Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 5, 1950

"Understandst Thou What Thou Readest?"

Walter N. Henderson

In the Gospel Guardian of October 27, a brother criticized my article of September 15. He charged me with being ignorant of the contents of the New Testament and the dictionary. To this charge I confess that I am guilty. There are three reasons for this. 1. I was not endowed with as much gray matter as some people were, for this I am not responsible; 2. I have not studied as hard as I should, this is my fault; 3. Some of my would be instructors have not been as instructive as they should have been. It would not be right to hold me responsible for this. Yes, I am ignorant, but I am willing to be taught by any one that has truth that I do not have, whether he is "competent" or not. I am even willing to be taught by a "missionary."

My critic objects to me saying the Bible does not mention a "missionary" and that "the greatest preachers that ever lived carried the gospel the first time into all the world without ever learning that they were "missionaries." Yet he says: "The word 'missionary' is surely not in the original text of the New Testament for it is an English word and the New Testament was written in Greek." Since this is true, why object? He continues, "But the writers of the New Testament did use a term that may be translated by 'missionary.' In Phil 2:25, I read, 'Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Ephaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labor, and fellow-soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.' The word 'messenger' is a translation of 'apostolos' which is defined by Thayer as 'a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with others.' " "One sent forth with orders" not "with others," check Thayer again. Note, Thayer did not render "apostolos" "missionary," but "a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders." May be my brother is a delegate instead of a "missionary." I will stick with them.

The Greek word "apostolos" is also translated "apostle"; may be my critic is an apostle, instead of a "missionary." Let us see what scholars other than Thayer and the leading translators have to say about "apostolos" of Phil 2:25. "Apostle, one sent off." (Young) "A delegate, spec. an ambassador of the gospel: officially a commissioner of Christ "apostle" (with miraculous powers): apostle, messenger, he that is sent." (Strong.) Macknight says: "Your, apostolos, messenger; literally, your apostle." Adam Clarke says: "He was their apostle—a man whom God had honored with apostolic gifts, apostolical graces, and apostolical fruits." It seems that these men did not know that the word "apostolos" could be correctly translated "missionary." Why is the word "missionary" so dear? Why should it be preferred to "preacher" or "evangelist"? What does it express that cannot be expressed as well by the terms "preacher" or "evangelist"?

It would be easier for a Mormon to prove that there are apostles in the church today than for my critic to prove that he is a "missionary" by the New Testament. I have consulted several dictionaries and I have not found one yet that defines "messenger" as "missionary." There may be one, but I haven't found it. He jumps from "apostolos" to "missionary" then to "mission," in order to prove that he is a missionary. His proof (?) is a little far fetched. I am not interested in playing leapfrog.

My critic says: "Our brother reveals more ignorance in his attack on what he calls a 'sponsoring church'." If I had never heard any thing about a "sponsoring church" but what is revealed in the New Testament I would be ignorant of its existence, for it is not mentioned therein. My critic admits the word "sponsor" is not in the Bible; that should settle the matter. But he hastens to add, "But it is also true that there are examples of New Testament churches doing what the word signifies." Where? He continues, "One definition given in Winston's New Dictionary is, 'One who endorses or stands behind a person, agitation, movement, theory, style, or the like.' In Acts, chapter 15, we learn that the church at Jerusalem endorsed Paul and Barnabas, and the work they had been doing among the Gentiles." This is the New Testament example, look at it and then look at the "sponsoring churches" of today operating their miniature Marshall Plans. Where is the resemblance?

I am ignorant, but I am not ignorant enough to believe that the word "endorse" means the same as the word "sponsor." I endorse the Gospel Guardian, but I am not sponsoring it. I endorse many gospel preachers, but I am not able to sponsor their work. Does my brother mean to say that the Jerusalem church gathered money from other churches to support Paul and Barnabas? Did the elders at Jerusalem have the oversight of their work in distant lands? Surely my brother knows better than this. If he had understood what he read, he would have known that I was condemning a church gathering money from other churches and spending that money in distant lands as the elders of the sponsoring church think best. If the elders of one church can oversee the work of another church, why can not they oversee the work of every church?

The secret of learning is to understand what one reads. If my critic had understood what I wrote he would not have gotten the idea that I was condemning a church that sends a preacher of the gospel to a place where the truth is not known for the purpose of preaching it. He would have understood that I was condemning the language of Ashdod along with denominational thinking and practice of some of my brethren, and not any scriptural effort to preach the gospel in any land on the globe. Reread the closing paragraph of my former article. It is as follows:

"Let the church send forth gospel preachers into all the world, preaching the gospel of Christ to every creature under heaven. Let churches be planted among every people in all lands of the earth. This is according to the great commission of the Lord; this is what he wants done. And the churches can do it without using the worn-out phraseology of defunct denominationalism. There is not a work to be done that needs to be described in any such language."