New Testament Heralds
by Rick Shrader
This article appeared in the Spring 2003 (Vol 13, No. 1) issue of The Baptist Preacher’s Journal
Perhaps the most seldom used title in the Bible for the minister is “Preacher.” It translates the noun form of the word kerux (kerux) which means “a herald.” Though the English word “Preacher” appears four times, one time (Rom 10:14) is actually a verb, and another (2 Pet 2:5) refers to Noah, an Old Testament character. So the title “Preacher,” referring to the New Testament minister is only used by the Apostle Paul to describe himself. Once in 1 Timothy 2:7 and again in 2 Timothy 1:11, Paul says that God ordained him to be a preacher.
The job of a herald was a duty-oriented job. He was employed by a king to announce what the king gave him. He could not alter the announcement to fit his own whims. It was the message of the king and it must be delivered exactly as it was given. The herald was not a Groucho Marx who used to say, “Those are my principles! And if you don’t like them . . . . well, I have others.” No, these were the king’s principles.
The disciples were often asked to perform tasks like a herald. All four gospels include the story of the triumphal entry when Jesus commanded two of His disciples to go into Jerusalem and untie someone else’s donkey and bring it to Jesus. If the owner asked why they were taking his donkey, they were to reply with the exact words of Jesus: ”the Master has need of them.” Mark records that the two disciples said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go (Mark 11:6). The king’s words would be the authority for the herald’s words. Similarly, in Acts chapter nine, Ananias was commanded to go to Saul, put his hands on him, call him “brother,” and say that Jesus had send him. The words of Jesus would be enough to overcome Ananias’s fear of the former persecutor. He found it to be so. Heralds are not merely witnesses who tell what they have seen. Neither are they instructors who elaborate on the material being presented. They are more like stewards who are responsible for what has been placed in their hands.
Though the word kerux (kerux) appears only three times as a proper noun (“preacher”), it appears a number of times as the action (”preaching”) and sometimes as the message (“the thing preached”). Kittel’s Theological dictionary devotes 35 pages to its definition. There are some clear observations concerning a herald: 1) Every king had one. It was his ordained means of getting a message to the people. 2) They were untouchable. If someone attacked the messenger, he would suffer punishment as if he had attacked the king himself. 3) They were sworn to exactness. Gerhard Friedrich, writing the article in Kittel’s, says, “It is demanded then, that they deliver their message as it is given to them. The essential point about the report which they give is that it does not originate with them. Behind it stands a higher power. The herald does not express his own views. He is the spokesman for his master.”[i]
According to Kittel’s, the Greeks recognized three heralds: 1) Hermes was the interpreter of the gods. In Lystra (Acts 14), Paul was called Hermes (Mercurius) because he was the chief speaker (vs 12). 2) Birds were considered messengers of the gods, especially the rooster who announced the new day and various watches of the night. 3) The philosophers were considered heralds and called “messengers” with the word angelos (angelos). This is why the New Testament pastors can be called “angels” and it was understood as heralds. Paul wrote to the Galatians, you received me as an angel of God (Gal 4:14). In Revelation 2-3, Christ gives His message to the “angels” of the churches and when they deliver the message, the Holy Spirit applies it to whomever has ears to hear.
In the book of 2 Timothy, Paul uses all three forms of the word “Herald.” In 1:11 he writes of the kerux (kerux), the preacher, messenger. In 4:2 he writes of the keruso (kerusso), the preaching, or messages. Then in 4:17 he talks of the kerygma (kerygma), the thing preached, the subject of the message itself.
I. The Preacher (the Messenger)
2 Tim. 1:11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
The apostle Paul tells Timothy that he was “appointed” to this high office by the Lord. This is the word Jesus used when He said to Paul, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth (Acts 13:47). Again, Paul says, But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts (2 Thes 2:4).
