The apostles and prophets that God chose did their job of laying the foundation of the church with Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone. They revealed God’s word and taught his people to know and follow the truth, and their Holy Spirit inspired teachings have been passed down to us today. When we read and meditate on the New Testament, we are taking part in the good gifts which Christ has given to his church, but there are also ongoing gifts which continue to be given to the church. In Ephesians 4:11 Paul speaks of evangelists and pastor/teachers. Now some people will separate the gifts of pastor and teacher, but the rules of the Greek language in which the letter to the Ephesians was written tie them closely together here. Let’s look first at the gift of the evangelist.
Who is an evangelist? Is that someone who gets on TV and speaks with all the subtlety of a used car salesman, promising God’s abundant blessing if you will only send him your money RIGHT NOW? No, that’s not what Paul was talking about. In Acts 21, Paul and his entourage traveled from Ephesus to Jerusalem to deliver financial gifts from the churches of Asia and Greece to the poverty-stricken believers in Judea. When they arrived in the town of Caesarea, they enjoyed the hospitality of “Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven” (21:8). This Philip is to be distinguished from Philip the apostle (see Acts 1:13), and so Luke identifies him as one of seven men who were chosen by the church in Jerusalem to administer the widow’s fund and as the evangelist. It is no accident that he uses this term, since in Acts 8 we read of Philip evangelizing (trans. “preached”) the people of Samaria (v.12), the Ethiopian eunuch (v.35), and all of the cities along the Mediterranean coast from Azotus to Caesarea (v.40). Thus, Philip the evangelist might also be called Philip the missionary, and the gift of evangelists may rightly be described, as Home Kent put it, as “a special endowment for announcing the good news of salvation.”
This is confirmed by looking at the use of the term in 2 Timothy 4:5 where Paul, the aged and wise mentor, is encouraging Timothy, the young pastor who was sometimes timid and fearful, to be bold in his stand for the truth. His final charge is for Timothy to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (v.2). But Paul warns his young friend that his ministry will likely face opposition from those who have no desire to hear God’s word, and so he advises: “be watchful in all things, endure affliction, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (v.5). Timothy, in the midst of his pastoral duties, was not to ignore the unsaved but be ready always to announce the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. The church must always preach the gospel to the unsaved, so there is always a need for gifted evangelists to lead others to Christ.
But what happens after someone trusts in Christ? Well, that’s where the gift of pastor/teacher comes in, and we’ll consider it next week.