Last issue, we covered the very common Bible word “Gospel” – the good news of the Christ who is the eternal Power to save sinners.
The word “evangelical” is very closely related to the word “Gospel” (“Gospel” being the English translation of the Greek word evangel). If Gospel is the powerful Word that rescues from sin and gives a good record to our terrified consciences, then “Evangelical” properly serves to identify one(s) who is/are planted in that good news and continually fed and nourished by it. A synonymous phrase St. Paul uses is “heirs according to the promise (the Christ).”
Sometimes, however, words slowly lose their original sense and meaning and take on new ones. That seems largely to be the case with the word “evangelical” in the American Christian landscape of the 21st century. A quick Google search of “evangelical” yields as its top search suggestion “evangelical vote.” “Evangelical” predominantly serves to describe a demographic of the voting populous that is very concerned with social issues. Concerns for social issues are certainly not wrong concerns for Christians to have… but also NOT the Evangel – The Gospel.
The Reformation was born from the Holy Spirit unearthing The Gospel (the Evangel) to Luther and the confessors after him. For us to be heirs of the Reformation is for us to be heirs of the Gospel – Evangelicals in the most organic sense of the term. To be a Lutheran is to be Evangelical. It is to confess a Gospel that precedes our birth – that God “knew us in Christ before the foundations of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). It is to relish a Good News that permeates our whole life – enlightening us from our old-man darkness, sanctifying and keeping us with Christ in His family, the Church (Apostles Creed, 3rd Article Explanation). It is to cling to a Gospel that even delivers us a blessed death (Lord’s Prayer, 7th Petition Explanation).
You might say being an Evangelical Lutheran is a redundancy. But if it is, it is a Gospel-drenched redundancy that must never get lost on us.
Reverend Kyle Madson
Editor, The Lutheran Sentinel
Divine Mercy Lutheran Church
Hudson Oaks, TX