New Testament Heralds
by Rick Shrader
Perhaps the most seldom used title in the Bible for the minister is “Preacher.” 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 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 the 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” (Mk. 11:6). The king’s words would be the authority for the herald’s words. A similar story is that of Ananias in Acts 9 when he was commanded to go to Saul and put his hand on him and call him “brother Saul.” He did exactly as Jesus commanded (after initially objecting) and everything went exactly as the Lord said it would.
The word kerux appears only three times as a proper noun (“preacher”), but it appears a number of times as the action ( kerusso, “preaching”) and sometimes as the message (kerugma, “the thing preached”). Kittel’s Theological dictionary devotes 35 pages to its definition. There are some clear observations: 1) Every king had one. It was the common means of getting his 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 won views. He is the spokesman for his master.”1
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” (Ac. 14:12). 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 or “angel.” 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 the book of 2 Timothy, Paul uses all three forms of the word herald. In 1:11 he writes of the kerux, the preacher. In 4:21 he writes of the kerusso, the preaching. In 4:17 he writes of the kerugma, the message preached. This is the only book of the Bible where all three appear.
The Preacher (The Messenger)
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” (Acts 13:47). Again, Paul says that he was “allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel” (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. “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Tim. 6:11). Great men never wanted to be great, they just wanted to be men of God and God used them in great ways. Our ministerial schools cannot teach young men to be great without first teaching them to be men of God. Vance Havner wrote, “What our forefathers were without knowing it, we want to know without being it.”2 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.”3
A tourist group, visiting birth places of famous people, passed through a European village. One of the tourists asked a local man, “Were there any famous people born in this village?” “No,” the man replied, “Just babies.” John Bunyan was born into a tinker’s home, one of the lowest status occupations of the time. But Bunyan became one of the most powerful preachers in England. “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.”4 Bunyan’s autobiography is titled “Grace Abounding To The Chief of Sinners,” not to the Chief Executive Officer.
Second, God’s herald must have the mind of Christ, not the mind of the world. Paul was insistent of 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). “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 forsook him, who had the mind of the world (2 Tim. 4:10). Jannes and Jambres were “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 conducts diplomatic business.”5
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.
A.C. Dixon, who served in both Spurgeon’s Tabernacle and Moody Memorial Church, wrote:
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.6
The Preaching (The Messages)
“Preach the Word!” (2 Tim. 4:2). 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 transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isa. 58:1). This is one methodology that we cannot afford to change.
First, the urgency of the situation demands it. It is a command to preachers of the gospel. “Be instant,” Paul says. The kerux must always be ready with the kerusso. Think what you will of Charles Finney’s evangelism, but in his biography he is quoted as describing his preaching style.
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.7
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.”8
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.”9 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).
The Preached (The Message Itself)
“That by me the preaching [kerugma) might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear” (2 Tim. 4:17). Here Paul admonishes Timothy to guard the message that is preached. This form of the word is our English word “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) 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 (kerugma) 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 who is busy with the kerusso, but we are quickly losing the most important thing—the kerugma! Three 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 [kerugma] might be fully known” (2 Tim. 4:17). 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 in 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 labor, 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 with you. By the faithful proclamation of the truth, the kerugma “might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear” (2 Tim. 4:17). 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. Paul prayed for Philemon “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). As 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 was old he was speaking to ministerial students. He described his busy schedule even in the autumn of his life. A student responded 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).
And so . . . .
In his book, Twice Told Tales, 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 stood protected by the people 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. Just then, “the figure of an ancient man, with eye, the face, the attitude of command appeared on the street, dressed in the old Puritan garb. ‘Stand,’ the old warrior-saint commanded. The solemn, yet warlike peal of that voice, fit either to rule a host in battle or be raised to God in prayer, was irresistible. The advancing line stood still. . . Who was this Gray Champion?” Hawthorne asked. “I have heard that whenever the descendents of the Puritans are to show the spirit of their sires, the old man appears again.”10 May the preachers of the gospel be ever so vigilant.
1. Gerhard Friedrich, “Kerux,” Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. III (Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s, 1978) 687-688.
2. Vance Havner, personal collection of quotes.
3. Savonarola, “On the degeneration of the church” Orations: Homer to Mckinley, vol. III (New York: Collier and Son, 1902) 1281.
4. Thomas Armitage, Baptist History, vol. I (Watertown: Maranatha Baptist Press, 1976) 479.
5. Friedrich, 688.
6. Quoted by Vance Havner, In Times Like These (Old Tappan: Fleming Revell, 1969) 103.
7. Charles Hambrick-Stowe, Charles G. Finney and the Spirit of American Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s, 1966) 135.
8. D.L. Moody, Spiritual Power (Chicago: Moody Press, 1997) 14.
9. Quoted by Douglas Groothuis, The Soul in CyberSpace (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997) 27.
10. Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Gray Champion,” Twice Told Tales (New York: Modern, 2001) 3-10.