Scripture: ‘Evangelist’, Used only 3 times in the New Testament
8 And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
2 Timothy 4:5
5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
“…those whom, while inferior in rank to the apostles, were next them in office, and even acted as their substitutes” (Institutes, IV.iii.4)”
“Those three functions were not instituted in the church to be perpetual, but only endure so long as churches were to be formed where none previously existed,”
“yet he also says, “although I deny not, that afterward God occasionally raised up apostles, or at least evangelists, in their stead, as has been done in our time” (Ibid.).”
“By Evangelists, I mean those who, while inferior in rank to the apostles, were next them in office, and even acted as their substitutes. Such were Luke, Timothy, Titus, and the like; perhaps, also, the seventy disciples whom our Saviour appointed in the second place to the apostles (Luke 10:1).”
Eph. 4.11: “Next to them [apostles] come the Evangelists, who were closely allied in the nature of their office, but held an inferior rank. To this class belonged Timothy and others; for, while Paul mentions them along with himself in the salutations of his epistles, he does not speak of them as his companions in the apostleship, but claims this name as peculiarly his own. The services in which the Lord employed them were auxiliary to those of the apostles, to whom they were next in rank.”
2 Tim. 4.5: “Do the work of an Evangelist That is, “Do that which belongs to an evangelist.” Whether he denotes generally by this term any ministers of the gospel, or whether this was a special office, is doubtful; but I am more inclined to the second opinion, because from Ephesians 4:11 it is clearly evident that this was an intermediate class between apostles and pastors, so that the evangelists ranked as assistants next to the apostles. It is also more probable that Timothy, whom Paul had associated with himself as his closest companion in all things, surpassed ordinary pastors in rank and dignity of office, than that he was only one of their number. Besides, to mention an honorable title of office tends not only to encourage him, but to recommend his authority to others; and Paul had in view both of these objects.”
Eph 4:11 “Evangelists; these were likewise extraordinary officers, for the most part chosen by the apostles, as their companions and assistants in preaching the word, and planting churches in the several places where they travelled.
Matthew Poole, Annotations upon the Holy Bible, vol. 3 (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1853), 672.
The evangelist; whose office and charge it was to publish the gospel, which Timothy is exhorted to do, 2 Tim. 4:5. This office is placed between that of an apostle and of a pastor and teacher, Eph. 4:11, and was not so confined to a certain place or people as the latter of these were.
Matthew Poole, Annotations upon the Holy Bible, vol. 3 (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1853), 454.
Acts 21:8 They were entertained by Philip the evangelist, whom we left at Caesarea many years ago, after he had baptized the eunuch (ch. 8:40), and there we now find him again. (1.) He was originally a deacon, one of the seven that were chosen to serve tables, ch. 6:5. (2.) He was now and had long been an evangelist, one that went about to plant and water churches, as the apostles did, and gave himself, as they did, to the word and prayer; thus, having used the office of a deacon well, he purchased to himself a good degree; and, having been faithful in a few things, was made ruler over many things.
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2160.
Eph 4:11 The evangelists were ordained persons (2 Tim. 1:6), whom the apostles took for their companions in travel (Gal. 2:1), and sent them out to settle and establish such churches as the apostles themselves had planted (Acts 19:22), and, not being fixed to any particular place, they were to continue till recalled, 2 Tim. 4:9.
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2313.
2 Tim 4:5 He must remember his office, and discharge its duties: Do the work of an evangelist. The office of the evangelist was, as the apostles’ deputies, to water the churches that they planted. They were not settled pastors, but for some time resided in, and presided over, the churches that the apostles had planted, till they were settled under a standing ministry. This was Timothy’s work.
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2365.
This Epistle of Paul to Titus is much of the same nature with those to Timothy; both were converts of Paul, and his companions in labours and sufferings; both were in the office of evangelists, whose work was to water the churches planted by the apostles, and to set in order the things that were wanting in them: they were vice-apostles, as it were, working the work of the Lord, as they did, and mostly under their direction, though not despotic and arbitrary, but with the concurring exercise of their own prudence and judgment
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2366.
David Gordon OPC
“Ephesians 4:11. Perhaps one of the clearest Pauline passages related to the specific question of evangelistic responsibility is Ephesians 4:11. “And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers …” The text treats evangelists as it does prophets, apostles, pastors, and teachers. There is no indication that everyone should be all of these. Further, there is no indication that evangelism is singled out among these other functions as the one function all should have. This passage does contain the difficulty that it may very well be discussing particular offices, some of which may not be perpetual. For those who understand the passage this way, the text is less germane to our discussion than other texts. By any resolution of that question, however, Paul’s principle of differentiated service is affirmed.
