Calvin's View of the Office of Evangelist

Not open for further replies.


Puritan Board Sophomore
I'm in book four in The Institutes and there Calvin discusses the offices of the Church. I find it particularly strange that he defines Evangelist as, "...those whom, while inferior in rank to the apostles, were next them in office, and even acted as their substitutes" (Institutes, IV.iii.4). He also says it is included in "those three functions were not instituted in the church to be perpetual, but only endure so long as churches were to be formed where none previously existed," yet he also says, "although I deny not, that afterward God occasionally raised up apostles, or at least evangelists, in their stead, as has been done in our time" (Ibid.).

What is Calvin's understanding of an evangelist? Who is he referring to when he says God has raised evangelists up in his day? The Reformers? Is his view correct?
What is Calvin's understanding of an evangelist?

"Substitutes" of the apostles, that is, in their absence carrying on their work of ordaining office-bearers and setting things in order. They did this with apostolic authority but the office itself was inferior to the apostolate, because the sending was "mediate" through the church, not "immediate" from Christ.

Who is he referring to when he says God has raised evangelists up in his day? The Reformers? Is his view correct?

It appears that Calvin was referring to the "evangelical succession." A problem emerges through the corruption of the ministry of the church. How is it to be purified? Calvin seems to have allowed that "apostles" or "evangelists" might be raised up to re-establish the church. The reformation would be one instance of this.

One interpretation is that Calvin was speaking analogously. That is, the men so raised up are "like" the apostles and evangelists because of the foundational nature of their work. Others, however, take Calvin as speaking literally, and use his statement as an endorsement for continuing extraordinary gifts.
Good evening,

Here are some quotes:

Ephesians 4:11 "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers"

Calvin in Institutes: "By Evangelists, I mean those who, while inferior in rank to the apostles, were next them in office, and even acted as their substitutes. Such were Luke, Timothy, Titus, and the like; perhaps, also, the seventy disciples whom our Saviour appointed in the second place to the apostles (Luke 10:1)."

Calvin on Eph. 4.11: "Next to them [apostles] come the Evangelists, who were closely allied in the nature of their office, but held an inferior rank. To this class belonged Timothy and others; for, while Paul mentions them along with himself in the salutations of his epistles, he does not speak of them as his companions in the apostleship, but claims this name as peculiarly his own. The services in which the Lord employed them were auxiliary to those of the apostles, to whom they were next in rank.


It deserves attention, also, that, of the five offices which are here enumerated, not more than the last two are intended to be perpetual. Apostles, Evangelists, and Prophets were bestowed on the church for a limited time only, — except in those cases where religion has fallen into decay, and evangelists are raised up in an extraordinary manner, to restore the pure doctrine which had been lost. But without Pastors and Teachers there can be no government of the church."

Calvin on Acts 21:8: "Furthermore, he saith, that when he came to Cesarea, they lodged with Philip, whom he calleth an Evangelist, though he were one of the seven deacons, as we may see in the sixth chapter (Acts 6:5). By this we may easily gather, that that deaconship was an office which continued but for a time; 458 because it had not otherwise been lawful for Philip to forsake Jerusalem, and to go to Cesarea. And in this place he is set before us, not as a voluntary forsaker of his office, but as one to whom a greater and more excellent charge was committed. The evangelists, in my judgment, were in the midst between apostles and doctors. For it was a function next to the apostles to preach the gospel in all places, and not to have any certain place of abode; 459 only the degree of honor was inferior. For when Paul describeth the order of the Church, (Ephesians 4:11) he doth so put them after the apostles, that he showeth that they have more room given them where they may teach than the pastors, who are tied to certain places. Therefore, Philip did for a time exercise the office of a deacon at Jerusalem, whom the Church thought afterward to be a meet man to whom the treasure of the gospel should be committed."

Calvin on 2 Tim. 4.5: "Do the work of an Evangelist That is, “Do that which belongs to an evangelist.” Whether he denotes generally by this term any ministers of the gospel, or whether this was a special office, is doubtful; but I am more inclined to the second opinion, because from Ephesians 4:11 it is clearly evident that this was an intermediate class between apostles and pastors, so that the evangelists ranked as assistants next to the apostles. It is also more probable that Timothy, whom Paul had associated with himself as his closest companion in all things, surpassed ordinary pastors in rank and dignity of office, than that he was only one of their number. Besides, to mention an honorable title of office tends not only to encourage him, but to recommend his authority to others; and Paul had in view both of these objects."
Last edited:
Not open for further replies.