Archegos: Leading from the Front

Word of the Week

May 4, 2024

Archēgos: Leading from the Front

 

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith . . . .

Hebrews 12:2 NASB

In modern warfare, where are the generals located?

You don’t find them in a foxhole with mortar rounds landing all around.  No, they are at a command post somewhere behind the actual line of combat.  It’s a logical arrangement, because their job is to coordinate the far-flung operations of forces over a wide range of terrain.

Ancient warfare, however, was a different matter.  When Alexander the Great mounted an attack against the Persians, he was out in front leading the charge.  His men labored to keep up with him – and to keep him from getting killed!

Jesus Christ led from the front, a feature that we can see clearly by examining one of the Greek words used to describe him in Scripture.

Savior, Lord, Messiah, Son of man, Son of God – these are well-known titles for Jesus.  But Hebrews 12:2 calls him the archēgos [arr-kay-GAHSS]. The colorful nuances of this title surface when you note how many ways it is translated:  author, pioneer, champion who initiates, originator, founder, leader.

What is this word all about?

It comes from a combination of two shorter Greek words:  archē (“beginning, first”) and agō (“to lead”).  So it is a natural designation for someone who takes the lead.

If you hold the highest position, we might call you a “leader.”

If you are the first to do something, we might call you an “author.”

Classical Greeks might use it to describe the hero who founded a city or the leader who defended it from ruin.  They said that the god Zeus was the archēgos or author of nature.

The Greek Old Testament often uses the word in a military context.  At the gateway of the Promised Land, God instructed Moses to select twelve men to explore the land in preparation for the coming invasion.  He specified that these men should be leaders or heads of their tribes (Numbers 14:2-3).  When the spies came back with a discouraging report, the people of Israel were ready to replace Moses. “Let’s appoint a leader (archēgos) and return to Egypt!”  In both cases, we were talking about people with positions of authority.

The New Testament reserves the use of this word strictly for descriptions of Jesus Christ.  He alone holds this status for the church.  It appears four times:

  1. Acts 3:15

Peter and John had just healed a lame man, drawing a huge crowd of curious onlookers.  Peter grabbed the opportunity to preach about Jesus.  He begins his sermon by going back to the scene only a few weeks earlier when a similar Jerusalem crowd had called for the crucifixion of the Savior.

 

The crowd’s opinion:  We would rather have a murderer than this man!

God’s opinion:  He is the archēgos of life, the source and originator of life.  Yet you put him to death.  God, however, raised him from death.  He is the fountain of life, one that could never be extinquished.

  1. Acts 5:31

Peter and the other apostles are in trouble again, summoned for a scolding by the Sanhedrin.  The Jewish leaders lay down the law:  No more preaching about Jesus!  But the men reply, “We must obey God rather than men, and the God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead.  He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as Prince (archēgos) and savior.”

Here the emphasis is His preeminent position at the Father’s right hand.  Just as an archbishop is the highest bishop, Jesus is the arch-leader above every leader in the universe.

  1. Hebrews 2:10

Jesus was on heaven’s throne, yet he came to earth to suffer and die for us.  It was God’s master plan to “bring many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:9).  And it was accomplished by Jesus, who is called the archēgos of their salvation.

Jesus was the founding father of our salvation, the author who wrote the script, the originator who made the whole thing happen.

  1. Hebrews 12:2

In this familiar passage, we discover the secret of staying true to the gospel even when it is hard.  Chapter 11 took us through a catalog of Old Testament saints who had faith in God’s promises even when all looked lost.  The key?  Stay focused on Jesus.  He is the one who authored the plan of salvation and the one who will bring it to completion.

Is the path difficult for us?  Yes, but we just learned that Jesus is not one of those armchair generals who leads from the safety of a celestial headquarters.  He is the kind of pioneer, who leads the assault on enemy territory.  He dashed headlong into danger, felt the pangs of suffering, and therefore understands everything that we endure.  We can be encouraged by the steadfastness of Abraham and Moses, but there’s nothing to match Christ’s example as he stepped into combat knowing that victory was ahead.

  

Study Hint:

We often say that words have multiple meanings, but a word has a single meaning in a particular verse.  This is a word where it can be difficult to decide on just one meaning.  Particularly in Hebrews 12, I suspect that we should keep both ideas in mind:  Jesus is the author of our faith and at the same time he is the one who is permanently installed in first place.

 

Coming Up

How do you build a solid foundation for your Christian life?  Next week we will look at the Greek word used for Paul’s discipleship process in the early church.

©Ezra Project 2024

 

 

2 Responses

  1. In biblical days, the leader(s) were in front of their soldiers. Today top officials aren’t necessarily in the field. They’re lodged away at a distance. Jesus is our author and finisher of our faith. A clear distinction from man.

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