While the study of nouns is very important, such as the church (ecclesiology), God (theology), or salvation (soteriology). How about the study of verbs that put these nouns into action? Salvation applied to a heart through the gospel evangelized and received? The calling and gathering of God’s elect into local churches? These nouns coupled with the verbs that move them to action provide a powerful grammatical mixture!
Evangelizology is therefore the study of evangelizing. Evangelizing is the act of preaching the gospel to the unsaved with the view of leading them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Evangelization and evangelism are nouns based on the same root word, the noun “Evangel”, Gospel, or gospel, from which also comes the verb “evangelize”.
So, just as our English language has several ways of describing the concept of evangelism, the same is true for the New Testament. The Bible includes about 142 verbs and 19 nouns directly related to the act of the proclamation of the Gospel. Perhaps this chart [below] could be said to provide a backdrop of what is meant by evangelizing in the New Testament.
The plethora of verbs used attests to the number of valid approaches to evangelism. One way to view evangelism methodologies is to consider the question, is the gospel being proclaimed? Since the word “evangelize” is the verbal form of the noun “Evangel,” if the Evangel or gospel is being proclaimed, then it is, according to its root meaning, evangelism!
So Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians:
“I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.” (1 Cor 9:22)*
*All Bible quotations in this article are from the Holman Christian Standard.
Even as all “means” by which the gospel is share are good, a study of the verbs used in evangelism is beneficial to understand the “means” encouraged and exemplified in the Bible. Among the 142 verbs used for evangelism in Scripture, some of them stand out as teaching important particularities related to the proclamation of the gospel. This article will look at seven of these.
- To Evangelize
The foundational term for evangelizing is the verb “evangelizing” in the New Testament. This verb is found 54, 55, or 56 times in the New Testament, depending on which Greek text is searched. And it is also found 22 times in the Old Testament Septuagint as a translation for the Hebrew stem basar.
The most well-know Old Testament usage is found in Isaiah 52:7, which was quoted by Paul in Romans 10:
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald, who proclaims peace, who brings news of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isa 52:7)
Both uses of the verb “evangelize” (in the Greek) are here translated by the English verb “proclaim.” For Paul Isaiah 52:7 provided a powerful precedent for his view of evangelizing (see Rom 10:15).
Of the 55 New Testament uses of “evangelize,” several stand out as particularly meaningful. In Luke 4:43, Jesus used the verb evangelize to explain His purpose for being sent to earth:
“But He said to them, ‘I must proclaim the good news about the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because I was sent for this purpose.’” (Luke 4:43)
Behind the English verb “proclaim” is the Greek word “evangelize.” It is especially amazing that Jesus stated that He was sent with the obligation to evangelize. Hence the word “must”. As we read the story of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels we perceive His sense of obligation lived out in His exemplary life!
Another interesting use of the verb “evangelize” comes off the pen of Paul. In 1 Corinthians Paul used the verb “evangelize” 6 times. Similarly to Jesus above, Paul also uses this verb to frame his purpose for living:
“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to evangelize—not with clever words, so that the cross of Christ will not be emptied of its effect.” (1 Cor 1:17)
“For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason to boast, because an obligation is placed on me. And woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this willingly, I have a reward, but if unwillingly, I am entrusted with a stewardship.” (1 Cor 9:16-17)
While the translators of the Holman Christian Standard used the English verb “evangelize” in 1 Cor 1:17, 9:16 has a dual use of this verb:
“For if I evangelize… And woe to me if I evangelize not!”
As with Jesus in the Gospels, Paul’s example of evangelizing was laid out for us in the Book of Acts. These several uses of the verb evangelize show the importance of this verb in the New Testament.
It is worthy of note that the translators of the Holman Christian Standard broke new ground by translating euangelizo as “evangelize” 7 times in their translation (Acts 8:25, 40; 14:7, 21; 16:10; Rom 15:20; 1 Cor 1:17).
- To Proclaim
An important part of evangelizing involves proclaiming. The implication of the use of this term parallels the heralds of the kings in the Old Testament who went from city to city proclaiming the king’s message (2 Chronicles 30:6, 10).
And this was the methodology of Philip when he entered Samaria. He proclaimed (kerusso) as he evangelized (euangelizo):
“So those who were scattered went on their way preaching the message of good news. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them.” (Acts 8:4-5)
In these verses, Luke used the Greek verb for “evangelize” (euangelizo) in verse 4 and he used the verb “proclaim” (kerusso) in verse 5.
It is important to note that Jesus used the verb “proclaim” (kerusso) when He gave His Great Commission in Mark 16:
“Then He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.’” (Mark 16:15)
Rather than implying one-to-one evangelism (as perhaps the verb evangelize does), the concept of proclamation implies bold preaching to a group of people. This verb is used 31 times in the New Testament in evangelistic contexts.
- To Boldly Speak
The verb “to speak boldly” in Greek is paresiozoo. It used 9 times in the New Testament in the context of evangelism. This verb is found used alone and with in combination with other verbs. Two examples of its being used alone are found in Acts 9:27-28 to describe the early ministry of the Apostle Paul:
“Barnabas, however, took him and brought him to the apostles and explained to them how Saul had seen the Lord on the road and that He had talked to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. Saul was coming and going with them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.” (Act 9:27-28)
While translated “speaking boldly, the verb is used by itself in this context. However, paresiozoo is also used coupled with the verb “to speak.” One example of this verbal duo is in 1 Thessalonians:
“On the contrary, after we had previously suffered, and we were treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, we were emboldened by our God to speak the gospel of God to you in spite of great opposition.” (1 Thess 2:2)
The power of this word is its counter-cultural, counter-physical, and counter-emotional context wherein the speaker went beyond outward circumstances to proclaim the name of Jesus with boldness.
