We are Feltham Evangelical Church. But what does the word evangelical mean? Have you ever pondered upon that question? Perhaps you have contented yourself with the thought that “that bit sounds like a nice religious word and I will ask no further questions”. But really, if we call ourselves “evangelical”, we should have some idea about what it means. So if someone asked you “What does evangelical mean?” what would you say? Let us take time to consider how we should respond to that question.
In defining “evangelical” there are two interrelated tracks to take. They are “Gospel” and “Bible”. As evangelicals, we are “Bible” and “Gospel” people.
Gospel Firstly, we believe with Paul that “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Rom. 1:16). We believe that this is the most important message that anyone needs to hear and anyone needs to respond to. It is a message rooted in historical events. Most particularly, it focusses on the life, death, burial, resurrection and glorification of Jesus Christ our LORD. Paul sums up the message when he says to the Corinthians that “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. “ (1 Cor. 15:3-5). The gospel message focusses on Jesus.
As gospel people, we believe that it is vital that this gospel is made known. So evangelical people are also evangelistic people. Not all of us have the gift of “the evangelist”, but all of us are interested in evangelism. We who have received the gospel realise how incredibly blessed we are and so we want to make it known. We long and pray for people to embrace the gospel and be saved. It gives us joy and delight when we hear and know of Jesus being preached as the only Saviour of sinners. On the contrary if you are not interested in seeing the gospel go forward through evangelism then you are not evangelical.
Bible Secondly, we believe that the Bible is the complete written revelation that God has given to mankind. Anything that is to be known of God and His way is only known because God has revealed such in His Word. In fact the gospel message itself is only known through it being revealed in the Word of God. We preach Jesus and we preach the Word. So what do we believe about the Bible? We believe it is:
Complete. There is no need of any further revelation. God has revealed His purposes in the Scriptures in and through Jesus Christ. In the Bible, we have God’s complete revelation for us.
Inerrant. This means that the Bible does not err. It is a book of truth. We have to be clear here that we are referring to the original manuscripts as being totally inerrant. But scholars have established that the Bible we have today is a reliable representation of those manuscripts.
Sufficient. God has given us all that we need in His Word. We do not need to look for other books or other gurus to lead us in the true way. The Word of God is truth and thus, all we need for living in the true way.
Body of truth. As we believe in Scripture, we are led to believe that there is a body of truth represented by Scripture. Jude speaks of the the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people (Jude 3b). These truths would include the belief in God as three persons in one God, the deity of Jesus, the only way to God being through Christ, the fact that Christ dies as the one offering for our sins and the physical bodily return of Jesus Christ in the future.
So we are an evangelical church. We are a “Gospel” and “Bible” Church. And if you have the Bible, it will lead you to the gospel. And we only have a gospel because it is revealed in the Bible. And as we ponder upon these things, we are led to conclude that every Christian must be an evangelical because to be a Christian, you must believe in the gospel presented in the Bible and the Christ revealed by the Bible. And so, not only is an evangelical a Christian, but a Christian is an evangelical. To say you are a Christian, but not an evangelical is a contradiction.
(Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of April 2014)