Preaching Words

The New Testament uses around 60 different images and more than 30 verbs to describe the great task of preaching and communicating the truth. In a series of posts over the comings weeks, we will consider some of them, but it’s important to underline the fact that the one thing common in all of the many words and images is, as MacArthur says, “a focus on the things of God and Scripture as exclusively central in the preacher’s message.” [i]

1.     ‘euangelizo’ (εὐαγγελίζω)

This is the word from which we get our word ‘evangelise’ and ‘evangelism’.  It occurs 44 times in the New Testament and is practically interchangeable with kerusso – to herald or proclaim. It is the word used by the angel at the time of Christ’s birth to describe both his activity and his message (Luke 2:10); by Luke to describe the ministry of Jesus (Luke 8:1) and again by Luke of the ministry of the scattered believers after the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 8:4).

The Luke 8 reference is interesting because the gospel writer describes Christ’s ministry as both “proclaiming” (kerusso) and “bringing the good news” (euangelizo).

Acording to W E Vine, an evangelist is, literally, “a messenger of good” (eu, “well,” angelos, “a messenger”)[ii]

Bill Mounce defines euangelizo as, “…to preach, (bring) the good news (gospel), often with a focus on the content of the message which is brought. In the NT it always refers to the death, burial, resurrection, and witness about Jesus Christ, including its implications for humankind’s relationship to God”.[iii]

Literally meaning ‘to bring good news’, this word reinforces the point that the task of the preacher is limited to bringing the good news revealed in Christ and recorded in Scripture. To preach the Gospel is to preach the good news of Christ, as Paul longed to do among the Roman Christians (Romans 1:15). Here is a timely reminder that evangelism can even be something done among believers but also that preaching is evangelism and evangelism is preaching. Acts 15:35 tells us that Paul and Barnabas taught and evangelised (‘euangelizo’) the word of the Lord.

Some people say that if we do expository preaching we can’t do evangelism. The biblical reality is that you can’t do true evangelism without doing expository preaching.

In Luke 4:18-19, when Jesus preaches in the synagogue at Nazareth, Luke tells us that Jesus was, in fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecy, evangelising (‘euangelizo’ v4:18a) and heralding (‘kerusso’ 4:18b-19).

In the light of the way that the Bible uses this important word we must be careful not to draw hard and fast distinctions between heralding and evangelising, preaching and proclaiming.

…this distinction between preaching (as announcement to the unconverted) and teaching (as explanation, clarification, application, and exhortation to those already informed) even in New Testament times, was not always clear. Sometimes, people spoke interchangeably about the practice of teaching and preaching. Thus, whereas Matthew 4:23 declares that Jesus was “teaching in the synagogues;” Mark and Luke indicate that he was “preaching” (Mark 1:39, Luke 4:44). In Jerusalem, the same apostles who were “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” were at the same time “teaching the people” (Acts 4:2). Whereas the term preaching consistently refers to the message announced, the term teaching may have people as its object. (source unknown)

In Antioch, the work of Paul and Barnabas is described as “teaching and preaching the word of the Lord” (Acts 15:35). Since teaching is mentioned before preaching in this verse, it may be that the major emphasis of their work at this place and time was in teaching believers while their secondary emphasis was on preaching to the unconverted. In any case, preaching and teaching go together.

He who preaches (announces to the unconverted) also generally teaches (explains, clarifies, applies, and exhorts those who are already familiar with what has already been announced).” (R L Waggoner)

Strictly speaking, the principal biblical words translated “preaching” do not correspond exactly to that activity to which we apply the label. They are somewhat narrower in scope. These words, kerusso and euangelizo, are used in the New Testament to describe “heralding” and “announcing the gospel.” They refer to evangelistic activities.

The former always has to do with public proclamation of the good news, while the latter may be used to describe making the gospel known to either unsaved groups or individuals…On the other hand, the word didasko, translated “to teach,” more nearly corresponds to our modern use of the word preach, and has to do with the proclamation of truth among those who already believe the gospel…Though at times didasko seems also to be limited to evangelistic speaking, and occasionally it is possible that kerusso may refer to preaching to the saints… There are, then, two kinds of preaching (because of a deeply impressed use of the English word I shall use the term “preaching” to cover both evangelistic and pastoral speaking): evangelistic preaching (heralding, good news) and pastoral or edificational preaching 3teaching).” [iv]

Always however, just as in the case of κηρύσσειν, it is the proclamation or preaching of an event. The preaching is not itself the saving event, but it is the revelation of the saving event. But as its revelation it also makes this saving event a reality for all who hear and believe the message…..Joy reigns where this Word is proclaimed (Acts 8:8). It brings σωτηρία (I Cor. 15:1f.). It is the ὁδὸς σωτηρίας (Acts 16:17). It effects regeneration (I Pet. 1:23-25). It is not a word of man, but the living eternal word of God. . . . Hence εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, is to offer salvation. It is the powerful proclamation of the good news, the impartation of σωτηρία.[v]


[i] MacArthur, J F   Charismatic Chaos   Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992  p9

[ii] Vine, W. E., Unger, M. F., & White, W., Jr. (1996). In Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Vol. 2, p. 208). T. Nelson.

[iii] https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/euangelizo

[iv] Adams, J. A. (1982). Preaching with a Purpose. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.  pp5-6

[v] Runia, K WHAT IS PREACHING ACCORDING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT? Tyndale Bulletin, 1978  p9

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