Faithlife Sermons

The Evangelical Impulse

Notes & Transcripts



The Evangelical Impulse:


Reformation Essentials and Biblical Truth in a Catholic Context:

An Exegesis of Second Corinthians 5:11-21


A Essay Presented to

The Theological Summit of the

United States House of Bishops, CEC

April 22, 2009






Cn. Glenn E. Davis



The Evangelical impulse is a vital, Spirit-motivated, joyful hunger to declare the saving, unmerited grace of Christ by calling all sinners to the bloodied Hill of Calvary for forgiveness and mercy. The Evangelical impulse proclaims this message of Good News to the least, lost, and the lonely while simultaneously working to reform the Church according to the Scriptures. This impulse began with the New Testament, continued in the Patristic period, renewed during the Reformation and revived during the Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.[1] The Evangelical impulse is birthed in the Scriptures, empowered by the Holy Spirit, centered in the Cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and compelled by the story of Christ’s saving acts throughout the world.

Church historian, Stephen Nichols elaborates:

Luther spawned more than a singular alternative to the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, while there are alternatives, to be sure, at the heart of these various Protestant groups who remain faithful to the gospel there is a common core: a theological center that consists of the authority of Scripture alone and insists that salvation comes by faith alone through God’s grace alone—and that this salvation comes through the work of Christ alone. This is the lasting legacy of the Reformation—not the discovery of truths, but their recovery and their return to the heart and center of the church.[2]

At the heart of the Evangelical impulse is the abiding concern for the salvation of every person and that salvation in grounded in the phrase, “The truth of the gospel is salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.” Our deliverance from sin is not based on our performance, but based on Christ’s performance on the Cross—it is all grace.[3] The Evangelical impulse is motivated by God’s very gracious grace:

No one can understand the message of Scripture who does not know the meaning of grace.  The God of the Bible is 'the God of all grace' (1 Pet. 5:10).  Grace is love, but love of a special sort.  It is love, which stoops and sacrifices and serves, love which is kind to the unkind, and generous to the ungrateful and undeserving.  Grace is God's free and unmerited favour, loving the unlovable, seeking the fugitive, rescuing the hopeless, and lifting the beggar from the dunghill to make him sit among princes.”[4]

God’s grace draws us saying, “Trust Christ’s finished work on the Cross as your own, know that his death paid your penalty, and that his obedient life is now your righteousness.” This story of conversion from 19th century typifies the Evangelical impulse:

I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm, one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist Chapel. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of the Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly that they made people's heads ache; but that did not matter to me. I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they could tell me that, I did not care how much they made my head ache. The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last, a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. Now, it is well that preachers should be instructed; but this man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was, —"LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH (Isa. 45:22)."

He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in that text. The preacher began thus — "My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, 'Look.' Now lookin' don't take a deal of pains. It ain't liftin' your foot or your finger; it is just, 'Look.' Well, a man needn't go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn't be worth a thousand a year to be able to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look. But then the text says, 'Look unto Me.' Ay!" said he, in broad Essex, "many on ye are lookin' to yourselves, but it's no use lookin' there. You'll never find any comfort in yourselves. Some look to God the Father. No, look to Him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, 'Look unto Me.' Some on ye say, 'We must wait for the Spirit's workin'.' You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. The text says, 'Look unto Me.'" Then the good man followed up his text in this way: — "Look unto Me; I am sweatin' great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin' on the cross. Look unto Me; I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to Heaven. Look unto Me; I am sittin' at the Father's right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! look unto Me!

When he had gone to about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, "Young man, you look very miserable." Well, I did; but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, "and you always will be miserable — miserable in life, and miserable in death, — if you don't obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved." Then, lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, "Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look !Look! Look! You have nothin' to do but to look and live."

I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said, — I did not take much notice of it, — I was so possessed with that one thought. Like as when the brazen serpent was lifted up, the people only looked and were healed, so it was with me. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, "Look!" what a charming word it seemed to me! Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me this before, "Trust Christ, and you shall be saved."[5]

Of course, this story is the testimony of a young Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers. Spurgeon’s conversion story is typical of the Evangelical experience: conviction of sin, power of preached Word, call to faith, focus on Jesus Christ and his saving work on the Cross, and personal heart change.

