The Bible Fact Checker #1: Preachers

Today, one more time, I read a brilliant, educated professor/pastor/national speaker use important biblical terms wrongly.

“Wrong” means “not the way the Bible uses them.”

I don’t blame them. It’s not part of our tradition to correct our speech and teaching just because the Bible disagrees with us. We—Christianity in general—have no fact checker to make sure that the words we use line up with the way they are used in Scripture.

Long tradition is sufficient for us.

I’d like to offer myself for that “fact checker” job. I’ll be able to do it better if y’all help me. Feel free to question, confront, or add in the comments.

Preaching and Preachers

The article I read was about training preachers. Well, it was about training preachers if you’re satisfied with traditional usage over Biblical usage. If you prefer Biblical, then he was training teachers to fill the modern role of “pastor,” which does bear a slight resemblance to the apostolic role of pastor.

“Preach,” “preached,” “preaching,” and “preacher” are in the King James Version New Testament 138 times. Every time*, it is a translation of the Greek words kerusso or euangelidzo (or some form of the two). Only Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul use either word at all except for one occurrence of euangelidzo in Rev. 14:6.

*There are rare exceptions, 9 or 10 of them. Those are either mistranslations (“was” in Luke 9:60), “speak” (laleo) translated as preach, and 5 or 6 uses of kissing cousins of kerusso or euangelidzo.

Each and every time that “preach” is used, whichever of those two Greek words are used, the audience needs to hear the Gospel. In other words, in the Bible, preachers preach to non-Christians.

If Christians are listening, then the speaker is teaching, not preaching.

As an example, one of the exceptions I missed above is Acts 20:9. There Paul is said to be preaching, and his audience is Christians. That’s not a correct use of “preach,” so I looked up the Greek word. Sure enough, the Greek word is dialegomai, from which we get the English word “dialogue.”

In Acts 20, with believers, Paul was not preaching. In fact, he was not standing up, giving a long sermon. He was holding a discussion. When more than one person is involved, diolegomai means “converse, discourse, argue, discuss.”

Preach. If we are going to be Biblical, it means to proclaim the Gospel to unbelievers, and that is all it means. If you’re speaking to Christians, you are teaching.

The Problem

Because we don’t understand the distinction between preaching and teaching, we don’t understand spiritual gifts properly, nor the administrations produced by those spiritual gifts.

For example, every time someone is described as both preaching and teaching, he is an apostle (e.g., Acts 5:42; 15:35; 28:31; Col. 1:28; 1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11). Apostles have to win the lost, then build them into a church. Once that is done, the roles are split. The pastors (always plural, and properly called elders) then take up teaching and sheperding the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4), while “evangelists” are gifted to proclaim the Gospel to the lost (Eph. 4:11).

We call the two letters to Timothy and the letter to Titus “pastoral epistles.” That’s not a bad name, since there is a lot of advice in them that applies to pastors.

Neither Timothy nor Titus were pastors, however. Both were apostles.

Paul refers to Timothy and Silas as apostles in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and 2:6. (I’m pretty sure he called everyone who traveled with him an apostle.) Timothy is told both to evangelize and to teach (cf. 1 Tim 4:11; 2 Tim. 4:5), a role only apostles fill.

Either way, both Timothy and Titus were apostles, not pastors. Paul began the work in Ephesus and Crete, then left Timothy and Titus behind in his place as he moved on. Both of them were temporary, left with instructions to appoint pastors (elders/bishops), then catch up with him. Timothy was given a specific time frame to leave (2 Tim. 4:21).

Our whole idea of the office of pastor and the purpose of a “church” is messed up because we don’t know that they are not preachers but teachers and shepherds. They are not evangelists, and they should be feeding and protecting the flock of God. They should notice every time even one of God’s sheep is missing (Matt. 18:12).

They should also be able to distinguish between the sheep and visitors. As protectors of the flock, they have to know that a visitor is not a wolf, dropping in to have lunch at the flock’s expense.

This is your episode of Bible Fact Checker for today. Thank you for listening.

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One Response to The Bible Fact Checker #1: Preachers

  1. Ruth says:

    I was excited to hear this defintion of preaching/teaching as it is what I have believed from the context of the bible for some time. Also I am excited to see the idea of dialogue in the teachers role.

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