What is an evangelical?

American Christianity can be broken down into various groups, sets and sub-sets. Regardless of denomination and church affiliation certain broad categories describe sections of Christianity. These categorizations can help observers understand the general beliefs of various churches and Christians. Four major descriptions of protestant Christians are liberal, evangelical, fundamental or charismatic.

Evangelicals have gained a lot of media attention. A lot of this attention has been unhelpful and often inaccurate. Most news agencies fail to understand Christianity and and to distinguish between Christians beliefs. Any one who attempts to define evangelical based upon the presentation of popular media is sure to be confused.

A simple, exhaustive and settled definition of evangelical does not exist. Many call themselves evangelical whom this author would insist is no more evangelical than a green-soled slug. Some who are evangelical in every significant sense of the word refuse to accept the title. This use of evangelical is a broad categorization of a certain segment of Christianity. Evangelicalism as a label must not be confused with denominations like the Evangelical Free Church or the Evangelical Church of North America or even organizations like the National Association of Evangelicals. While these denominations and church groups may be evangelical the category evangelical is broader than a single denomination.

The most common definition of evangelical has four key elements. An evangelical is one who believes in the necessity of the death of Jesus on the cross for the salvation of men, in the necessity of being born again, in the authority of the Bible and in the importance of applying the Bible to life, especially in regards to calling others to salvation.

An evangelical is one who believes Jesus is God who died on the cross to purchase salvation for those who believe Him. Crucial to this is the conviction that salvation is the gift of God, never the work of men. Jesus died for the salvation of men. Salvation is freely given to those who believe Him. Salvation is never given to those who strive to earn their way to heaven.

Every individual must personally trust Jesus for salvation. The ideas of conversion and personal commitment to Christ are core tenets of evangelicalism. The individual must personally believe on Jesus Christ for salvation. A person must be “born again”. When one turns to Jesus for salvation he is made a new creature and begins a new life in Christ.

The Bible is God’s Word and the authority over the Christians life. The Bible is to be applied to every part of the believers life. This is especially true of the necessity of evangelism. Since none can be saved apart from believing the gospel every Christian has the duty to proclaim the gospel message to others.

Evangelicalism is a largely self-applied label. Those who wish to call themselves evangelical can do so with little repurcussion aside from the disagreement of others. Evangelicalism is possibly the largest category of protestant Christians in America. Evangelicals can be found among Lutheran, Baptist, Wesleyan, Presbyterian, Methodist, non-denominational churches and most other protestant churches.

Evangelicals will disagree amongst themselves about the specific features of these four broad categories, but, in general terms, this definition accurately describes the distinctive features of an evangelical in America today.

Does God look at the “saved” Christian’s denomination, or their heart on judgment day? (Part 2)

In continuing to answer the question, “does God look at the saved Christian’s denomination or their heart on judgment day”, it is worth considering the judgment of the unbeliever that is coming at the end of the world. As was said in the last article, at death the saved person enters immediately into heaven. The unsaved one enters immediately into hell (Luke 16:22-23). One’s destination after death is determined in this life. To borrow from the American legal systemn, in this life sentence is passaged and upon death judgment is executed. For the unsaved hell is a holding place while this age is brought to its conclusion. There is a coming judgment which is described in Revelation 10:10-15. During that judgment the lost will stand before the throne of God and be judged for their lives. In the course of judgment books are opened which contain the record of the person’s life. The judged will be condemned based upon the content of those books. All who come before the Great White Throne of God’s judgment will be condemned. They will be cast into eternal fire and punishment because their names are not written in the book of life. The book of life is the record of all those who have trusted Jesus for salvation. The ones whose names are written in the book of life are those who have trusted Jesus for forgiveness of sin. The unsaved one is not condemned because of his wrong denomination or even his wrong religion. The factor which seals the fate of the unsaved is his disbelief in Jesus.

No one is saved because of the denomination or church of which he is a part. Salvation is not refused to those who are part of the wrong denomination. Though salvation is not at all dependent on one’s denomination, this does not imply that denominations are unimportant or that denominational distinctions are invalid. A saved person needs to be part of a church which helps his growth in Christ not which hinders it. Some churches teach things that are contrary to the teachings of the Bible. Some churches make unBiblical demands of Christians. Some churches don’t make any Biblical demands of the Christian. The distinctions between churches and denominations are not like different flavors of the same ice cream. Denominations exist for a reason. In most cases the differences between denominations are much more than differences in worship services or whether the guy up front is called father, reverend or pastor. The differences between denominations are ones of doctrine. One denomination teaches something signficantly different than another The attempts to blur the lines between denominations does a disservice to Christians and to denominations by acting like important differences aren’t important at all. For further information you can read this article.

Salvation is accomplished fully by Jesus. All those who trust only Him for forgiveness will be saved regardless of church background, church attendance or denominational affiliation. Though one’s denomination has no impact on salvation, it will have great impact on the Christian life. What church one attends is important. Those who are saved will be best served in churches which clearly and accurately teach the Bible, applying it effectively to the Christian’s life and helping him to grow in service, obedience and imitation of Jesus.