The three passages summarized. These texts do not specifically prove the selective view of evangelistic responsibility. They do, however, prove that gifts, services, and functions differ within the church, and one of them does specifically mention evangelists as those who are different from prophets, apostles, pastors, and teachers. Further, they shift the burden of proof to those who would suggest that evangelism is a responsibility incumbent upon us all. They require some reason for saying that everyone must evangelize, without saying as well that everyone should teach, administrate, or pastor. These passages demonstrate that, generally speaking, we are not to expect everyone in the church to have the same gifts, the same functions, the same service. Some additional argument would be necessary in order to prove that the general teaching of these passages is altered when evangelism is the particular responsibility considered.”
The commission itself consists of one imperative and three participles (one of these complemented by an infinitive). The imperative is the predominant idea of the commission, and the participles explain this idea more precisely. While some grammarians have spoken of an “imperatival” participle, those who do so recognize that it is a last ditch effort to describe the function of a participle in a context where there is no main verb, or where the main verb is somewhat distant from the participle. In contexts where there is a main verb, the participle functions dependently, to describe further the main verb, delimiting it in a variety of ways. In our context, the main verb is the imperative μαθητεύσατε (mathēteusate) “Make disciples.” Dependent upon this are the three participles, πορευθέντες (poreuthentes), βαπτίζοντες (baptizontes), and διδάσκοντες (didaskontes) (which is itself complemented by the infinitive τηρεῖν [tērein]). Thus, the “going,” baptizing,” and “teaching” are subordinate to the command to make disciples. A formally equivalent English translation would read, “Going, therefore, make disciples … baptizing them … and teaching.” This matter is not terribly clear in the English translations, many of which translate the first participle as though it were an imperative, “Go.” These translations then insert the word “and” between this and the imperative about disciple-making, leaving the impression that at the most, discipling is parallel in importance with going, and at worst, subordinate to it. Such translations reverse the emphasis of the original text. The original text establishes the priority of discipling, and defines the discipling by the three dependent verbs.
The discipling spoken of in Matthew 28 is specified by the three participles. The first, πορευθέντες (poreuthentes), suggests that the discipling of all the nations is not to be passive, but active. The apostles, and the church, are to go among all the nations, and not to wait for the nations to come to them. The discipling is to be active, aggressive. The second participle, βαπτίζοντες (baptizontes), requires that the discipling include visible association with the church, through the initiatory rite of baptism. Perhaps by synecdoche, this participle includes all of the evangelistic activity that precedes the rite itself, since it is unlikely that this suggests the indiscriminate baptizing of people who know nothing of the gospel. The third participle, διδάσκοντες (didaskontes), is complemented by an infinitive, τηρεῖν (tērein). The discipling includes not only instruction, but instruction eventuating in obedience. Further, the obedience is comprehensive. Those who are discipled are to observe “everything, whatsoever I commanded you.”
Summary of the Commission. Taken as a whole, the commission is far more comprehensive than is normally understood. It consists of the aggressive, worldwide discipling of people who are initiated into the visible communion of Christ, increasingly obedient to everything he commanded. Evangelism is only an aspect of the commission; it is not its distilled essence. Obedience to the commands of Christ is the goal of the commission; not merely initial conversion. Further, this very comprehensiveness excludes the possibility that it can be fulfilled through the efforts of any particular individual. No individual within the church can possibly be responsible for fulfilling the commission, and no individual is without responsibility to contribute in some way or ways to its fulfilling. But this contribution need not consist of active involvement in evangelism. Those who are instructing others in the content of our Lord’s teaching, or who are encouraging (or praying for) others to obey our Lord’s teaching, are no less participants in the commission than are evangelists, whether foreign or domestic. There is nothing in the commission itself to suggest even remotely that evangelism is more important than the other aspects of discipling, and nothing in the commission suggests that each believer must do every aspect.”
“This question appears to be very perplexed and thorny, yet I am led upon it both by the controversies of the times, concerning the necessity of mission and ordination unto all ministers of holy things, and likewise by occasion of that which is maintained by some men of learning, that there are still, or may be, evangelists in the church. Calvin holds, indeed, that in that age of his, God raised up evangelists to rescue the church from Popery, Institutes, lib. 4, cap. 3, sec. 4.
