Evangelical Religion - Perhaps Not What You Thought!

BY DAVID SAMUEL

First, an Evangelical is one who believes the Holy Scriptures to be God’s Word written.He holds that not only the thoughts of the sacred writers were inspired, but the very words that they wrote are the words of God Himself. Here in the Bible we have the fully inspired revelation of God’s truth to man.

Of the making of many books there is no end. There are millions of volumes in the world, many of them good, most of them bad. But they are all the compositions of men. They all reflect thought from within the mundane, immanentist framework of this world. None of them rises above the level of human thought. There is only one volume that is unique, distinct, different from them all, and that is the Holy Bible. Therefore the evangelical believer makes this the rule and arbiter of all else. This is the beacon that guides him through the world. 

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. This is his sole authority in all matters relating to the soul and eternal salvation. Dreams and supposed revelations, the teaching of ministers and the pronouncements of synods have no weight with him unless they can be proved by most certain warrant of Holy Scripture: To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Isaiah 8:20). “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: So that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” (Article VI).

If you are not clear about it pray for guidance, seek God’s face, read His word, for in His light we shall see light.

Second, an Evangelical is one who believes in and knows the reality of the new birth,– that birth which is from above, of the Spirit of God. He has been born once naturally, into this world. But that is not enough if he is to be saved and equipped for heaven and the kingdom of God. For that he needs a second birth of which our Lord spoke to Nicodemus: Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit; Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. Do not be surprised, it is an absolute necessity. The Prophets spoke about it, and there is no other way to be saved. And this new birth is not merely being baptised, or joining the church. It is a great inward, spiritual change of heart and mind and spirit. By it a man is made a new creature (or a new creation). Old things are passed away and all things are become new. He sees the world through different eyes. He embraces Christ by faith as his Saviour. He views God as his heavenly Father, and he recognises fellow believers as brothers and sisters in Christ. He is born into a new family, the family of the people of God. He knows new desires, aspirations; new affections, hopes and longings.

Third, an Evangelical is someone who believes in original sin, and the total depravity of human nature.That may seem to be a difficult thing to believe and hold. Are we to think that all men, the best, and our friends and relations are incapable of any good? No it does not mean that. But it does mean that our best is not good enough for God. That sin, to which the whole human race is subject, taints and mars the best of human works. That nothing we do can measure up fully to the holiness and perfection of God’s laws. That there is none that doeth good, no not one. And that we can never hope to save ourselves by our works and deservings. An evangelical believes that this must be taught and instilled into us because men and women cannot and will not see it for themselves, in the light of their own understanding. They will judge their works and thoughts on a comparative scale, in relation to sinful human beings like themselves, but not by the standards of God’s Word. Therefore the absolute standard of God’s holiness and righteousness must be taught. They must learn to see themselves as God sees them, in the light of Holy Scripture, and against the perfect life of our Lord Jesus Christ. Only then will they be brought to understand their real condition, and to see that the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Only then will they be brought to see their need to be saved, not by themselves, but by another.

Fourth, an Evangelical is one who believes in the complete sufficiency of the saving work of Jesus Christ.That He is a perfect and unique Saviour, who is able to save to the uttermost those who come to Him. The reason for this is, that He alone was born without sin; He alone lived without sin; He alone fulfilled the righteousness of the law of God; He alone satisfied the claims of God’s justice. As the appointed head and representative of His people, He suffered and died for them upon the cross, He fully discharged the debt of their sins, made perfect satisfaction and atonement for them, in their place, as their high priest, and so set them free.

The work of redemption has been fully and perfectly accomplished. There is nothing more to be done. When he had by himself purged our sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the majesty on high. That is what an evangelical believes. And if you ask him, he will tell you that there is no other Saviour but Christ. No other sacrifice but that which He offered once for all upon the cross. No other priesthood, but that which belongs to Jesus. No other advocate or mediator with God, but Christ.