First, God’s herald doesn’t have to be a great man, but he does have to be a man of God. Paul again says to Timothy, But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness (1 Tim 6:11). I don’t believe great men ever wanted to be great, they just wanted to be men of God and God used them in great ways. One problem today in our ministerial schools is that we are teaching young men to want to be great men without first being men of God. Vance Havner wrote, “What our forefathers were without knowing it, we want to know without being it.”[ii] Savonarola said, “In the primitive church the chalices were of wood and the prelates were of gold; today the prelates are of wood and the chalices are of gold.”[iii]
A tourist group, visiting birth-places of famous people, passed through a European village. One of the tourists asked a local man standing on a corner, “Were there any famous leaders born in this village?” “No,” the man replied, “Just babies.” Sometimes young people want the things of greatness without paying the price of greatness. John Bunyan was born into a tinker’s home—one of the lowest status occupations of the time. But Bunyan became a man of God and a powerful preacher. Armitage tells that, “John Owen heard him preach, probably at Zoar Chapel, and when King Charles expressed wonder that a man of his [Owen’s] learning could bear to listen to the ‘prate’ of a tinker, he answered, that he would gladly give all his learning for this tinker’s power.”[iv] Bunyan titled his autobiography, “Grace Abounding To The Chief Of Sinners.” If more of us would desire to be known as the Chief of Sinners, rather than the Chief Executive Officer, we might have more power with God.
George Whitefield cried, “O, grant I may, like a pure crystal, transmit all the light Thou pourest over me, and never claim as my own what is thy sole property”[v] J. Vernon McGee tells about G.Campbell Morgan’s call to the ministry:
“Dr (G. Campbell) Morgan tells how he wrestled with this problem of calling. He was a school teacher when he was called as a minister. It was a very solemn moment for him. He felt that the Lord was saying to him, ‘You have been set apart definitely for the ministry of the Word. Now do you want to be a great preacher or do you want to be my servant?’ The first thought that Dr. Morgan had was, ‘I want to be a great preacher.’ That ought to be a wonderful ambition, but after a while the Lord began to press it in upon him, ‘Do you want to be a great preacher, or do you want to be my servant?’ Finally Dr. Morgan came to it. He saw that he had to make a choice. Finally he said, ‘Oh blessed Lord, I would rather be Thy servant than anything else.’”[vi]
Second, God’s herald must have the mind of Christ, not the mind of the world. Paul was insistent on this qualification for a minister of Christ. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7 ) Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; (2 Cor. 3:5 ) For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:16) It was Demas who had the mind of the world. For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; (2 Tim 4:10). God’s heralds cannot be as Jannes and Jambres, men of corrupt minds (2 Tim 3:8). Friedrich says, “Heralds adopt the mind of those who commission them, and act with the plenipotentiary [full power] authority of their masters. It is with this authority that the kerux (kerux) conducts diplomatic business.”[vii]
Our authority as preachers of the gospel comes from the Spirit of God within us! That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us (2 Tim 1:14). R.C. Sproul wrote, “We can be skilled preachers without the Spirit. We can be theological geniuses after the flesh. We can be silver-tongued orators apart from grace. But the only source of the fruit of the Spirit is the work of the Holy Spirit within us.”[viii] Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “To me there is nothing more terrible for a preacher than to be in the pulpit alone, without the conscious smile of God.”[ix]
John describes the preacher with the worldly mind contrasted with the preacher with the mind of Christ: They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error (1 John 4:5-6). Too many of God’s ministers are busy winning themselves to the world rather than winning the world to Christ. It is because they have the mind of the world.
Old A.C. Dixon helped formulate the “Fundamentals” that gave us our name at the turn of the last century. He had pastured both Spurgeon’s Tabernacle and Moody Memorial Church. He writes,
“Every preacher is, or ought to be, a prophet of God who preaches as God bids him without regard to results. When he becomes conscious of the fact that he is a leader in his church or denomination, he has reached a crisis in his ministry. Shall he be a prophet of God or a leader of men? If he decides only to be a prophet insofar as he can without losing his leadership, he becomes a diplomat and ceases to be a prophet at all. If he decides to maintain his leadership at all costs he may easily fall to the level of a politician who pulls the wires to gain or hold a position. He who would prophesy or speak forth the message of God is careful of none of these things but only that he shall speak the message that God gives him, even though he be in a lonesome minority.”
