William J. Stewart
Being one who preaches the gospel of Christ on an ongoing basis, I have had people call me a variety of things. I do not speak in regards to the disrespectful language which may come from people who are contrary to the cause of Christ, and would belittle one bearing the message of God, but rather of what religious fouls might call me. I have been titled by some as a Pastor. On one occasion, an individual continually called me Reverend, or Father. Still others have said that I am a Priest. At many times I have been labeled a Minister. On the odd occasion, I have been pointed out as being an Evangelist. And often, as is my preference, I am said to be a Preacher. Have you ever wondered why so many different terms are used for those who preach the gospel? Have you ever considered whether it was proper for them to be used or not? Let us turn out attention to this discussion today.
The term pastor is very widely used in reference to those who preach the gospel message. Not only do the people of many denominations call the preacher a pastor, but many who are preachers will call themselves and their colleagues pastors. It must be asked however if this is a proper used of the term pastor.
Last week, our article was entitled, “Presbuteros, Episkopos, & Poimen,” those being the Greek words which are applied to those who would fill the office of a bishop or an elder. Upon looking at the word poimen, we came to realize that it is defined as being a shepherd or a pastor. In 1 Peter 5:1-2, Peter wrote,
“The elders [PRESBUTEROS] who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed; shepherd [POIMEN] the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers [EPISKOPOS], not by compulsion but willingly; not for dishonest gain but eagerly…”
Peter uses all three terms in reference to the elders. On no occasion is the word poimen used to describe the duties of a preacher. The elders are to shepherd the flock, not the preacher. The elders are the pastors, not the preacher.
It is correct to call some who serve in the church Pastors, but it must be noted that such a position is not filled by a preacher, except that he meet the qualifications set forth in Scripture, and is appointed to the position. Otherwise, he is no pastor.
In many religious groups, the speaker of the assembly is referred to as being the Reverend. The Hebrew word which is translated reverend is the word yare’, which entails the idea of fear, reverence, ultimate awe. It is used in reference to the fear of God. In Psalms 111:9, it is written,
“He sent redemption unto His people: He hath commanded His covenant forever: holy and reverend is His name.”
No other name is holy and reverend, but that of God Almighty. For a man to wear the title Reverend is nothing short of blasphemy. The word is never applied to a man in Scriptures, only to God. Why should we today apply it to a man who speaks the word of God? Paul was not a Reverend. Peter was not a Reverend. John was not a Reverend. Neither should any be a Reverend today, save God Himself, for He is reverend.
Some who speak the words of Christ are called Father. This is nothing short of an absolute defiance of Scripture. Jesus said,
“And call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9)
“Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man.” (Job 32:21)
None should accept the term Father to be spoken of them, except it be in the family setting.
Often times, especially within the Catholic church, a man who speaks forth publically the word of God is referred to as a Priest. I will not say that a preacher is not a priest, for such is contrary to Scripture, but to segregate the term to solely that use is improper. Peter speaking of all who are Christians wrote,
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye may shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
Further, the apostle John writes,
“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6)
All Christians have been made to be priests. To single one man out as a Priest is wrong. It puts upon a man a “flattering title.”
The term minister, as found in the New Testament comes from the Greek, huperetes. The definition of the word is simply a servant. One who is called a minister is a servant. I do not disagree with the idea of calling one who preaches the gospel a minister, for they do serve, and their purpose is to serve. But in the same respect, the ladies who prepare the emblems for the Lord’s Table are also ministers, for they are serving. In actuality, it ought to be said of all Christians that they are ministers, for they ought to be serving their fellow man, one another, and God in heaven.
The term preacher is used in Scripture to refer to those who speak the things of God in a public setting. Our word preacher is derived from the Greek kerux, which means one who is vested with public authority to speak. Paul called himself a preacher of the gospel. Philip was said to have gone and preached [kerusso] the gospel to the eunuch on the desert road. Paul reasoned with the Roman brethren,
“…how shall they hear without a preacher [kerusso].” (Romans 10:14)
Paul told Timothy that he was to “Preach [kerux] the word.” (2 Timothy 4:2) The need still exists today for there to be those who would preach the gospel. For those who would be preachers.
Paul told Timothy, who was a preacher of the gospel,
“…watch thou in all things, endure affliction, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)
He wanted Timothy to do the work of an evangelist. The Greek word there iseuaggelistes. It is defined as being a bringer of good tidings. The root of the word is evangelize, which means to preach or proclaim. Truly, we need to have evangelists!
Let it be known that those who preach the gospel of our Lord and Saviour are preachers and evangelists. That is what they were called in the first century, that is what they should be called today. Note, this does not elevate them above any other. They are Christians, just as the rest. These terms are to be used as a description of that to which they have devoted their lives to. They preach and evangelize, therefore, they are preachers and evangelists. Let us not put “flattering titles” on men. Remember the words of Job,
“Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man. For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my Maker would soon take me away.” (Job 32:21-22)