Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Evangelism Series (Part Two): Euangelizo

Note:  This is Part Two of an ongoing series of blog posts on the topic of Biblical evangelism. 
The use of the verb euangelizo in the NT

In order to understand the Biblical view of evangelism, it will be useful to examine some of the foundational language of the NT which describes how Jesus and the early believers practiced evangelism. One key verb is euangelizo, which has in its root the noun euangelion, “gospel.”  In fact, the word might be best rendered simply as “to evangelize” or “to proclaim the gospel.”  In the KJV tradition it is typically translated as “preaching the gospel” or sometimes simply as “preaching.”

General Overview:

This verb appears across the various parts of the NT canon.  According to The Exhaustive Concordance to the Greek New Testament (based on the modern critical text), the verb appears 54 times in the NT among the following books:

Gospels:                               11 x

                                                            Matthew:     1x

                                                            Luke:              10x

Acts:                                      15x

Pauline epistles:               19x

                                                            Romans:        3x

                                                            1 Cor:             5x

                                                            2 Cor:             2x

                                                            Gal:                 6x

                                                            Eph:                2x

                                                            1 Thess:         1x

General Epistles:               5x

                                                            Heb:               2x

                                                            1 Pet:             3x

Revelation:                         2x

A closer look at euangelizo in the Gospels:

Survey of uses:

1.      In Matthew 11:5 in answering those sent from John, Jesus announces that “the poor have the gospel preached to them.”


2.      In Luke 1:19 the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that he has been sent “to show thee these glad tidings.”


3.      Luke 2:10 the angel of the Lord tells the shepherds, “I bring you good tidings of great joy.”


4.      In Luke 3:18 it is said of John that “preached he unto the people.”


5.      In Luke 4:18 Jesus announces that he has been anointed “to preach the gospel to the poor.”


6.      In Luke 4:43 Jesus says, “I must preach the gospel to other cities also.”


7.      In Luke 7:22 (and in Matt 11:5) Jesus tells those sent from John, “to the poor the gospel is preached.”



8.      In Luke 8:1, we read that Jesus went “preaching and shewing [kerusson kai euangelizomenos] the glad tidings of the kingdom of God.”


9.      In Luke 9:6, the twelve disciples go out “preaching the gospel.”


10.    In Luke 16:16, Jesus says, “the kingdom of God is preached.”


11.  And in Luke 20:1, we read that Jesus “taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel.”


Among the Gospels, the verb euangelizo is found primarily in the Gospel of Luke.  It has the sense of bringing good tidings when used to describe the work of Gabriel (Luke 1:19) and the angelic host (Luke 2:10).  John in his forerunner ministry is also a preacher of the gospel (Luke 3:18).  Elsewhere, it refers specifically to the proclamation of the Christian gospel.  Jesus is a preacher of the gospel.  He preaches to the poor (Matt 11:5; Luke 4:18).  His “preaching the gospel” (euangelizo) is linked with preaching (kerusso, Luke 8:1) and teaching (didasko, Luke 20:1).  The object of Christ’s preaching is “the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1; 16:16).  Other than Jesus himself and John, the only other persons described as “preaching the gospel” are the twelve disciples (Luke 9:6).

A closer look at euangelizo in Acts:

Survey of uses:

1.      After the apostles were called before the Jewish council and were beaten and warned “that they should not speak [laleo] in the name of Jesus” (5:40), Luke says, “they ceased not to teach [didasko] and preach [euangelizo] Jesus Christ” (5:42).


2.      After “the church which was at Jerusalem” was “scattered abroad” “except the apostles” (8:1), Luke adds that those scattered, “went everywhere preaching the word” (8:4).


3.     In Acts 8:12 Philip, one of those scattered from Jerusalem, is described as “preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ.”


4.     In Acts 8:25, the apostles Peter and John, having been sent from Jerusalem  to Samaria, are said to have “testified [diamartyro] and preached [laleo] the word of the Lord,” and thus to have “preached the gospel [euangelizo].”


5.     In Acts 8:35, it is said that Philip “preached” Jesus to the Ethiopian Eunuch.


6.     In Acts 8:40, it is said that Philip “preached in all the cities.”


7.     In Acts 10:36, Peter says that the “word” sent by God was “preaching peace by Jesus Christ.”


8.     In Acts 11:20, it says that some of those scattered from the Jerusalem persecution “men of Cyprus and Cyrene” in Antioch “spake [laleo] unto the Grecians, preaching [euangelizo] the Lord Jesus.”


9.     In Acts 13:32, Paul in Pisidian Antioch says, “we declare unto you glad tidings.”


10.     In Acts 14:7, Luke records when Paul and Barnabas entered Lystra and Derbe:  “And there they preached the gospel.”