Scholar, David Bebbington, identifies four key elements of the Evangelical impulse:

1) Life-change: the belief that hearts need conversion.

2) Bible priority: all spiritual truth is found in sacred scripture.

3) Evangelism: all Christ-followers are engaged in spreading the knowledge of Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection.

4) Crucicentrism: Christ’s death and resurrection is the central event for our salvation providing reconciliation with God.[6]

Evangelical theological convictions can be best explained by exegeting Second Corinthians 5:11-21.



Verse 11: Evangelicals believe in a final judgment: “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord,” The reverential awe of Paul for a God who is judge and divine assessor (see v. 10). We begin by understanding that we are accountable to God: we will be judged for our faithfulness to the gospel, behavior in his name, and the quality of our ministries. We must give an account to God for the gifts, opportunities, and abilities that God granted us in this life (1 Cor. 3:10-15). We will have to explain how we used God’s gifts for his glory.

This reverential awe is a sure cure for our carelessness. It is dangerous to claim a relationship with Jesus, while no genuine fruit is manifesting in our lives. We want to be diligent that we are actually walking in the “works that have been prepared for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).

[Illustration: When God asks what I did with my life, will I say, “I invested in people, served the church, reached out to the world, and advance the kingdom to the best of my ability.” On the other hand, will I have to admit, “I wasted my life playing all fifteen hundred levels of Warcraft, watched every S.E.C. football game since 1985, and ignored and alienated everyone around me.”]

Evangelicals affirm the need to share Christ: “We persuade men [people]”- Paul is not sitting back or assuming that people understand the gospel. He is actively engaged in overcoming their objections by persuading them to yield their lives to the Lord of the universe. He is actively participating with the Holy Spirit in attempting to win hearts to the Savior. The Bible says that, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30 KJV). As Christ is living his life in us, we will be fruit bearers. People will want to come to us and pluck that fruit of the Spirit in order to be refreshed. That attraction is an opportunity from the Holy Spirit to bring them to Christ. We are called to “watch to see where God is working and join him.”[7] 

[Illustration: If I run out of this room as fast as I can, how do you know for what reason I run? Have I looked out the window and seen my automobile being stolen? Is the phone ringing and I need to answer it? Is the building on fire and I need to save myself? How do you know unless I tell you? In same way, how do families, friends, and neighbors know the reason for my service unless I tell them that I am motivated by God’s love for me and my love for him? I must tell them.]

Brothers, it is not enough to say that the liturgy contains the gospel message; Christ calls us to be proactive in sharing the message of the Cross. “Primitive [Early Church] evangelism was by no means mere proclamation and exhortation: it included able intellectual argument, skillful study of scripture, careful closely reasoned teaching and patient argument”[8] As CEC clergy, we should be mindful of the advice of Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, and other notables of the Great Awakening, “We should be faithfully working toward entirely converted churches.” We should never assume that everyone in our parish knows our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We must not take for granted that just because someone was baptized in a church or raised in a religious environment that they have an intimate, on-going, dynamic relationship with Jesus. We cannot assume that the Holy Spirit has changed everyone’s heart.

Verses 12 to 13 (skipped).

Verse 14: Evangelicals proclaim the Cross.For the love of Christ controls[9] us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.”  

What is it that causes Paul to be controlled by love? It is the Cross. The Cross is the great act of Jesus in dying for my sins, being buried in the tomb and rising from the dead, baptizing with the Holy Spirit, and ascending to the Father.  All grace flows from the Cross as its source and all grace leads back to the Cross as its crown and triumph. The Cross of Christ is our victory, our repentance, our hope, and our call. The Cross was not a defeat, but the astonishing victory of God over the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil.

