One of the most hazardous jobs in the ancient world was to be a kerux (“herald” or “proclaimer”). The kerux was somewhat like a diplomat — he went into enemy territory ahead of his advancing army and attempted to avoid the coming conflict by demanding the immediate surrender of the enemy. If the enemy rejected the terms of surrender, the kerux would often be put to death as well in order to insult the king the kerux represented.
Originally, the role of kerux was occupied by a high-ranking government official. For example, when the king of Assyria wanted Jerusalem to surrender, he sent the Rabshakeh, his third in command, to offer Assyria’s terms to the seemingly helpless Jews (Isaiah 36:1-3). However, the extreme danger involved in the work of a kerux later prompted the Greeks to stop sending their high-ranking officials to an early demise. Instead, Greek rulers would often look for a man of relatively little importance or significance to be the kerux — the bearer of the king’s message to the enemy.
Interestingly, when the Holy Spirit inspired men to write the New Testament, He used the Greek word kerux (found some 72 times in the New Testament) to describe the work of one who proclaims the Gospel. In what ways is the role of a Christian like the kerux?
Christians are envoys of the King — God has sent us into the world as His messengers. We are His envoys, and we represent Him. An ancient kerux would bear the official insignia of the king he represented. Likewise, Christians are to bear the insignia of Jesus Christ: “The aroma of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:14-17). Does your life bear the insignia of the King you represent? Does your character show that you are Christ’s representative?
Christians are proclaimers of a message — A kerux was neither a negotiator nor an ambassador; rather, he had only one job — to faithfully proclaim the message of the king he represented. Christians do not have the authority to negotiate terms, nor do we have the right to change the message God has prepared for the world (cf. Gal. 1:6-8). Just as the job of a kerux was to clearly proclaim exactly what the king said, so Christians are to carefully preach (“kerusso” — from kerux) every word of God (2 Timothy 4:1-2)
Christians are sent into the world with God’s terms of surrender — When John the Baptizer and Jesus began to proclaim(kerusso) the coming kingdom of heaven, their message was one of surrender: “Repent” (Matt. 3:1; 4:7). When Peter preached to the crowd on Pentecost, his goal was to provide God’s terms for surrender to those who had crucified Jesus (Acts 2:23-39). Every time Christians speak God’s word to those who are lost, we are proclaiming God’s terms of surrender — the need to repent. The Gospel is good news precisely because God offers His enemies blessing and reconciliation instead of judgment. Surrender to God incurs the greatest blessings imaginable (Eph. 1:3). Now, that’s good news!
Christians have no special stature — The Greek kerux did not require any special education or status in order to do his job (in fact, little status or education was often very desirable — for reasons given above). It was not the office but the message that was really important. In the New Testament, kerux appears as a noun only 3 times, but appears in verb form (kerusso)some 61 times. Thus, the Bible’s emphasis is not upon a Christian’s status as a herald (preacher), but upon the act of faithfully proclaiming the King’s message. Christian, you are a herald for the King of Kings. How well are you fulfilling your mission as a kerux for Jesus Christ? —JB