George Liddell, who helped compile the famous Liddell and Scott Lexicon, wrote,
“Give me a man of God—one man, whose faith is master of his mind, and I will right all wrongs and bless the name of all mankind.
Give me a man of God—one man, whose tongue is touched with heaven’s fire, and I will flame the darkest hearts with high resolve and clean desire.
Give me a man of God—one man, one mighty prophet of the Lord, and I will give you peace on earth, bought with a prayer and not a sword.
Give me a man of God—one man, true to the vision that he sees, and I will build your broken shrines and bring the nations to their knees.”[xi]
II. The Preaching (the Messages)
2 Tim. 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
Here Paul exhorts Timothy to action! Now he is to pay attention to the way in which the message goes forth. “Herald the Word” This is the way in which the prophets of old delivered their message. Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. (Isa 58:1). Paul wrote, We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; (2 Cor 4:13). This is one methodology that cannot be changed or amended!
First, the urgency of the situation requires it. Here our word for “herald” is not only a verb of action, but is in the imperative. It is a command to preachers of the gospel. “Be instant” Paul says. The kerux (kerux) is always ready with the kerusso (kerusso). Charles Finney was invited to preach for an entire summer at Five Points in Lower Manhattan by Lewis Tappan. Finney questioned whether they would receive him in such a sinful place. Tappan replied, “A place admirably located for the destruction of souls is equally well located for conceiving them.”[xii] Finney preached that summer to about 2000 people a night in the Chatham Garden Theater. Finney describes his method of delivering the message as a herald:
“You breast yourself to the work like a giant. You open the attack with Jupiter’s thunderbolt. You take the doctrine for a damning fact—declare you know it—raise your voice—lift high your hand—bend forward your trunk—fasten your staring eyes upon the auditors—declare that they know it to be God’s truth; that they stand upon the brink of hell’s gaping pit of fire and brimstone . . . unless they repent forthwith.”[xiii]
Paul reminded the Corinthians, For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. (2 Cor 2:17).
Second, The message of the King guides it. It must be “the Word” which the herald proclaims. When we decide to change it to fit the situation, we have betrayed our King. D.L. Moody said, “When a minister or a messenger of Christ begins to change the message because he thinks it is not exactly what it ought to be, and thinks he is wiser than God, God just dismisses that man.”[xiv]
By now we all recognize that this is a postmodern society. We are finding it more and more difficult to speak the message of our King in a straightforward manner. Our audience has a hard time accepting anything without a “hermeneutic of suspicion.” They can say one thing and do another. They can say one thing and believe another. They can even say one thing and intend another, and they believe all of us are using language and media the same way! Benjamin Woolley, a postmodern writer, said, “Artificial reality is the authentic postmodern condition, and virtual reality its definitive technological expression . . . . The artificial is the authentic.”[xv] Millard Erickson describes our difficulty in this way:
“I have a T-shirt that I bought from the American Philosophical Association, of which I am a member. On the front is printed the following: ‘The sentence on the back of this shirt is false.’ On the back, however, this appears: ‘The sentence on the front of this shirt is true.’ Now it may be possible to believe either the front or the back of the shirt, or to believe both, but at different times. It is not psychologically possible to believe both at the same time, and in the same respect. It simply cannot be done, while retaining one’s sanity.”[xvi]
As ministers of Christ, and as heralds of the gospel, we must not let our preaching fall to such a low estate. Paul said, But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay . . . . For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God (2 Cor 1:18, 20).
III. The Preached (the Message itself)
2 Tim. 4:16 through 2 Tim. 4:17 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. 17Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
Here Paul admonishes Timothy to guard the message that is preached. This form of the word is our English word “kerygma” (kerygma). Webster’s dictionary to this day still defines this word as “The apostolic preaching that Jesus is the Christ.” In the great resurrection chapter of First Corinthians 15, Paul uses this form and the verb form: Now if Christ be preached (kerusso, kerusso) that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching (kerygma, kerygma) vain, and your faith is also vain (1 Cor 15:12-14). You can have all the action and commotion in the world, but if you’ve lost the content, it is in vain.