A number of metaphors are used in scripture to describe the finished work of Christ on the Cross: victory over the oppression and enslavement of sin (1 Cor. 15:57), justification that satisfies the penalty of sin (Rom. 4:25), adoption which grants us the legal status of a son of God and an heir of the kingdom (Rom. 8:17, 23), reconciliation which restores our broken relationship with God (2 Cor. 5:19), forgiveness of our offenses as a result of his pain and suffering on Calvary, redemption and ransom paid to free us from the captivity of sin (1 Cor. 6:19), healing from brokenness created by our sin (Isa. 53:5), representative bringing us all the privileges of the new covenant (Rom. 5:17), participation in all the benefits of his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:1-4), and substitution for he took upon himself our punishment, guilt, and shame (Rom. 4:25). “How marvelous the power of the cross; how great beyond all telling the glory of the passion: here is the judgment-seat of the Lord, the condemnation of the world, the supremacy of Christ crucified (Leo the Great).”[10]

The work of the Cross is not just about our immediate justification, but also the triumph of the Cross is our calling, our sanctification, and our glorification (1 Cor. 1:30, Rom. 8:29-30). As Jerry Bridges notes:

So I learned that Christians need to hear the gospel all of their lives because it is the gospel that continues to remind us that our day-to-day acceptance with the Father is not based on what we do for God but upon what Christ did for us in his sinless life and sin-bearing death. *I began to see that we stand before God today as righteous as we ever will be, even in heaven, because he has clothed us with the righteousness of his Son. Therefore, I don’t have to perform to be accepted by God. Now I am free to obey him and serve him because I am already accepted in Christ (see Rom. 8:1). My driving motivation now is not guilt but gratitude.[11]

How does the Cross change us and cause us to be controlled by Christ? The Holy Spirit changes our hearts (Titus 3:4-6). More comments concerning the doctrine of regeneration later in the essay.

Verse 15: Evangelicals believe that in the doctrine of total depravity (Eph. 2:1-3): “And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

The term, “depravity,” does not mean that we are all deranged fanatics living in a padded cell with long hair and long nails screaming and drooling all day. Total (or pervasive) depravity means that sin has affected my heart, will, mind, emotions, and even physical body. My attitude and actions motivate me to selfishness and pride. Every aspect of my life has been marred and scarred by sin. My bondage is so great that I cannot do anything to deliver myself. The effect of my sin is complete: there is nothing I can do to please God. However, I am still valued in God’s eyes:  I am never insignificant and worthless for Christ died for me. Even in the midst of my fallenness, the blessed Trinity reached out to me in love and mercy.

Total depravity teaches that my essential problem is not my parents, my economic background, my upbringing, my circumstances, my boss, etc. No, my greatest problem is me. That great trinity of me, myself and I. My selfishness, my self-absorption, my self-concern, and my self-conceit reap utter destruction. Sin is selfishness evidenced through my willful thoughts, words, or actions involving a choice in which I consider myself more important than God and/or anyone else. The foundation of sin is the selfishness.

[Note: Both Arminians and Calvinists believe in the doctrine of pervasive depravity.] “Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin” (St. Ambrose).[12] With sin this deep, a great deliverance is needed. We cannot help ourselves. We are dead in sin, trapped in the ways of the world, ruled by Satan and in bondage to our sinful nature. The only way to stop sin is kill it. Yes, put it to death. This is why scripture says that the wages of sin is death and that the soul that sins shall die (Rom. 6:23, Ezek. 18:20). Since the heart is corrupt (Jer. 17:9), it must be regenerated, that is, transformed and made brand new.