If you ask him what you must do to be saved he will answer, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. Nothing more, nothing less. It is a simple, clear, unmistakable message. A trumpet that gives no uncertain sound.

Finally, an Evangelical is one who believes in the final perseverance of the saints.He believes in the indefectibility of grace. Once saved, saved forever. He will experience times of doubt and uncertainty, and he will be tempted to unbelief. He will often fall, and fail his Lord, and know much weakness, fear and trembling. But he will not and cannot fail and fall away completely, because he is kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation. Which means that the power and grace of God are continually fortifying his faith, and undergirding him. Though Satan rages he is secure, because he is one of Christ’s sheep for whom he died, and of whom he said, I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man [or thing or being in heaven or earth] is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. That is the truth upon which he can rely for time and for eternity. This is evangelical religion.

It is not much thought of today in the church. It has been largely eclipsed by other fashionable ‘isms’, – ecumenism, Anglo-catholicism, liberalism, charismaticism, modernism – but it is the religion of the Bible, of Paul, of Peter and John, of Augustine of Hippo, of Luther and Calvin, of Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley and Tyndale and all the Reformers. It is the faith of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion. It is the true position of the Church of England, if she would but acknowledge it. But the great question is, Is it your faith? Do you believe these things? Are they written not just in the Bible, and in the formularies of the church, but upon your heart by the finger of God? I trust they are, and that at the general resurrection in the last day, all these things will be revealed, and we shall hear the voice of Jesus say, Come, ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. Amen. 

Forasmuch as man, being not borne to ease and rest, but to labour and travail, is by corruption of nature through sin, so far degenerated and grown out of kind, that he taketh idleness to be no evil at all, but rather a commendable thing, seemly for those that be wealthy, and therefore is greedily embraced of most part of men, as agreeable to their sensual affection, and all labour and travail is diligently avoided, as a thing painful and repugnant to the pleasure of the flesh: It is necessary to be declared unto you, that by the ordinance of God, which he hath set in the nature of man, every one ought, in his lawful vocation and calling, to give himself to labour: and that idleness, being repugnant to the same ordinance, is a grievous sin, and also, for the great inconveniences and mischiefs which spring thereof, an intolerable evil: to the intent that when ye understand the same, ye may diligently flee from it, and on the other part earnestly apply yourselves, every man in his vocation, to honest labour and business, which as it is enjoined unto man by God’s appointment, so it wanteth not his manifold blessings and sundry benefits.

