Bible Q & A

Dr. David Alan Black
Dr. David Alan Black

David Alan Black

Known for his love for New Testament Greek and passion for teaching, Dave Black is a husband, father, professor, author, preacher, lecturer, web journalist, and (above all) a sinner saved by God’s sovereign grace.

Dave is a political iconoclast who takes his constitutional ideals seriously. He is also committed to challenging the church to return to the simple patterns of Scripture.

Dave Black holds a doctorate in theology from the University of Basel in Switzerland and has taught New Testament and Greek for over 30 years. He is also the editor of the popular website, Dave Black Online. He has published over 20 books, including The Myth of Adolescence, Interpreting the New Testament, It’s Still Greek to Me, and Why Four Gospels? He and his wife live on a 123-acre working farm in southern Virginia and are self-supporting missionaries to Ethiopia, which they visit twice each year.

Ephesians 4 speaks of God’s appointments to pastors, prophets, apostles, evangelists, and teachers. It does not mention “missionaries”. Did God leave this appointment out?

Reader, you are correct that English translations of the New Testament do not contain the word “missionary.” However, the Greek word apostolos can have that meaning in certain contexts. For example, in Philippians 2:25 Epaphroditus, who represented the Philippian church to Paul in prison, is called an apostolos. Here the term clearly refers to someone who is sent out from a local congregation on a mission trip, in this case to minister to Paul’s needs while he was in prison. A modern example might be the missionaries Becky and I take with us to Ethiopia. Each of them represents their own local church in America. They must be approved by the church leadership, they must be appointed by them to serve, and they must be held up in prayer while they are gone. When they return from their trip they must report to their churches what God is doing in Ethiopia. Our goal in taking such “apostles” with us is to deepen relationships between local churches in America and local churches in Ethiopia.

Notice that I did not refer to our team members as “professional” missionaries or “paid” missionaries. In the New Testament, Paul worked hard to support himself when he could, so as not to be a burden on others. One does not have to be on the staff of a missions organization to be a missionary. In fact, if I understand the Great Commission correctly, every follower of Jesus is to be His personal representative (i.e., apostolos) on this earth!