There are several terms used in the New Testament to describe those who preach; each of these terms emphasizes some aspect of the work of the preacher. The word “preacher” (kerux ) means “herald, one who proclaims. preacher.” The word “evangelist” (euaggelistes ) refers to “a preacher of the gospel;” the word “gospel,” from euaggelion, means “good news.” Hence, the word “evangelist” emphasizes that the preacher is a man who brings good news, namely, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. The word says nothing about whether or not the man is located. Other terms by which a preacher is called could be cited (such as “minister” ) but most of them are not used uniquely to describe the preacher.
The evangelist is one of the several gifts which Jesus gave to the church when He ascended into heaven. Paul said, “When He ascended on high . . . He gave gifts to men . . . . And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:8, 11). Hence, the preacher is not a man who manipulated himself into a position in the church which God never intended to exist; rather, preachers are a part of God’s plan through Jesus Christ. The Great Commission charged the apostles to go preach; Peter later commented about this charge as follows: “And He ordered us to preach to the people . . . .” (Acts 10:42). Paul also showed the necessity of preaching when he said, “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how .shall the v hear without a preacher.”‘ (Rom. 10:13-14). Hence, the gospel preacher is a part of God’s divine plan.
This article is designed to answer the question, “Is every saint a preacher?” Every saint does have a personal responsibility to teach the word of God. When persecution broke out in Jerusalem, everyone except the apostles were scattered abroad; Luke, the inspired historian, said, “Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Timothy was instructed as follows: “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). Hence, every saint has a personal responsibility to help spread the gospel.
However, not every saint is a gospel preacher. Women, for example, cannot serve as gospel preachers because of the divine restrictions which forbid her to publicly address the congregational assembly (1 Cor. 14:34-35; 1 Tim. 2:12). Hence, our question is already answered; not every saint can be a gospel preacher. However, in addition to the fact that women cannot be preachers, not even all men can be preachers. The principle of the church being the body of Christ teaches this fact. Not all parts of the body serve the same function. Hence, all of the body cannot be an eye, ear, nose, or throat. In the Lord’s body, the church, not all members can be a prophet, apostle, or preacher (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-31). Rather, we must accept the fact that most members of the body of Christ cannot be preachers, just as most members cannot be song leaders. He who tries to make every member a preacher ignores what Paul taught in 1 Cor. 12:12-31.
Let me hasten to add that the New Testament knows of no clergy-laity distinction. What I am discussing does not imply such a distinction anymore than the fact that not all members can be song leaders implies a song leader-laity distinction. Rather, what it recognizes is that every individual Christian has certain abilities and limitations. The man who lacks the ability to preach should not be encouraged or forced into preaching. A knowledge of some of the special qualifications and works of an evangelist should help us to understand just what kind of man should be preaching. I have concentrated on First and Second Timothy and Titus to form the following items of this list:
1. A preacher must know the word of the Lord. The message is more important than the messenger. The gospel is what saves the man, not the gospel preacher (Rom. 1:16). Hence, the preacher must have a good acquaintance with the word of God before he begins to preach. Timothy, for example, had been taught God’s word from a child (2 Tim. 3:14-15). Too, he had repeatedly had the opportunity to hear Paul preach (2 Tim. 1:13). Hence, Paul admonished him to study and to handle the word of truth accurately (2 Tim. 2:15) and to give heed to reading the Scriptures (1 Tim. 4:13). Paul commanded both Timothy and Titus to preach sound doctrine (1 Tim. 1:3-4; Tit. 2:1) and to avoid controversies which were irrelevant to the gospel (Tit. 3:9; 1 Tim. 1:6).
2. A gospel preacher must be “apt to teach.” Not everyone who has a thorough knowledge of God’s word has the ability to teach it to others. However, notice the number of references to teaching in Paul’s letters to Timothy: (a) “As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines” (1 Tim. 1:13); (b) “In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 4:6); (c) “Prescribe and teach these things” (1 Tim. 4:11); (d) “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of the Scriptures, to exhortation, and teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13); (e) “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching . . ..” (1 Tim. 4:16); cf. also 1 Tim. 6:2, 17; 2 Tim. 4:2. Indeed, a gospel preacher must be able to teach (2 Tim. 2:24). But, not all men are teachers (1 Cor. 12:29). Hence, not all Christians can be preachers.
3. A gospel preacher must be very dedicated to God and His work. Paul told Timothy, “Take pains with these things; he absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to all” (1 Tim. 4:15). Notice that Timothy was to be absorbed in his work; he was to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). The evangelist must be ready to endure whatever he is called upon to suffer for Christ. Paul endured numerous tribulations, including five beatings, a stoning, three shipwrecks, and innumerable dangers and hardships (cf. 2 Cor. 11:23-28). Yet, he had no choice but to preach. He said, “But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, `I believed, therefore I spoke,’ we also believe, therefore also we speak” (2 Cor. 4:13).
Hence, we see that not every Christian can be a gospel preacher, in spite of the fact that every saint is expected to help propagate the gospel of Christ. Some saints cannot preach because they are women; others lack the natural abilities to preach; still others lack the spiritual dedication to be preachers of the gospel. Hence, not every saint is, or can be, a gospel preacher.