Today we play with symbolism over substance to our detriment. We are worshiping worship as a substitute for a real Holy Spirit experience. We have faith in faith rather than the faith once for all delivered to the saints. We have a kerux (kerux) who is busy with the kerusso (kerusso), but we are quickly losing the most important thing—the kerygma (kerygma)! Two things are certain from this final chapter of Paul’s life.
First, When you stand by the truth, the Lord will stand by you! Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching (kerygma, kerygma) might be fully known (verse 17). Though all his friends had forsaken him, Paul was not forsaken. When Paul stood at Gallio’s Bema seat in Corinth, the Lord appeared and said to him Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: for I am with thee (Acts 18:9-10). When he stood before Herod’s Bema seat in Caesarea, the Lord appeared and said to him, Be of good cheer Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome (Acts 23:11). Now before Caesar’s Bema seat the Lord is there to deliver him from the mouth of the lion. But Paul was most concerned with appearing before Christ’s Bema seat, Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him (2 Cor 5:9).
Second, When you stand by the truth, the lost will know they should stand by you. By the faithful proclamation of the truth, the kerygma (kerygma) might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear (verse 17). There was no “stealth” in Paul’s presentation. He did not coax them in with one method and then sometime down the road reveal to them what he was really all about!
I hope that at our church we preach the same whether the congregation is full of teens or whether it is full of seniors. The truth is the most effective tool for them. Paul wrote to Philemon and wished, That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus (Phile 6). Paul knew what was effectual in the preaching of the message. He reminded the Corinthians, If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? 24But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: 25And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth (1 Cor 14:23-25).
The old song goes: “Tell me the story softly, with earnest tones and grave; Remember I’m the sinner whom Jesus came to save. Tell me the story always, if you would really be, in any time of trouble, a comforter to me.” That is the need of the world!
Third, When you stand by the truth, the Lord will deliver you. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion (vs 18). The Lord may deliver His saints in the way He chooses. It may be by life or by death. Either way, He will not let us be devoured by the Lion. Once when Vance Havner, nearing 80 years old, was speaking to ministerial students, he described his busy life and schedule. One student said to him, “Why, if we kept that schedule all of the time it would kill us!” Havner replied, “Who said you can’t die?” Is not heaven the greatest deliverance from the Lion? According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. (Phil 1:20).
In his book Twice Told Tales[xvii] Nathaniel Hawthorne writes of the Spring of 1689 and the tensions that had developed in the new country over control from England. It was a time when “the Puritans were all dead, and the Methodists had not been born.” Sir Edmond Andros, the king’s hand-picked governor marched his troops through the streets of Boston, slowly approaching the colonists who shrunk from the fearsome militia. The pastors (who were usually singled out for display as examples) stood protected by their congregants and looked piously from behind the cover.
The rightful governor, Simon Bradstreet, stood far away near the court house steps and gave instructions to the people not to provoke the situation. Many of the older men remembered when they were young and would have taken action themselves, but now they could only stand aside and hope for stronger wills. Just then, “the figure of an ancient man, with the eye, the face, the attitude of command appeared on the street, dressed in the old Puritan garb” and began approaching the soldier’s line. “Stand” the older warrior-saint commanded. “The solemn, yet warlike peal of that voice, fit either to rule a host in the battlefield or be raised to God in prayer, was irresistible. At the old man’s word and outstretched arm, the roll of the drum was hushed at once, and the advancing line stood still.” With prophetic accuracy he predicted the deposing of Andros before dark and the turning of the tide of the Glorious Revolution.
“Who was this Gray Champion?” Hawthorne asked near the end of the story. “I have heard that whenever the descendents of the Puritans are to show the spirit of their sires, the old man appears again.”
In our Baptist movement, and in our Baptist churches, it is time for the spirit of our sires to show themselves again. Will Elijah’s mantle fall to the ground? Will no Timothy’s die at the hands of this world for preaching truth? But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. . . . The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen (2 Tim 4:5,22).