- To Confess
The verb “confess” is used 24 times in the New Testament, seven of these in evangelistic contexts. The power of this word is its use in multiple settings, from confessing sins to God, to confessing Christ before men.
The complexity of this term is increased by the six ways that various churches have used this term in their views of salvation and worship:
- Reactive, confessing Christ when asked
- Sacramental, going to a Confessional to confess
- Liturgical, confessing a Creed
- Conversionistic, confessing Christ verbally to be saved
- Baptistic, obeying Christ in baptism as public confession
- Proactive, speaking of Christ to men as public confession
Beyond these varied interpretations and applications, the verb confess provides a very powerful admonition to evangelize. For example, here is what the Baptist Balthasar Hubmaier wrote back in 1524:
“If anyone confessed Christ before men, not fearing them, though they rage as lions, Christ will confess him, in the presence of the Father. (Matt. 10; Mark 8)”
Hubmaier was martyred in 1528, being burned alive for confessing Christ. Matthew 10 twice uses the verb confess (translated “acknowledge” in the Holman Christian Standard):
“Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven.” (Matt 10:32-33)
Just as verbal denial was decried by Christ, so verbal confession is required by Christ as a necessity for His followers. The Mark 8 passage to which Hubmaier was referring above makes it absolutely clear:
“For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
- To Teach
Teaching is also a part of good evangelizing. In fact, the verb teach is found 18 times in evangelistic contexts. Two of these uses are used in parallel with the verb “evangelize” in Luke-Acts. These two uses provide a bridge between the ministry of Jesus and that of the Apostles:
“One day as He was teaching the people in the temple complex and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the scribes, with the elders, came up and said to Him: ‘Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Who is it who gave You this authority?’” (Luke 20:1-2)
“Every day in the temple complex, and in various homes, they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” (Acts 5:42)
The use of both “teaching” and “evangelizing” in tandem in these two writings of Luke draws strong parallels between the evangelism ministry of Jesus (as noted in Luke 4:43) and the evangelism ministry of the apostles in Acts. Further, by way of application, the use of the verb “teaching” in evangelizing contexts shows that what is said in evangelism ought to be accurate and informative to the recipient of the gospel.
- To Persuade
The use of persuasion in evangelism is another interesting verb. The Greek verb peitho is usually translated “persuade”. This verb is used seven times in evangelism contexts. Consider for example the evangelistic context of the word “persuade” in Acts 28:
“After arranging a day with him, many came to him at his lodging. From dawn to dusk he expounded and witnessed about the kingdom of God. He tried to persuade them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets. Some were persuaded by what he said, but others did not believe.” (Acts 28:23-24)
In this case, we find Paul persuading (active voice) and we see some being persuaded (passive voice). Paul sought to persuade, and he used the Bible as the basis of his persuasive power. However, even with all the persuasive efforts of Paul, there was a mixed reception: some were persuaded, but others did not believe. The “all” and the “some” of 1 Cor 9:22 (as quoted above) worked itself experientially in the ministry of Paul. So, clearly in a context of evangelism, some persuasion is both useful and necessary, as exemplified by the ministry of the Apostle Paul.
- To Take Men Alive
The last of the seven verbs is the verb zogreo—to “capture men alive”. This unusual and powerful term was used by Jesus when He described the ministry to which He was calling Peter in Luke 5:10:
“For he and all those with him were amazed at the catch of fish they took, and so were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s partners. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ Jesus told Simon. ‘From now on you will be catching people!’” (Luke 5:9-10)
The phrase “you will be catching people” is the English translation of “you will be capturing men alive.” Jesus used this military verb found eight times in the Old Testament Septuagint. It was used of King David capturing enemy soldiers:
“He also defeated the Moabites, and after making them lie down on the ground, he measured them off with a cord. He measured every two cord lengths of those to be put to death and one length of those to be kept alive. So the Moabites became David’s subjects and brought tribute.” (2 Sam 8:2)
It was also used of the battles of Amaziah:
“Amaziah strengthened his position and led his people to the Valley of Salt. He struck down 10,000 Seirites, and the Judahites captured 10,000 alive. They took them to the top of a cliff where they threw them off, and all of them were dashed to pieces.” (2 Chron 25:11-12)
Most importantly, from an evangelism perspective, Rahab the Harlot used this term when she pleaded for the lives of her family members in Joshua 2:
“Now please swear to me by the LORD that you will also show kindness to my family, because I showed kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father, mother, brothers, sisters, and all who belong to them, and save us from death.” (Jos 2:12-13)
In this use of zogreo by Rahab, translated “spare the lives,” she linked it to a second verbal phrase, “save us from death.” So she linked “capture alive” with “deliver our souls from death.” So there was a spiritual dynamic to her request for her family.
There is, however, a second use of the verb zogreo in the New Testament. This one relates to the work of the Devil:
“Then they may come to their senses and escape the Devil’s trap, having been captured by him to do his will.” (2 Tim 2:26)
This use of the verb zogreo provides a humble reminder to the Christian that Satan prowls about like a roaring lion seeking to ensnare and entrap the unsuspecting. Even while Satan never sleeps, the Christian needs-be about the business for which he has been commissioned by Christ. He must seek to “capture men alive” while it is still day. Indeed, night is coming when no man can work.