I say, again, the work of prophets and evangelists was extraordinary; for the distinguishing or characteristic property of a prophet, i.e., the utmost he could do which the ordinary officers could not do, nor any other but an apostle, is the opening of great secrets, or foreshowing things to come, by the special and extraordinary inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Their very names intimate so much, for propheetees and pheeteuo come from propheemi, I foretell.
But what is the distinguishing work and characteristic property of an evangelist, i.e. that which an ordinary pastor and teacher might not do, and which none else could do but an apostle or prophet? That I may speak to this more clearly, it is to be remembered that the word evangelist is not here taken in that restricted vulgar sense, for a penman of the Holy Ghost writing gospel, for in that sense there were but four evangelists, and two of them apostles. But this is not the Scripture notion of the word, which tells us that Philip and Timothy were evangelists, Acts 21:8; 2 Tim. 4:5; and that Christ has given evangelists to his church for the work of the ministry, Eph. 4:11-12.
Now, if we take the word as the Scripture does, the proper work of an evangelist, i.e., that which none but an evangelist, as an evangelist, or he who was more than an evangelist, could do, I conceive to stand in two things: the first is, to lay foundations of churches, and to preach Christ to an unbelieving people, who have not yet received the gospel, or at least who have not the true doctrine of Christ among them. So Philip the evangelist preached Christ to the city of Samaria, and baptized them before any of the apostles came unto them, Acts 8:5,12. And if the seventy disciples, Luke 10, were evangelists (as many think, and Calvin, Institutes, lib. iv, cap. 3-4, thinks it probable), their proper work as evangelists was to preach the gospel to those cities which had not received it.
Their second work is a travelling and negotiating as messengers and agents upon extraordinary occasions and special emergencies, which is oftimes between one church and another, and so distinct from the first, which is a travelling among them which are yet without. Of this second there are diverse examples in Scripture, as 2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:19, 25; 2 Tim. 4:9; Titus 3:12; Acts 15:22, 25.
Now when I call these works and administrations of prophets and evangelists extraordinary, my meaning is not that they are altogether and every way extraordinary, even as apostleship; for I dare not say that since the days of the apostles there has never been, or that to the end of the world there shall never be, any raised up by God with such gifts, and for such administrations, as I have now described to be proper to prophets and evangelists, i.e., the foretelling of things to come, the travelling among unbelievers to convert them by the preaching of the gospel, and between one church and another, upon extraordinary errands. But I call the work of prophets and evangelists extraordinary in Calvin’s sense (expressed by him in the place before cited), i.e., it is not ordinary like that of pastors and teachers, which has place constantly in the best constituted and settled churches. Shortly, I take the word extraordinary here, not for that which ceased with the first age of the Christian church, but for that which is not, neither needs to be, ordinary; and so much of their work.”
The Presbyterians Armoury, Vol 2, pg 39, Miscellany Questions
Charles G. Dennison
“Pressured by such an agenda, the Reformed church has failed to account for the absence of a direct command in Scripture or its confessions, prescribing laity evangelism. Without warrant, it has proceeded to issue the order where our creeds were silent. Such silence, however, is due neither to error nor ignorance. It was because our fathers felt bound to say no more than Scripture, to place the people under no greater obligation than did the Scriptures. Following their wisdom and pursuing our obvious duties, we may again marvel at the tokens of God’s delight in us. In any event, we will learn to cultivate the quiet, peace-filled spirit of humble and loving faithfulness.”
PCA Book of Church Order:
“8-5. When a man is called to labor as a teaching elder, it belongs to his order, in addition to those functions he shares with all other elders, to feed the flock by reading, expounding and preaching the Word of God and to administer the Sacraments. As he is sent to declare the will of God to sinners, and to beseech them to be reconciled to God through Christ, he is termed ambassador. As he bears glad tidings of salvation to the ignorant and perishing, he is termed evangelist. As he stands to proclaim the Gospel, he is termed preacher. As he dispenses the manifold grace of God, and the ordinances instituted by Christ, he is termed steward of the mysteries of God.”
OPC Book of Church Order
“Chapter VI Ministers or Teaching Elders 1. The ministry of the Word is a calling of God to stewardship in the gospel. In this ministry there is a diversity of gifts that are essential to the discharge of evangelistic, pastoral, and teaching functions.
