What does the term “evangelical” actually mean in today’s culture? Matthew Vines and David Gushee are popular proponents of gay marriage who believe that monogamous homosexual relationships do not violate the Biblical mandate on sexual ethics. They consider themselves to be Bible-believing evangelicals. Benny Hinn, Jesse Duplantis, and other Word faith prosperity heretics would also consider themselves to be evangelicals. Rob Bell who was once a pastor of a conservative megachurch in Michigan has since denounced his view that hell is real and that Jesus is the only way of salvation and has also embraced gay marriage. He considers himself evangelical. Some people actually argue that the Pope Francis is a charismatic evangelical although the Council of Trent denies salvation by grace alone through faith alone.
The moniker “evangelical” comes from the Greek word “euagellion” which translated means “good news.” Paul clearly defines the sum and substance of the gospel in Corinthians 15:1–4 which reads, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” The gospel is none other than the historical facts surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures.
The “evangel” or “good news” must clearly address the reality that there is bad news. The bad news is that because all humans are fallen in Adam, every single person has inherited his guilt and stands condemned under God’s wrath. Because we are sinners, Jesus had to die on the cross to endure the punishment for sin. In order to truly call oneself “evangelical”, there must be a clear recognition of the depravity and sinfulness of humans and our utter helplessness and hopelessness that puts us on a collision course to hell.
In addition, the first words out of Jesus’ mouth when He began His public ministry clarified the gospel. In Mark 1:15 Jesus came preaching this message: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” The major thrust of Jesus proclamation was that sinners needed to repent and believe in the good news of His death and resurrection to bring forgiveness. If your gospel or “evangel” has no room for repentance from sin, which the Bible clearly defines as offensive to God, then you do not have a true gospel.
Paul also summarizes the gospel in Galatians 1:3–5 which reads, “…the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” The gospel is God’s sovereign plan to bring Himself glory by sending Jesus to die in the place of sinners to deliver us from evil. If your “good news” does not include the sovereignty of God or the glory of God or the need for sinners to be rescued from their sin, then you don’t have an authentic gospel.
What concerns is me is how quickly supposed “evangelical” Christians are waffling and even compromising on the clear teachings of Scripture such as the exclusivity of Christ as the only way of salvation, the reality of eternal conscious torment in hell, the absolute need for repentance of sin, the command to surrender to Christ as Lord, and the fact that the Bible condemns homosexual conduct as sinful and against His law. Should we stop using the term “evangelical?” In my humble opinion, the term is not helpful and creates confusion. Do I have an alternative? For what it’s worth, I think we should start using the term “those who submit to the authority of God’s Word and bow to His Lordship”. I know that’s a mouthful, but maybe it will clarify much of the confusion. Dear reader, do you joyfully submit to the entirety of God’s Word and have you bowed the knee to Jesus as King and Lord and Master of your life?