In what points the true ornaments of the Church or Temple of God do consist and stand, hath been declared in the two last Homilies, entreating of the right use of the Temple or house of God, and of the due reverence that all true Christian people are bound to give unto the same. The sum whereof is, that the Church or house of God, is a place appointed by the holy Scriptures, where the lively word of God ought to be read, taught, and heard, the Lords holy name called upon by public prayer, hearty thanks given to his Majesty for his infinite and unspeakable benefits bestowed upon us, his holy Sacraments duly and reverently ministered, and that therefore all that be godly indeed, ought both with diligence at times appointed, to repair together to the said Church, and there with all reverence to use and behave themselves before the Lord. And that the said Church thus godly used by the servants of the Lord, in the Lords true service, for the effectual presence of God’s grace, wherewith he doeth by his holy word and promises, endue his people there present and assembled, to the attainment, as well of commodities worldly, necessary for us, as also of all heavenly gifts, and life everlasting, is called by the word of God (as it is indeed) the Temple of the Lord, and the house of God, and that therefore the due reverence thereof, is stirred up in the hearts of the godly, by the consideration of these true ornaments of the said house of God, and not by any outward ceremonies or costly and glorious decking of the said house or Temple of the Lord, contrary to the which most manifest doctrine of the Scriptures, and contrary to the usage of the Primitive Church, which was most pure and incorrupt, and contrary to the sentences and judgements of the most ancient, learned and godly Doctors of the Church (as hereafter shall appear) the corruption of these latter days, hath brought into the Church infinite multitudes of images, and the same, with other parts of the Temple also, have decked with gold and silver, painted with colours, set them with stone and pearl, clothed them with silks and precious vestures, fancying untruly that to be the chief decking and adorning of the Temple or house of God, and that all people should be the more moved to the due reverence of the same, if all corners thereof were glorious, and glistering with gold and precious stones. Whereas indeed they by the said images, and such glorious decking of the Temple, have no thing at all profited such as were wise and of understanding: but have thereby greatly hurt the simple and unwise, occasioning them thereby to commit most horrible idolatry. And the covetous persons, by the same occasion, seeming to worship, and peradventure worshipping indeed, not only the images, but also the matter of them, gold and silver, as that vice is of all others in the Scriptures peculiarly called idolatry or worshipping of images. (Eph 5, Col 3) Against the which foul abuses and great enormities shall be alleged unto you: First, the authority of God’s holy word, as well out of the old Testament, as of the new. And secondly, the testimonies of the holy and ancient learned Fathers and Doctors, out of their own works and ancient histories Ecclesiastical, both that you may at once know their judgements, and withal understand what manner of ornaments were in the Temples in the Primitive Church in those times, which were most pure and sincere. Thirdly, the reasons and arguments made for the defence of images or idols, and the outrageous decking of Temples and Churches, with gold, silver, pearl, and precious stone, shall be confuted, and so this whole matter concluded. But lest any should take occasion by the way, of doubting by words or names, it is thought good here to note first of all, that although in common speech we use to call the likeness or similitude of men or other things images, and not idols: yet the Scriptures use the said two words (idols and images) indifferently for one thing always. They be words of divers tongues and sounds, but one in sense and signification in the Scriptures. The one is taken of the Greek word Ei¶dwlon; an Idol, and the other of the Latin word Imago, and Image, and so both used as English terms in the translating of Scriptures indifferently, according as the Septuagint have in their translation in Greek Ei¶dwla, and St. Jerome in his translation of the same places in Latin hath Simulachra, in English, Images. And in the new Testament, that which St. John calleth Ei¶dwlon (1 Jn 5), St. Ierome likewise translateth Simulachrum, as in all other like places of Scripture usually he doeth so translate. And Tertullian , a most ancient Doctor, and well learned in both the tongues, Greek and Latin, interpreting this place of St. John , Beware of Idols, that is to say (saith Tertullian ) of the images themselves: the Latin words which he useth, be Effigies and Imago, to say, an Image (Lib. de corona militis). And therefore it skilleth not, whether in this process wee use the one term or the other, or both together, seeing they both (though not in common English speech, yet in Scripture) signify one thing. And though some to blind men’s eyes, have heretofore craftily gone about to make them to be taken for words of divers signification in matters of Religion, and have therefore usually named the likeness or similitude of a thing set up amongst the Heathen in their Temples or other places to be worshipped, an Idol. But the like similitude with us, set up in the Church, the place of worshipping, they call an Image, as though these two words (Idol and Image) in Scripture, did differ in propriety and sense, which as is afore said) differ only in sound and language, and in meaning be in deed all one, specially in the Scriptures and matters of Religion. And our Images also have been, and be, and if they be publicly suffered in Churches and Temples, ever will be also worshipped, and so Idolatry committed to them, as in the last part of this Homily shall at large be declared and proved. Wherefore our Images in Tem ples and Churches, be in deed none other but Idols, as unto the which Idolatry hath been, is, and ever will be committed.

Almighty GOD, to the intent his most holy Name should be had in honour, and evermore be magnified of the people, commandeth that no man should take his Name vainly in his mouth, threatening punishment unto him that irreverently abuseth it by swearing, forswearing, andblasphemy. To the intent therefore that this commandment may be the better known and kept, it shall bee declared unto you, both how it is lawful for Christian people to swear, and also what peril and danger it is vainly to swear, or to be forsworn.

