or content of the preaching.
Matthew 3:1 and 4:17 — here we find both John the Baptist and Jesus spoken of as preaching. In both cases, the message is also the same: “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Clearly, in both cases, the message is evangelistic in nature and the message is spoken out of doors — or at least apart from the traditional synagogue setting.
Matthew 4:23 is a key verse to wed to the previous ones, for in this case, wed to preaching is the idea of teaching (διδάσκω — didasko — which is the root word from which “disciple” is formed in the Greek). Here, we see Jesus spoken as teaching and preaching in the synagogues. Still, the message of the Kingdom is being proclaimed, but there is a teaching/discipleship element that is present.
Matthew 24:14 — “The Gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed in the whole world…” This seems to tie in nicely with the Great Commission, especially when we realize if there is a kingdom, there are laws and commandments that go along with the kingdom and which will be impressed on those who are members of it. Thus one should recognize that even though the word, “teach,” is not included in the text, it is implied.
Mark 1:4 — What was the content of John’s preaching? “a baptism of repentance and the forgiveness of sins.” Herein is the first part of discipleship as is stated in the Great Commission.
Mark 1:45 — While some translations say he was talking about what Jesus had done, the Greek term is κηρύσσω. Thus, the Leper is preaching as he shares the good news of Christ.
Mark 5:20 — We find the former Gerasene demoniac going about and preaching through Decapolis. When we compare this with the parallel in Luke 8:39, we see Jesus commanding the man to go and tell but instead, he goes and preaches.
Mark 13:10 — Before the return of Christ, the Gospel will be preached to the ends of the earth.
Luke 24:47 — Repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name will be preached to the whole world, starting with Jerusalem.
Acts 8:5 — Philip preaching in Samaria.
Acts 9:20 — Saul/Paul preaching in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God. Here we see both the evangelistic side and the teaching side as Paul’s approach is often described as him “reasoning with” the Jews that Jesus is the Christ (e.g. Acts 17:2,17; 18:4,19).
Acts 10:42 — Peter speaks of Jesus’ command to preach to all of the people and to solemnly declare that Jesus is the judge over the living and the dead.
Romans 2:21 — here we have a context where preaching is used in the context of discipleship, for preaching and teaching are found in parallel.
1 Corinthians 1:23 — Paul preaches Christ crucified. This is immediately pointed toward evangelism, though with ramifications that extend into discipleship. For, if Christ is crucified, how now must we live?
1 Corinthians 9:27 — Paul disciplines himself so that by his actions (discipleship) he does not undermine his preaching.
1 Corinthians 15:12 — Christ is preached as raised from the dead.
1 Timothy 3:16 — This is one of the earliest Christian creeds, one that speaks of Jesus being preached in all the nations.
2 Timothy 4:2 — Perhaps this is the most important passage when it comes to defining what preaching is: reprove, rebuke, exhort with patience and teaching. While this does not rule out evangelism, it does carry with it a notion that teaching is an important part, for how can you reprove, rebuke, and exhort if you do not first teach others what God expects of us first?
The next part of this word study needs to address the role of teaching in the church and how the two fit together. We’ll leave that for next week. What we can say with certainty is that preaching is evangelistic in nature, though that evangelism seems to largely take place outside of the boundaries of the organized church. It should also be noted, as we have seen here, that teaching and preaching are not mutually exclusive ideas.
Next…teaching in the context of the church…
“And the Spirit of Yahweh was upon him and he judged Israel. And he went into battle and Yahweh gave into his hand, Cushan Rishathayim. And the land was peaceful for 40 years. And Othniel, son of Qenaz died.”
Isn’t it interesting that in this first cycle, the paradigm against which all of the others will fall short, that the peace which God gave to the people lasted the equivalent of one generation. Often when we read this, we focus on the life of the judge — while he was alive the people followed the commands of God, but when he died, the people fell back into their old sins. And it is proper to make that connection, as we often observe in the Bible and in history, the godliness (or lack thereof) of a nation’s leader affects the godliness of the people for good or for ill.
While that is true, may we not stop there because the responsibility to hand down the matters of faith from one generation to the next does not lie with the national leaders. It lies in the family. In particular, it lies with the father, the spiritual head of the households. And if the fathers are silent about the things of faith, the commands of God, and the works of God in history, then the next generation will drift away.
