evangelic christ

What is an Evangelic Christian?

by Rev. Anthony Martlew, Dip. Th.
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You may well consider this to be an unnecessary question. However, it is very evident, during this materialistic age, that even many Christians are unaware of basic issues regarding the faith they profess.

The writer's attention was recently drawn to a report in the Daily Telegraph of an address given by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey, to members of the clergy at a Swanwick Convention.

Britain has an 'allergy to religion' and regards Christianity as unnecessary and outdated. Christian evangelists faced an uphill task in an 'affluent, self-assured First World', which thought that it did not need God.

"The Church is one generation away from extinction", Dr. Carey said. "Our generation is being called to hand on our faith to the generations of the Third Millennium. It will require all our vigour, all our energy, all our faith and enthusiasm".

"We are a society oppressed not by lack, but by surfeit, not by strife, but by ease. Of course, there is real poverty in our midst, but most people have benefited enormously from the rises in incomes over the past decades. We have paid a price for such comfort and ease".

Christians, Dr. Carey said, could only hope to reach others by following the example of Jesus Christ and be fully engaged with society. For once, Dr. Carey has summed up the situation very well indeed.

There is no doubt that our nation does have an allergy to religion. In this context, we assume that the Archbishop is referring to Christianity, for if we are to understand the word 'religion' in its widest sense, we could include many 'isms', Humanism being a case in point. Certainly, there is no allergy or antipathy in that direction.

We may also include paganism under this heading. Whether we care to admit it or not, pagan religions are growing at an alarming rate in these islands. Many of our towns and cities are littered with temples dedicated to heathen gods.

So, assuming that Dr. Carey is referring to Christianity, then it is undoubtedly true that the nation is suffering in the way that he suggests. He has also pointed out a great spiritual truth when he equates the abundance of material wealth with a paucity of spiritual awareness. A brief examination of the history of nations will confirm that this has always been so. Many of the great world empires of the past have eventually destroyed themselves through an excess of worldliness and spiritual arrogance.

When power is in the hands of the wrong people, the inevitable result is corruption in high places. The Roman Empire is a case in point. In order to blind the populace to what was going on around them, the people were encouraged to seek more and more entertainment, ‑ a ploy which has become known as 'bread and circuses'.

Today, we may not feed Christians to the lions in the arena, but watching the Lottery on T.V., does, however, put one in mind of such events!

Whilst our rulers systematically destroy our history and our culture, and lead us into a union which the majority of people have no wish for, the powers-that-be blind the populace with trivia that will inevitably destroy the entire edifice.

Yes, Dr. Carey is right, (for once!), but having said that, we may well ask, what is the remedy? His summing up was:

"Christians could only hope to reach others by following the example of Jesus Christ, and be fully engaged with society."

We must certainly agree with the first part of the remedy, but of the second, we do have several reservations. As Christians we must exercise caution, tempered with common sense, as to how we involve ourselves with worldly pursuits. We must appear "normal" in many respects, but never lose sight of the fact that we are in the world but not of the world.

We have our being here, we eat, sleep, bring up our families, and have to earn a living. Yes, of course we visit the theatre, or enjoy a dance or a concert. We may even take part in dramatics, or whatever our interests may be. But moderation must be the key as to how much time and energy we may put into these activities.

Returning for a moment to the first part of Dr. Carey's remedy, that of 'following the example of Jesus Christ', that in principle, is the correct answer, but like many things which may appear to be simple at first sight, there are pitfalls. Whilst it is true that the Church has, in the main, preached the Gospel faithfully, the situation has altered somewhat in many churches today.

There is a great tendency to preach a gospel of 'love', to the exclusion of the righteousness and holiness of Almighty God. It is almost unknown to hear a sermon which mentions the wrath and justice against those who do not believe.

Many preachers today preach a gospel which is politically correct. It has not occurred to them that Almighty God is most definitely not politically correct!