11.    In Acts 14:15, Paul and Barbabas tell the inhabitants of Lystra that they are “men of like passions with you” who have come to “preach” to them.


12.    In Acts 14:21, Luke says that Paul and Barnabas “preached the gospel” to the city of Derbe.


13.    In Acts 15:35, it says that Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch “teaching [didasko]and preaching [euangelizo] the word of the Lord, with many others also.”


14.   In Acts 16:10 [one of the “we” passages of Acts] Luke says that after Paul’s vision of the Macedonian man, concluding “that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel unto them.”


15.   In Acts 17:10, while in Athens, Paul “preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.”


Acts is also written by the author of Luke, so we should not be surprised to find frequent use of the verb euangelizo here as in the Third Gospel (25 of the 54 NT uses of the verb are in the Lukan writings).  In Acts, the verb euangelizo is linked with speaking (laleo), bearing witness (diamartyro), and teaching (didasko) (see Acts 5:42; 8:25; 11:19-20).  Though it usually is done corporately and publicly, it can also be done individually, as when Philip “preaches the gospel” to the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:35).  The object of the verb (and thus the object of the gospel proclamation) varies, including, “Jesus Christ” (5:42); “peace” (10:36); “the Lord Jesus” (11:20); “the word of the Lord” (15:35); and “Jesus, and the resurrection” (17:10).

Who preaches the gospel in Acts?  In first place are the twelve apostles (5:42), including specifically Peter and John (8:25).  Philip is a preacher of the gospel (8:12, 35, 40), so are Paul and Barnabas (13:32; 14:7, 15, 21; 15:35; 16:10; 17:18) who have been set apart and sent out by the church at Antioch (13:1-3).  The gospel is also preached by the word of God itself (10:36).  Even Luke himself is an implied gospel preacher (16:10).

In addition, there are some intriguing references to unnamed persons who preach the gospel in Acts.  This includes those scattered by the persecution of the Jerusalem church while the apostles remained in Jerusalem (in Samaria:  8:1, 4; in Antioch:  11:20).  The only one of these scattered preachers mentioned by name is Philip.  Are we to assume that the other scattered preachers might also have been, like Philip, from among the seven men set apart to minister to the widows in the Jerusalem church (see 6:5; note that one of these, Nicholas, is specifically identified as “a proselyte of Antioch”)?  Though the Jerusalem seven are often assumed to be “deacons,” they are not given this specific title in Acts.  Philip, on the contrary, is described as “the evangelist” and not “the deacon” in Acts 21:8.

Perhaps the most intriguing reference to these anonymous preachers of the gospel is that found in Acts 15:35 which notes the teaching and preaching of Paul and Barnabas in Antioch but adds that they did so “with many others also.” Some might jump to egalitarian conclusions here, assuming general freedom for preaching and teaching by non-officers, but the context of Acts reveals that these other teachers and preaches in Antioch may well be the seven prophets and teachers of Antioch listed in Acts 13:1 (much like the Jerusalem seven in Acts 6:5).

We can conclude that according to Acts the task of preaching the gospel (i.e., doing Biblical evangelism) was initially entrusted to the apostles and their apostolic associates.  It primarily involves verbal public proclamation but could also involve private verbal instruction (again, see Acts 8:35).

Next time we will continue to trace the use of the verb euangelizo in Paul, the General Epistles, and Revelation.    


AJ said...

I'm enjoying this series of posts. I studied through the Acts usages myself about a year ago. I felt bombarded with so much "missional" talk and jargon surrounding evagelism. I couldn't quite put my finger on the difficulty I had with so much emphasis on "personal evangelism" and being on "mission with God" so I began rethinking through the great commission (given to the church, not individuals) in light of scripture. It amazed me how dogmatic we have been about practice of modern "evangelism" that are not necessarily clear in scripture.

I'd be interested to hear your further thoughts on Acts 6. Would you find application in this text for the office of deacon?

BTW, I still haven't gotten a copy of your book on Owen's take on church government. Is it available this side of the pond?

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...


I resonate with your comments on evangelism, and this has prompted the series. It is an attempt to apply the Regulative Principle to all aspects of church life, including our construal and practice of what evangelism is.

As for Acts 6, here's the short version: though the noun diakonos for "deacon" does not appear here, the related verb diakoneo "to serve' does appear in v. 2. Nevertheless, I think our argument for the office of deacon must come from 1 Timothy 3 and Philippians 1:1 rather than Acts 6.

As for the Owen book, I think it will eventually be available through regular channels. Till then, you can order it on the Evangelical Press site (epbooks.org). If you're here in November, I'll have a copy for you.

Grace, JTR