The Evangelist

But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
~ 2 Timothy 4:5

And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.
~ Acts 21:8

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
~ Ephesians 4:11

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
~ 1 Timothy 4:12

Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.
~ 1 Timothy 4:15

Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.
~ Luke 10:2

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
~ Matthew 10:32

The Office of the Evangelist, by John Owen. The following contains an excerpt from his work, “Of Gifts and Offices Extraordinary and First Offices”.

“If we do not abide in prayer, we will abide in temptation. Let this be one aspect of our daily intercession: ‘God, preserve my soul, and keep my heart and all its ways so that I will not be entangled.’ When this is true in our lives, a passing temptation will not overcome us. We will remain free while others lie in bondage.”
— John Owen

In the gospel church-state there were evangelists also, as they are mentioned, Ephesians 4:11; Acts 21:8; 2 Timothy 4:5; — gospellers, preachers of the gospel, distinct from the ordinary teachers of the churches Things, I confess, are but obscurely delivered concerning this sort of men in Scripture, their office being not designed unto a continuance. Probably the institution of it was traduced from the temporary ministry of the seventy before mentioned. That they were the same persons continued in their first office, as the apostles were, is uncertain and improbable, (though it be not (improbable) that some of them might be called thereunto); as Philip, and Timothy, and Titus, were evangelists that were not of that first number. Their especial call is not mentioned, nor their number anywhere intimated. That their call was extraordinary is hence apparent, in that no rules are anywhere given or prescribed about their choice or ordination, no qualification of their persons expressed, nor any direction given the church as to its future proceeding about them, no more than about new or other apostles. They seem to have been called by the apostles, by the direction of a spirit of prophecy or immediate revelation from Christ. So it is said of Timothy, who is expressly called an evangelist, 2 Timothy 4:5, that he received that gift “by prophecy,” 1 Timothy 4:14, that is, the gift of the office, — as when Christ ascended, he “gave gifts unto men, some to be evangelists,’’ Ephesians 4:8, 11, — for this way did the Holy Ghost design men unto extraordinary offices and employments, Acts. 13:1-3. And when they were so designed by prophecy, or immediate revelation from Christ by the Holy Ghost, then the church in compliance therewith, both “prayed for them” and “laid their hands on them.” So when the Holy Ghost had revealed his choosing of Paul and Barnabas unto an especial work, the prophets and teachers of the church of Antioch, where they then were, “fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them,” so sending them away, Acts 13:3. And when Timothy was called to be an evangelist by especial revelation or prophecy, the apostle laid his hands on him, whereby he received the Holy Ghost in his extraordinary gifts: “The gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands,” 2 Timothy 1:6. And as it was usual with him to join others with himself in those epistles which he wrote by immediate divine inspiration, so in this act of laying his hands on an evangelist, as a sign of the communication of extraordinary gifts, he joined the ordinary presbytery of the church with him that were present in the place where he was so called. It is evident, therefore, that both their call and their gifts were extraordinary, and therefore so also was their office: for although men who have only an ordinary call to office may have extraordinary gifts, and many had so in primitive times; and although some might have extraordinary gifts who were never called unto office at all, as some of those who spake with tongues and wrought miracles, — yet where there is a concurrence of an extraordinary call and extraordinary gifts, there the office is extraordinary.

The power that these officers in the church were entrusted with was extraordinary; for this is a certain consequent of an extraordinary call and extraordinary gifts. And this power respected all churches in the world equally, yea, and all persons, as the apostles also did. But whereas their ministry was subordinate unto that of the apostles, they were by them guided as to the particular places wherein they were to exercise their power and discharge their office for a season. This is evident from Paul’s disposal of Titus as to his work and time, Titus 1:5, 3:12. But yet their power did at no time depend on their relation unto any particular place or church, nor were they ever ordained to any one place or see more than another, but the extent of their employment was every way as large as that of the apostles, both as to the world and as to the churches; only in their present particular disposal of themselves, they were, as it is probable, for the most part under the guidance of the apostles, although sometimes they had particular revelations and directions from the Holy Ghost, or by the ministry of angels, for their especial employment, as Philip had, Acts 8:26. And as for their work, it may be reduced unto three heads: —