We are seeing the effects of this in America today. In the 1950s, people bought into the lie that spiritual things were private things and not to be talked about in the public sector. Many of the children of that era followed that practice and thus the grandchildren of that era began growing up in a world where godliness became a more or less optional matter (or embraced the notion that one could find spirituality in a variety of places. Today, the culture has almost entirely rejected the authority of God over life in the social square, and the people, much like what we will find here after Othniel’s death, have fallen into idolatry.
So, what is the solution? The solution is not Christian politicians. The solution is not laws that reflect Christian values. The reality is that politicians and laws are impotent when it comes to transforming our culture; at best, having Christian politicians and laws is only a byproduct of getting the more significant problem squared away properly. What is the most significant thing to do? We need to teach our kids the word of God and we need to model obedience to that word in our families. We need to train our children to refute the nonsense that is being taught in the broader and more secular culture and that means we need to teach ourselves not only what is taught but also how to refute it. Wen need to engage the culture with Truth and not be silent, for as we read the book of Judges, we will be confronted over and over again with the cost of that silence.
(the following is excerpted from my essay, “Teaching Image Bearers, not just Warm Bodies,” which is part of the compilation: Docens Coram Deo: Teaching Before the Face of God. This book is written as a festschrift in honor of Bob Grete and Harold Thomas, the founders of Rocky Bayou Christian School, on the school’s 35th anniversary. Copies can be acquired at the above link; I served as the editor of this Festschrift.)
As mentioned before, the naturalistic model sees the human mind as nothing more than a super-computer, capable of processing and retaining a vast array of data which is then manipulated by genetic programming in such a way as to output a result that we commonly describe as thought. Thus, in principle, educating a human is akin to programming a computer. Yet, if humans are altogether different than a computer, what must our approach to education be?
The beginning of the answer to that question is found in the very meaning of the word, “educate.” The English word derives from the Latin verb, educere, which literally means, “to lead out. Thus, the purpose of education is not so much that of putting in, but bringing out. Now one might argue that children are not born with an innate knowledge of history, mathematics, or even of the Bible and thus, “putting in” is an important part of education. And indeed, that is where instruction comes in—instruction coming from the Latin verb, instruere, which literally means, “to pile in.” Yet notice the relationship of these two terms. Instruction is not the end goal—education is. In other words, you instruct towards the end of educating a student—you pile in mathematics, history, science, and Bible not so that a student will be full of ideas (many of which a student may never use again in life), but you instruct so that something will be brought out in them. What needs to be brought out? It is the image of God that they bear which needs to be brought out.
In the fall, the righteous image of God in man has become warped, distorted, mangled, and bent, but not lost (Genesis 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7; James 3:9). We are born in the state of sin (Psalm 51:5), by nature we do not seek righteousness (Romans 3:10-11), we are at enmity with God (James 4:4), our hearts are corrupt (Mark 7:21), we commit sin through both action and inaction, and we sin with our intentions (Matthew 5:21-48) as well as with our activities. In addition, when we break a portion of the Law, we are guilty of breaking it as a whole (James 2:10). There is nothing good in us by nature (Romans 7:18)—we have been corrupted by sin in every aspect of our being. Of course, education is not a substitute for the work of the Holy Spirit in redemption and sanctification, yet it is a tool by which the Holy Spirit can and does use, both in the process of growth in grace and to enable parents to fulfill their God-given mandate to raise up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 4:9; Proverbs 22:6).
Thus, if our teaching reflects only the idea of giving students information, we are not fulfilling our calling. When little Billy asks, “Why do we need to study literature?”, it is not enough to tell him that he needs the knowledge of literature so that he will be able to communicate ideas with others in this world, nor is it enough to tell him that God has called him to take dominion of the world, and that means taking dominion of the literary culture as well as the geography. These statements both may be true, but they are yet insufficient. We must also be telling little Billy that he is made in the image of God and that God loves language and that God loves expressing himself through every form of language; thus, if he is to reflect that image of God faithfully, he needs to nurture within himself that same kind of love for language and the study of literature is designed to help nurture that love and appreciation for the expression of ideas through language. I have applied this to literature, but the same argument can and should be applied to every discipline of study. There is a reason that we expose students to a broad array of academic studies rather than allowing them to concentrate their studies in a particular area of interest, and it is not to make students more “well-rounded,” but it is because God’s character is reflected in each of these disciplines and to reflect the Imago Dei, each of these disciplines must be applied to our character. Thus, if we are to educate and not program, and if education is a tool used by the Holy Spirit in sanctification to bring out the Imago Dei, we must instruct in every academic discipline.