What is an Evangelical?
An Evangelical is a Christian who practices his or her faith with absolute belief in the inerrant Word of God, seeks out and yearns for gospel conversations, evangelistic opportunities with unbelievers and believers alike, and who lives a life “worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
Who is an Evangelical?
Evangelical is a prefix not a suffix or denomination to itself. Evangelicals are all of Protestant origin. With that said, Evangelicals come from several different denominations. Most Baptists if not all Baptists are Evangelicals as are the Presbyterian Church of America, Evangelical Free Church of America, Anglican, varying Methodist, non-denominational congregations who confess and hold to the principles of Evangelicalism, Lutheran, and many others throughout the world who hold true to the Bible and align with several of the Evangelical confessionals that are out there. Some of these confessional statements include the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the Cambridge Statement, The Westminster Confession of Faith, and several others.
Why is it important to be an Evangelical?
An Evangelicals sole purpose is to evangelize the nations and make disciples of all nations. As Christ followers, this is our Great Commandment from Christ and our Great Commission. Also, it is our joy, privilege, and duty to obey the author and perfector of our faith, Jesus Christ. Evangelicals who disregard denominational issues may band together for the gospel and for the prolific spread of the gospel no matter if they are Reformed or Dispensationalist, Baptist or Presbyterian. An Evangelicals focus is solely on the spread of the gospel and making disciples of all the nations. The following seven points from my perspective should define evangelical theology and practice.
Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones in his booklet What is an Evangelical? states that “First off an evangelical is one who is entirely subservient to the Bible.” An Evangelical is a defender of the inerrant Word of God and one who completely relies on it to determine his or her trajectory in life as a missionary. Every Christian is called to be a missionary. Evangelicals hold dear to this calling by submitting to the Word of God as the sole authority for faith and practice.
Evangelicals do not put their trust in scholarship or philosophy or even in theological theory. Evangelicals put their trust in the infallible Word of God. Evangelicals do not deny the necessity of scholarship, but they are wary of it and always check scholarship and academia through the lens of Scripture. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture Alone”) is their battle cry.
Evangelicals always act on their beliefs. There would never have been a Protestant Reformation without men who acted on their Scriptural convictions and belief in God. Evangelicals are well known for having an apologetic emphasis and an active focus on missions. They are known for standing up and defending Scripture, along with the biblical doctrines they hold to. The following list known as the Five Solas are the heartbeat of what it means to be a Protestant and an evangelical: Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), Sola Fide (in faith alone), Solus Christus (in Christ alone), Sola Gratia (through grace alone), Soli Deo Gloria (to God be the Glory, or only God is glorified).
Simplicity is the Evangelical way. Evangelicals have dumped the Pharisaic like traditions and regulations for salvation that Roman Catholic Church swears by for two reasons. First, it wasn’t biblical and lastly, they had the wrong view of salvation. Instead, evangelicals believe in faith alone and in Christ alone. Evangelicals do not believe in salvation by works, prayers, or sacraments plus faith and Christ.
Emphasis on regeneration. When someone becomes a Christian, they are metaphorically reborn into a new creation. The old has passed away and they have a new life. They are raised out of the depths of sin and death and given the hope and promise of a new eternal life in Christ. John 3 with the account of Jesus speaking with Nicodemus is a perfect example of this emphasis on regeneration.
Evangelicals seek and expect revival to happen. Evangelicals pray for revival, encourage revival of the Holy Spirit in the Church, and live their lives in such a way so that revival does occur in and through the church.
Evangelicals have a strict belief on how they live and how it reflects the life of Christ; from their prayer life to their personal life. Evangelicals practice what they preach and do so that people would know that by their actions and by their lives they are Christians who faithful to God. They do not do good works to earn salvation. Instead, they do good works because their faith spurns them on to do so. They do not serve because it makes them feel good or do anything for themselves. Instead, they serve others because Christ was the great servant leader and they wish to simply pattern their lives after him as best as they can by his grace. Evangelicals do not live this way because they have to or are forced to. Instead, they do so, because Christ has redeemed them from a life of sin and bondage and through him have found a new purpose and mission in life to live for.
James Forbis is a graduate of The University of Arkansas, a former Jr. High and High School football coach, and American history teacher. He is completing his M.DIV at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Great Commission Studies and Expository Preaching. He’s a self-proclaimed sweet tea connoisseur and Tex-Mex addict. Most Saturday’s you can find him cheering on his Arkansas Razorbacks, hiking or fishing, or reading up on his favorite subject, the Revolutionary War, or spending time with his wife.