1. To preach the gospel in all places and unto all persons, as they had occasion. So Philip went down to Samaria and “preached Christ,” Acts 8:5. And when the apostle Paul chargeth Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist,” 2 Timothy 4:5, he prescribes unto him “preaching the word in season and out of season,” verse 2. And whereas this was incumbent in like manner on the ordinary teachers of every church, the teaching of these evangelists differed from theirs in two things: — (1.) In the extent of their work, which, as we showed before, was equal unto that of the apostles; whereas ordinary bishops, pastors, or teachers, were to feed, teach, and take care of the especial flocks only which they were set over, Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5:2. (2.) They were obliged to labor in their work in a more than ordinary manner, as it should seem from 2 Timothy 4:2, 5.

2. The second part of their work was to confirm the doctrine of the gospel by miraculous operations, as occasion did require. So Philip the evangelist wrought many miracles of sundry sorts at Samaria, in the confirmation of the doctrine which he taught, Acts 8:6, 7, 13. And, in like manner, there is no question but that the rest of the evangelists had the power or gift of miraculous operations, to be exercised as occasion did require, and as they were guided by the Holy Ghost.

3. They were employed in the settling and completing of those churches whose foundations were laid by the apostles; for whereas they had the great work upon them of “preaching the gospel unto all nations,” they could not continue long or reside in any one place or church. And yet when persons were newly converted to the faith, and disposed only into an imperfect order, without any especial peculiar officers, guides, or rulers of their own, it was not safe leaving them unto themselves, lest they should be too much at a loss as to gospel order and worship. Wherefore, in such places where any churches were planted but not completed, nor would the design of the apostles suffer them to continue any longer there, they left these evangelists among them for a season, who had power, by virtue of their office, to dispose of things in the churches until they came unto completeness and perfection. When this end was attained, and the churches were settled under ordinary elders of their own, the evangelists removed unto other places, according as they were directed or disposed. These things are evident from the instructions given by Paul unto Timothy and Titus, which have all of them respect unto this order.

Some there are who plead for the continuance of this office, — some in express terms and under the same name; others for successors unto them at least in that part of their work which consisteth in power over many churches. Some say that bishops succeed to the apostles, and presbyters unto those evangelists; but this is scarce defensible in any tolerable manner by them whose interest it is to defend it, for Timothy, whom they would have to be a bishop, is expressly called an evangelist. That which is pleaded with most probability for their continuance is the necessity of the work wherein they were employed, in the rule and settlement of the churches. But the truth is, if their whole work as before described be consulted, as none can perform some parts of it, so it may be very few would over-earnestly press after a participation of their office; for to preach the word continually, and that with a peculiar labor and travail, and to move up and down according as the necessity of the edification of the churches doth require, doing nothing in them but according to the rule and appointment of Christ, are things that not many will earnestly covet to be engaged in. But there is an apprehension that there was something more than ordinary Power belonging unto this office, — that those who enjoyed it were not obliged always to labor in any particular church, but had the rule of many churches committed unto them. Now, whereas this power is apt to draw other desirable things unto it, or carry them along with it, this is that which some pretend a succession unto. Though they are neither called like them, nor gifted like them, nor labor like them, nor have the same object of their employment, much less the same power of extraordinary operations with them, yet as to the rule over sundry churches they must needs be their successors! I shall, therefore, briefly do these two things: —

1. Show that there are no such officers as these evangelists continued by the will of Christ in the ordinary state and course of the church;

2. That there is no need of their continuance from any work applied unto them.

1. And, (1.) The things that are essential unto the office of an evangelist are unattainable at present unto the church; for where no command, no rule, no authority, no directions, are given for the calling of any officer, there that office must cease, as doth that of the apostles, who could not be called but by Jesus Christ. What is required unto the call of an evangelist was before declared; and unless it can be manifested, either by institution or example, how any one may be otherwise called unto that office, no such office can be continued, for a call by prophecy or immediate revelation none now will pretend unto, and other call the evangelists of old had none.

