Sunday, July 12, 2015

Marks of the Evangelical

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on some of the distinguishing marks of an evangelical:

  • The evangelical is one who is entirely subservient to the Bible.  He is a man of one book; he starts with it; he submits himself to it; this is his authority.
  • The evangelical uses this term as a prefix and not as a suffix.  What I mean by that is that the first thing about the man is that he is evangelical.  The particular denomination to which he belongs is secondary; it is not primary.  In other words, there is all the difference in the world between talking about an evangelical Baptist and a Baptist evangelical.  I am contending that the man is evangelical first.
  • He is a man who is always watching.  They are to be discriminating; they are always to be examining; they are always to be watchful.  And so when a man ceases to be watchful, he, to that extent, ceases to be an evangelical.  The person who says, It is all right; you need not bother; we are all Christians and having a marvellous time together -- and is not watchful, is already departing from the biblical position.
  • The evangelical distrusts reason and particularly reason in the form of philosophy.  Philosophy has always been the cause of the church going astray, for philosophy means, ultimately, a trusting to human reason and human understanding.  The evangelical starts from the Scriptures.  He also reads the history of the church, and there he finds that the history proves what has been emphasized in the Scripture, that when men trust to reason and understanding they go astray.  The evangelical distrusts scholarship and is watchful of it.  That does not mean he is anti-intellectual; it does not mean that he becomes obscurantist; but it does mean that he keeps reason and scholarship in their place.  They are servants and not masters.
  • The evangelical takes a particular view with regard to the sacraments.  He recognizes only two, of course, like other Protestants, but his view of these often differentiates him, and generally does differentiate him, from those who are not evangelical.
  • The evangelical takes a critical view of history and tradition.  The evangelical believes in the principle of discontinuity.  Looking at the history of the church, he sees how the church, which was a live, spiritual body, always tended to become hardened and fossilized into a dead institution.  He realizes that this is the greatest danger, so, far from being afraid of the principle of discontinuity, he knows that he can only understand the true history of the living church in terms of discontinuity, the breaks that have taken place before the Reformation, and particularly at the Reformation, and since the Reformation.  The evangelical is not tied by the decisions of the early councils of the church.  He does not slavishly fall down before them.  He examines them, he examines everything in light of the Scriptures, even the great pronouncements of the councils and everything else.
  • The evangelical is a man who is always ready to act on his beliefs.  He studies the Scriptures; he discovers the doctrine and he can judge that it is true and can see that the people with whom he is connected do not believe it.  He says, I cannot go on like this, I am compromising my doctrine; I have got to act on the truth.
  • The evangelical is a man who always simplifies everything.  The gospel not only simplifies belief and the statement of beliefs; it always simplifies our view of church order and church government.  The evangelical does not believe in vestments, putting on copes and mitres and changing vestments for different parts of the service.  He does not believe in ceremonies and liturgies and processions.  The church buildings of the evangelical are always simple, whereas the those of the Catholics tend to be ornate and elaborate.
  • The evangelical is always concerned about the doctrine of the church.  He is concerned about a pure church.  His idea of the church is that it consists of the gathered saints.  He does not believe in a state church.  He is vitally concerned about his correct view of the nature of the Christian church.
  • The evangelical puts tremendous emphasis upon the rebirth.  You will find that as men cease to be evangelical, they put less and less emphasis upon regeneration, and they tend to put more and more upon the activity of the human will and the decision of the individual person.  But the evangelical sees everything in terms of regeneration, the action of God.  He says, I am what I am by the grace of God; and he is amazed at himself.
  • Prayer is vital in the life of the evangelical; it is his life.  You will find that evangelicals almost invariably have formed religious societies for reading the Bible, discussing it together, for prayer, and for sharing one another's experiences.
  • Evangelicals pay great attention to the way in which people live.  They are strict in their behaviour.  The evangelical is careful about his life, careful to maintain good works, to live a life above reproach, not to be a hindrance or an obstacle to a weaker brother.  The great ethic, the emphasis on holiness of the New Testament, is something which true evangelicals have always set great store by.
  • The evangelical by nature is tremendously interested in revival.  He is always longing for an outpouring of the Spirit, and the great evangelical reawakenings have always been a result of an effusion of the Holy Spirit.
  • The evangelical always gives primacy to preaching.  The church starts with preaching.  Revivals, reformations, have always been great restorations of preaching.  To the evangelical, nothing compares with preaching.
  • The evangelical is a man who is always concerned about evangelism.  The evangelical is a man who, because of what God has done for him, is anxious that others should have the same.  Not only that, he sees something of the glory and the majesty and the sovereignty of God; he believes in hell, eternal punishment; and he is concerned about those men dying in spiritual darkness round and about him.  They become a burden to him, and he is not satisfied until he has done his utmost to bring them to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus.
--Martyn Lloyd Jones, Knowing the Times, chapter 16

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