Chapter VII Evangelists 1. Jesus Christ, to whom is given all power in heaven and in earth, has commanded his church to make disciples of all the nations. From the throne of his glory he sent forth the Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father, to empower the witness of the church to the gospel. While it is the calling of every believer to confess Christ before men, and while God gives particular gifts and calling to some to minister the Word, and while every minister of the Word must evangelize in the fulfillment of his calling, there are some who are particularly called by Christ and his church as evangelists. Ordinarily such men shall preach the Word free of pastoral charge in a particular flock in order that they may labor to bring in other sheep. And to those sheep whom Christ has brought in, evangelists shall administer the sacraments until a congregation shall have been regularly organized. Since the gifts and functions of evangelists are necessary until the end of the age, this ministry is permanent and not confined to the apostolic period. 2. The evangelist, in common with other ministers, is ordained to perform all the functions that belong to the sacred office of the minister. Yet distinctive to the function of the evangelist in his ministry of the gospel are the labors of (a) a missionary in a home or foreign mission field; (b) a stated supply or special preacher in churches to which he does not sustain a pastoral relation; (c) a chaplain in institutions or in military forces; (d) an administrator of an agency for preaching the gospel; and (e) an editor or similar ministry through the press and other means of communication.
“This small “e” evangelism which has been discussed obviously does not include baptism. In the New Testament we see “be baptized” as an essential part of evangelizing. For that reason, I doubt that the work and witness of individuals can properly be called Evangelism or evangelism. It is, at the very least, something to which a person is called by the church and is charged with the moral obligation to fulfill. It is by very nature a specified task. Perhaps most significant of all, there are two distinct groups in the New Testament — teachers and learners, governors and governed (see especially Hebrews 5 for the former and Hebrews 13 for the latter). It is never suggested that the learner or the governed has equal right and responsibility to assume the tasks of the teacher or governor. The categorical distinction of the New Testament requires the theologian to make categorical distinctions in the way he presents the matter.”
“Ver. 5. But there exists in the Church a second kind of Divine manifestations; charges, namely, or ministries, διακονίαι. This word denotes, not like the preceding, inward aptitudes, but external offices, with which certain individuals are put in charge. There are different kinds of them; some may be related to the whole Church, like the apostolate or the office of evangelist (missionary); others to a particular community, and that either with a view to the spiritual life, as the episcopate, or with a view to different kinds of temporal helps, such as the numerous branches of the diaconate; under these offices even there must have existed functions of an inferior order relating to those material services which were called for by the holding of assemblies and of the agapæ, etc. What was the relation of these charges to the gifts? Probably certain of them, the highest, rested on a spiritual gift which the community had recognised and ordained to a regular function; others, the inferior ones, were mere offices committed to individuals by the Church.—As there are gifts which, by their very nature, cannot become the basis of an office (speaking in tongues or prophecy, for example), and others which may easily be transformed into a regular function (the gift of teaching, for example), so there are also offices of a wholly external kind, management of material affairs, for example, which are scarcely related to any gift, while others, like the apostolate, have for their foundation a special gift or a whole combination of gifts.”
Frédéric Louis Godet, “Note,” in Commentary on the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (Chapter 9 through End), trans. A. Cusin, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1957), 190–191.
“Our Lord, when he would arouse Palestine, sent forth seventy evangelists. Not one of these was bidden to settle in any place, or to become a pastor, but to go and preach the gospel from town to town. They were itinerant gospellers. After Pentecost, the disciples being scattered abroad, went everywhere preaching the Word, they broke up new ground, and made the truth known among those who had never heard it before; so far they did the work of evangelists, and the kingdom of Christ came with power. The apostles and others travelled into regions where the name of Jesus had not been known, and everywhere told forth the glad tidings of salvation: whatever else they were, they certainly fulfilled to the full the office of evangelists. We have a few who exercise that office now, but they are rather tolerated than appointed, and certainly their work is not regarded as a part, and a necessary part, of our ecclesiastical action.”
- H. Spurgeon, The Sword and Trowel: 1873 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1873), 233.
“As regards the first title of Philip, ‘a deacon’ the inferior title and also the original duties of the office had, in the case of the seven chosen assistants of the ‘Twelve,’ been quickly forgotten, owing doubtless to the important work which rapidly fell to the lot of these favoured men; with Philip the lesser duties had become merged in the higher ones which belonged to the office of evangelist.
