There’s a word that crops up four times in the New Testament in relation to Jesus. It’s archegos. According to Philip Hughes, “It signifies one who is both the source or initiator and then leader, one who takes the first action and then brings those on whose behalf he has acted to the intended goal.”
And this is the role of Jesus, of course. I love the old chorus, “Jesus be the centre” for its powerful line: “Be my source, be my guide, Jesus.” He creates, initiates and evokes response, directs, sustains, completes… “Be the fire in my heart, be the wind in my sails, be the reason that I live, Jesus…”
In Acts 3:15, in an astonishing phrase, Peter berates the Jerusalem crowd with this accusation:”You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. And we are witnesses of this fact.” The author! The very writer Himself! He wrote the book that you set on the blaze. That’s the archegos.
In Acts 5:31, the word is generally translated “prince.” “God exalted Him to His right hand as Prince and Savior and Deliverer, in order to grant repentance to Israel, and [to grant] forgiveness of sins.”
He leads the way into life and into salvation.
Third, he leads us into glory. In Hebrews 2:10, we read: “In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.”
The pioneer, the author, the prince…
And finally, in Hebrews 12:2:
“Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1,2)
Here is the archegos in action, the champion who rouses our faith and who sustains it to maturity. He’s the founder, the initiator, the driving mechanism, the trailblazer.
I remember reading a piece about Brian Clough, one of Britain’s most successful football managers. He was noted for his ability to inspire great performances from modestly talented teams. But in a newspaper interview, he admitted: ” I couldn’t motivate a bee to sting you if it didn’t have the equipment. You can only bring out of people what they are capable of giving.”
But this is precisely what God the Holy Spirit provides for us.
To take our cue from both Brian Clough and Jesus (!) gives a special insight into our understanding of being a pioneer. We are unable to rest easy in being defenders of the status-quo or maintainers of a static institution. The concept of the archegos implies movement, progress, change and forward advance.
In the Old Testament account of Joseph, we have a picture of one who was able to look back on his brothers’ rejection as in the will of God. “God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” (Gen 45:7) The pioneer goes ahead, at great cost, sometimes, to blaze the trail for others to follow.
God told Moses, in much the same vein: “Go and lead the people on their way so that they may enter and possess the land…” (Deut 10:11) And, of course, Joshua was called, in Deut 31:3, to “cross over ahead…” of the people.
Pioneer the route. Blaze the trail. Keep it simple. Keep it mobile. Keep it urgent.
The church is not a building but a covered wagon, always on the move, bearing the marks of life and always where the action is. The archegos is the scout, riding out to find the way ahead. His courage and sense of adventure set the tone for those that follow.
In this sense, John the Baptist was the archegos for Jesus. He was a blazing radical, laying the axe to the root of the tree, calling out kings for their unrighteousness, and demanding that the nation repent. He bore the brunt of his calling on his own body, as did so many others, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Martin Luther King.
Nearly every breakthrough in medicine and science has been achieved by pioneers who pressed through to new territory. They persisted despite ridicule and being patronised by their established superiors. They made mistakes, took risks but had the passionate determination to break new ground.
So why are there so few spiritual discoveries to match scientific discoveries? The answer lies in lack of researchers. No one can press forward and remain shy and retiring.
How many are willing to give themselves away to take risks like this?
This is why I pray so much for young people. These are they who will carry our future.