Nor is there in the Scripture the least mention of the call or appointment of any one to be an ecclesiastical officer in an ordinary stated church, but with relation unto that church whereof he was, or was to be, an officer. But an evangelist, as such, was not especially related unto any one church more than another, though, as the apostles themselves, they might for a time attend unto the work in one place or church rather or more than another. Wherefore, without a call from the Holy Ghost, either immediate by prophecy and revelation, or by the direction of persons infallibly inspired, as the apostles were, none can be called to be evangelists, nor yet to succeed them under any other name in that office. Wherefore, the primitive church after the apostles’ time never once took upon them to constitute or ordain an evangelist, as knowing it a thing beyond their rule and out of their power. Men may invade an office when they please, but unless they be called unto it, they must account for their usurpation. And as for those who have erected an office in the church, or an episcopacy, principally if not solely out of what is ascribed unto these evangelists, namely, to Timothy and Titus, they may be farther attended unto in their claim when they lay the least pretense unto the whole of what is ascribed unto them. But this “doing the work of an evangelist” is that which few men care for or delight in; only their power and authority, in a new kind of menagerie, many would willingly possess themselves of.

(2.) The evangelists we read of had extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit, without which they could not warrantably undertake their office. This we have manifested before. Now, these extraordinary gifts, differing not only in degree but in kind from all those of the ordinary ministry of the church, are not at present by any pretended unto; and if any should make such a pretense, it would be an easy matter to convince them of their folly. But without these gifts, men must content themselves with such offices in the church as are stated with respect unto every particular congregation, Acts 14:23, 20:28; Titus 1:5; 1 Peter 5:1,2; Philippians 1:1. Some, indeed, seem not satisfied whether to derive their claim from Timothy and Titus as evangelists, or from the bishops that were ordained by them or described unto them. But whereas those bishops were no other but elders of particular churches, as is evident, beyond a modest denial, from Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1, 2, 8; Titus 1:5-9: so certainly they cannot be of both sorts, the one being apparently superior unto the other. If they are such bishops as Titus and Timothy ordained, it is well enough known both what is their office, their work, and their duty; if such as they pretend Timothy and Titus to be, they must manifest it in the like call, gifts, and employment, as they had. For, —

(3.) There are not any now who do pretend unto their principal employment by virtue of office, nor can so do; for it is certain that the principal work of the evangelists was to go up and down, from one place and nation unto another, to preach the gospel unto Jews and Gentiles as yet unconverted, and their commission unto this purpose was as large and extensive as that of the apostles. But who shall now empower any one hereunto? What church, what persons, have received authority to ordain any one to be such an evangelist? or what rules or directions are given as to their qualifications, power, or duty, or how they should be so ordained? It is true, those who are ordained ministers of the gospel, and others also that are the disciples of Christ, may and ought to preach the gospel to unconverted persons and nations as they have opportunity, and are particularly guided by the providence of God; but that any church or person has power or authority to ordain a person unto this office and work cannot be proved.

2. Lastly, The continuance of the employment as unto the settling of new planted churches is no way necessary; for every church, being planted and settled, is entrusted with power for its own preservation and continuance in due order according to the mind of Christ, and is enabled to do all those things in itself which at first were done under the guidance of the evangelists, nor can any one instance be given wherein they are defective. And where any church was called and gathered in the name of Christ, which had some things yet wanting unto its perfection and complete order, which the evangelists were to finish and settle, they did it not hut in and by the power of the church itself, only presiding and directing in the things to be done. And if any churches, through their own default, have lost that order and power which they were once established in, as they shall never want power in themselves to recover their pristine estate and condition, who will attend unto their duty according unto rule to that purpose, so this would rather prove a necessity of raising up new evangelists, of a new extraordinary ministry, on the defection of churches, than the continuance of them in the church rightly stated and settled.