Unto a Christian man, there can be nothing either more necessary or profitable, than the knowledge of Holy Scripture; forasmuch as in it is contained God’s true word, setting forth his glory, and also man’s duty. And there is no truth nor doctrine, necessary for our justification and everlasting salvation, but that is, or may be, drawn out of that fountain and well of truth. Therefore, as many as be desirous to enter into the right and perfect way unto God, must apply their minds to know Holy Scripture; without the which, they can neither sufficiently known God and his will, neither their office and duty. And as drink is pleasant to them that be dry, and meat to them that be hungry; so is the reading, hearing, searching, and studying of Holy Scripture, to them that be desirous to know God, or themselves, and to do his will. And their stomachs only do loathe and abhor the heavenly knowledge and food of God’s word, that be so drowned in worldly vanities, that they neither saviour God, nor any godliness: for that is the cause why they desire such vanities, rather than the true knowledge of God. As they that are sick of an ague, whatsoever they eat and drink, though it be never so pleasant, yet it is as bitter to them as wormwood; not for the bitterness of the meat, but for the corrupt and bitter humour that is in their own tongue and mouth; even is the sweetness of God’s word bitter, not of itself, but only unto them that have their minds corrupted with long custom of sin and love of this world.

Of all things that be good to be taught unto Christian people, there is nothing more necessary to be spoken of, and daily called upon, then charity: as well for that all manner of works of righteousness be contained in it, as also that the decay thereof is the ruin or fall of the world, the banishment of virtue, and the cause of all vice. And for so much as almost every man, maketh and frameth to himself charity after his own appetite, and how detestable soever his life be, both unto God and man, yet he persuadeth himself still that he hath charity: therefore you shall hear now a true and plain description or setting forth of charity, not of men’s imagination, but of the very words and example of our Saviour Jesus Christ. In which description or setting forth, every man (as it were in a glass) may consider himself, and see plainly without error, whether he be in the true charity, or not.

Among all the creatures that God made in the beginning of the world most excellent and wonderful in their kind, there was none (as the Scripture beareth witness) to be compared almost in any point unto man, who as well in body and soul exceeded all other no less, then the Sun in brightness and light exceedeth every small and little star in the firmament. He was made according to the image and similitude of God, he was endued with all kind of heavenly gifts, he had no spot of uncleanness in him, he was found and perfect in all parts, both outwardly and inwardly, his reason was incorrupt, his understanding was pure and good, his will was obedient and godly, he was made altogether like unto God, in righteousness, in holiness, in wisdom, in truth, to be short in all kind of perfection.

In the last Sermon was declared unto you, what the lively and true faith of a Christian man is, that it causeth not a man to be idle, but to be occupied in bringing forth good works, as occasion serveth.

Of our going from God, the wise man saith, that pride was the first beginning: for by it mans heart was turned from God his maker. For pride (saith he) is the fountain of all sin: he that hath it, shall be full of cursings, and at the end it shall overthrow him. (Ecclus 10) And as by pride and sin we go from God, so shall God and all goodness with him go from us. And the Prophet Hosea doth plainly affirm (Hos 5), that they which go a way still from God by vicious living, and yet would go about to pacify him otherwise by sacrifice, and entertain him thereby, they labour in vain. For, notwithstanding all their sacrifice, yet he goeth still away from them. For so much (saith the Prophet) as they do not apply their minds to return to God, although they go about with whole flocks and herds to seek the Lord, yet they shall not find him: for he is gone away from them.

A Sermon of the Misery of all Mankind and of his Condemnation to Death Everlasting, by his own Sin.

Because all men be sinners and offenders against God, and breakers of his law and commandments, therefore can no man by his own acts, works, and deeds (seem they never so good) be justified, and made righteous before God: but every man of necessity is constrained to seek for another righteousness or justification, to be received at God’s own hands, that is to say, the forgiveness of his sins and trespasses, in such things as he hath offended. And this justification or righteousness, which we so receive of God’s mercy and Christ’s merits. embraced by faith, is taken, accepted and allowed of God, for our perfect and full justification.