The ‘evangelists’ of the early church are thus described by Eusebius (H. E., iii. 37): ‘After laying the foundation of the faith in foreign parts, as the peculiar object of their mission, and after appointing others as shepherds to the flock, and committing to them the care of those that had been recently introduced, they went again to other regions and nations with the grace and co-operation of God.’ They were thus the missionaries of the first days, to use the words of Dr. Westcott (Introduction to the Gospels, chap. iii.): ‘The evangelist was not the compiler of a history, but the missionary who carried the good tidings to fresh countries; the bearer and not the author of the message. Till the end of the first century, and probably till the time of Justin Martyr (about a.d. 140), “the Gospel,” “Evangel,” uniformly signifies the substance and not the records of the life of Christ.’ We can thus trace how, when the story of the life of Christ—at first only told orally by the evangelist or missionary—was written down in the form of narrative, the inspired writers became known as the evangelists: after the four written records became widely known, it is probable that the title ‘Evangelist’ was appropriated only to them.”
Philip Schaff, ed., The Gospel of John and the Acts, vol. 2, A Popular Commentary on the New Testament (New York;Edinburgh: Charles Scribner’s Sons;T. & T. Clark, 1880), 489.
section ii.—offices of prophets and evangelists
“In handling the subject of the office-bearers, extraordinary and ordinary, appointed for the New Testament Church at the outset, there are two passages of Scripture that may be especially referred to as throwing light upon the question. In the fourth chapter of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul, speaking of the provision made for the Church by the ascended Saviour, says: “And He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” In this statement by the apostle we have plainly an intimation of the staff of officers, ordinary and extraordinary, appointed by Christ, for the work of establishing, organizing, building up, and ministering to the Christian Church.”
James Bannerman, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1868), 228–229.
“After these we find mentioned evangelists; and the question that arises is, whether or not the nature of their office and functions constitutes them fixed and standing officers in the ecclesiastical body. There seems to be reason from Scripture to assert that they, like the apostles and prophets, were extraordinary office-bearers in the primitive Church.”
James Bannerman, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1868), 234–235.
“But the narrative of the Acts and the Epistles of Paul afford sufficient materials, in the references we find there to Timothy and Titus, for judging of the order of evangelist, separated as it was from the extraordinary offices of apostles and prophets on the one side, and from the permanent and standing office of pastor on the other. It is hardly necessary to say that by evangelists, in the sense of ecclesiastical office-bearers, is not meant the inspired historians of our Lord’s life in the Gospels. They are exhibited to us in the Scripture narrative rather as the attendants upon the Apostles in their journeys, and their assistants in planting and establishing the Churches, acting under them as their delegates, and carrying out their instructions. If the contributions of one Church were to be carried to another to supply its more urgent need, it was an evangelist that was selected as the messenger of the Church.”
James Bannerman, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1868), 235.
“Fourth, In the case of Timothy we have another illustration of the distinction between the choice or election of a minister to the office, and the ordination or setting him apart to it. He was elected or chosen by God, for his appointment to the office was intimated “by prophecy;” and he was ordained or set apart “by laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” The office of evangelist, to which he was ordained, may be accounted indeed an extraordinary one; but the principle on which his election and his ordination to the office were kept distinct and separate, seems to have nothing extraordinary in it, but, on the contrary, is parallel to the other Scripture examples of appointment to the ministry.”
James Bannerman, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1868), 462–463.
“A third office is that of evangelists. This designation is easily misunderstood. Biblical evangelists were essentially distinguished from ours. They are connected with the apostles. They were their associates, traveling companions, fellow workers. Philip, Timothy, Titus, Mark, Silas belonged to this group. The seventy disciples whom the Lord sent out are also to be noted here. Their work consisted in preaching and baptizing. To that extent they corresponded to ordinary pastors, except that these served in a set place. But at the same time, they appear to have had special power. Titus appointed elders (Titus 1:5) and exercised discipline (3:10). Timothy laid on hands (1 Tim 5:22). From all this it appears that there was something extraordinary in the office of evangelist. Jerome already said, “Every apostle was an evangelist, not every evangelist an apostle.” The popular notion that an evangelist stands a little lower than a pastor is, in any case, unbiblical. If this office of evangelist can still exist, there is much more reason to place them higher (cf. also “helps,” 1 Cor 12:28).”
Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. Richard B. Gaffin, trans. Annemie Godbehere et al., vol. 5 (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012–2016), 54–55.
Biblically speaking, as well as historically, one can see that evangelism is a characteristic of an office holder and not the layperson.