There have always been men–like this fellow and like Chrysostom or Knox or Whitefield or Spurgeon or Lloyd-Jones or ten thousand others–who have been “famous among all the churches for [their] preaching of the gospel.” It is not a capitulation to culture to admit this fact. And it’s not bad to acknowledge these men and commend them to others. Could actually be quite biblical.
Here is a verse that caught my attention yesterday: “With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel” (2 Cor. 8:18).
There are many things we’d like to know, but don’t know about this verse.
1. We don’t know who this brother is. Could be Luke, Apollos, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, or Mark. Others suggest one of the entourage mentioned in Acts 20:4–Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Tychicus, Trophimus, or Gaius. Some names are more likely than others, but at the end of the day we just don’t know who Paul has in mind.
2. We can’t be sure why Paul did not mention this brother’s name. Paul might have been trying to lower this man’s profile or maybe Paul hadn’t appointed him directly or perhaps this famous brother because was from Corinth or had been instrumental in the church at Corinth and needed no introduction. We shouldn’t read too much into the anonymity one way or another.
Although we don’t know everything about this reference, we can draw some conclusions that are relevant for us, especially as we try to think through this whole “celebrity pastor” business.
1. There have always been men who gain a certain notoriety for their preaching of the gospel. The ESV uses the word “famous.” Other translations speak of this brother being “praised” in all the churches. Here was a man who was well known and well regarded for his powerful preaching. No doubt, there were other teachers and other preachers, but this individual must have been particularly gifted, effective, and recognized.