An examination of Scripture, both the old and the new Testaments, reveals that the Creator's plan is based upon selection, His Plan of Redemption began with selecting one righteous man, Abram. From him was built a special nation which was eventually to become a blessing to every other nation. Israel was tied to Jehovah by a Covenant relationship. Israel was so special that the Lord said.
(Deuteronomy 7:6) For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.

There's racism for you! We are being constantly reminded today that we must not be racist. Will the time come, we wonder, when the Creator will be served a summons for breaking the law?

This is not all, for the Lord then went on to choose special men as prophets to warn the nation when it stepped out of line. Should the Lord send prophets to our nation today, there would be little doubt that they would be given a cool reception.

Again, the Father sent His Son into the world in order to establish that there is all the difference between those who believe, and those who do not. That those who do believe are the children of Light, with everlasting life in Him, and that the others are
(Ephesians 2): ...by nature the children of wrath...

From these examples we can well understand that to be 'politically correct', it would not be possible to preach a full Gospel message. Indeed, every aspect of God's Word would present a problem.

We began this by asking the question, "What is an evangelical Christian?"  Are we certain of the ground upon which we stand?

The dictionary states: "The Protestant school, maintaining that the essence of the gospel consists in doctrine of salvation by faith in atonement".

That explanation is, of necessity, only very brief, so we ask, what does an evangelical Christian believe?

There are five main points which are essential. The first is his (or her) total committment to the supremacy of Holy Scripture.

Whilst there are many helpful aids to teaching available today, nothing can replace Scripture.

Obviously, it is helpful to have books, videos, audio tapes, and to listen to sound teaching and preaching; all these, however, are the works of fallible minds.

Having stated that evangelical Christians are totally committed to Scripture, this pre‑supposes that they actually read it on a regular basis. There is no other way to grow spiritually.

The second point upon which an evangelical Christian stands, is his understanding of the doctrine of human sinfulness and corruption. It is important these days that we understand this, because it cuts right across what secular counselling is all about.

Until we appreciate the fact that we are:  "...by nature the children of wrath..." (Ephesians 2.3), and that, however a good life we may lead, we are as filthy rags in God's sight. This is a very sobering thought, that we can do nothing in our own strength to remedy the situation.

The third thing which an evangelical Christian understands is his total reliance upon the completed work and office of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Once we have appreciated the second point, that of understanding the depravity of mankind, we can then, and only then, throw ourselves upon the completed work of our Lord and Saviour in order to be granted the gift of eternal life.

The fourth point concerns the inward work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer. We must accept the fact that there are many regular churchgoers who know nothing of this; they may be pillars of their church, serving on all the committees, but this does not guarantee that they possess the Holy Spirit.

So, we ask, what are the inward signs that we should look for? Firstly, there must be an inward repentance, not merely an outward show of spirituality. There would also be a deep inward faith.

Again, we would possess an inward hope. Not hope in the sense that we use the word in ordinary conversation, such as "I hope it will not rain tomorrow". The hope which the Holy Spirit gives to the true believer is beyond mere words to express. It is a living experience which puts a totally different aspect upon life.

Yet again, one would have an inward hatred of sin, because we know that the time is coming when we will experience:
(1 Corinthians 2:9) "...the things which God hath prepared for them that love him...''

Because of this we hate the works of Satan, who blinds the eyes of countless people, thus excluding them from this promise.

The fifth and final test of an evangelical Christian is the outward sign in his lifestyle. We would expect to see a difference in behaviour between those who possess the Holy Spirit, and those who do not.

What better way of summing this up than by quoting the words of our Lord from the Sermon on the Mount:
(Matthew 7:20) ...Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

It is hoped that this short article may have helped to clarify what an evangelical Christian is, and what he believes. In these last days we are surrounded by an 'information explosion'. Unfortunately, the vast majority of this information concerns secular subjects, and the earnestly seeking Christian enquirer is left out in the cold.

We must be quite certain of our facts in order that, when called upon, we may be able to:
... be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15)

Orange Street Congregational Church