Evangelicals believe that “you must be born-again” (John 3:7): “live might live no longer for themselves (v.15). How does God change us, he gives us new hearts (see Ezek. 36:24-28, Jer. 31:33-34, 32:40-41). The Cross melts our hearts by his great love, his grace pours out a salvation we do not deserve and his Spirit transforms us by making us new creations.  Brothers, do we really believe that the Cross changes lives? Do we believe that the crucified Christ can meet anyone in their sin, selfishness, and pride and conquer their hearts by his great grace, mercy, and love? As we look to Christ in faith, how does the Cross deliver us from our selfishness? Evangelicals appeal to the words of Jesus, “You must be born-again” (John 3:7). To be born-again is to receive a heart-change by the power of the Holy Spirit: a heart-change from selfishness to Christ-centeredness. This regenerative work is a ministry of the Holy Spirit:

In the new birth, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ in a living union. Christ is life. Christ is the vine where life flows. We are the branches (John 15:1–17). What happens in the new birth is the supernatural creation of new spiritual life, and it is created through union with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit brings us into vital connection with Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life.[13]

He has washed us and given us new hearts: ones that hunger to love, serve, and please God. As a result, we are children of God; we are made new creations; cleansed, transformed, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. “What happens in the new birth is not the improvement of your old human nature but the creation of a new human nature—a nature that is really you, forgiven and cleansed; and a nature that is really new, being formed in you by the indwelling Spirit of God.”[14]

Our motivation is changed so that all we want to do is to please him (2 Cor. 5:9, Songs 4:9, Zeph. 3:17). We do not want to say or do anything that will break God’s heart or cause his Holy Spirit to be grieved. The Cross has done this work in our hearts: we are now free from sin-consciousness, self-consciousness, and performance-consciousness. Regeneration occurs when we “confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that God raised Christ from the dead” then and only then are we “justified” and “saved” (Rom. 10:9-10). Repentance and faith are the conditions of salvation and baptism is a condition of obedience.  

Verse 16: (skip)

Verse 17: Evangelicals have a new identity: they are new creations in Christ: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”

We are not fixed up or patched up, but men and women made new. The phrase “in Christ” or its corresponding idea is used one hundred and seventy-two times in the New Testament with the Apostle Paul alone utilizing the phrase ninety-seven times in his letters. To be “in Christ” is to receive all the benefits of Christ’s saving work on the Cross, to walk in all the blessings of Christ’s life and resurrection and to enjoy all the favor of Christ’s inheritance from the Father’s favor. To be “in Christ” is to be located in the Divine Person—all that Christ’s has done, received, or achieved is ours to be enjoyed.[15]

Verse 18: Evangelicals believe in the priesthood of all believers (and the ministerial priesthood): “gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (also Eph. 4:11).

From living lives of hostility and enmity towards God, we have made ministers who help bring healing between God and people. The ministerial priesthood is called to serve, nourish, sustain, and guide the priesthood of all believers. The believer’s priesthood is a call to be Christ in the secular workplaces of the world. Men are not ordained into the priesthood in order to remove the priesthood away from the people, but to encourage, empower, and equip the priestly people of God for their work in the world.[16]  This doctrine of the priesthood of “all” believers is not the doctrine of the priesthood of “the” believer. In other words, every believer has a ministry, but that ministry is to be conducted in community while being accountable to church leadership and submitted to the direction and tradition of the historic church. This ministry of me and my Bible with God telling me and me alone the only correct interpretation of the meaning of Scripture and the Christian life is not the priesthood of all believers. Two priesthoods to serve the one Christ for the reaching of the world by the Body of Christ.

Verse 19: Evangelicals believe in the imputed (and imparted) righteousness of Christ: “not counting men’s sins against them.” Justification by faith is God’s acceptance of me to be in right standing by the righteousness of Jesus Christ being accounted to me, a sinner. Justification is an immediate legal work of God in which he forgives our sins, counts Christ’s righteousness as our own, and declares us righteous in his sight.[17] This declaration is forensic in that the legal charges against us have been dropped and we have been declared righteous. To be credited as righteous is to be conferred a legal standing of being forgiven and no longer liable to punishment. This new status declares me righteous in God’s sight; free from the condemnation of sin, the fear of death, and accusations of the devil. The imputed righteousness of Christ is a gift; it cannot be earned. This gift can only be received from a grateful heart by faith alone (Rom. 3:26, 28; 4:5; 5:1, Gal. 2:15-16).

Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them, and even though I am still inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.[18]

Imputation is the crediting of Christ’s righteousness to my account. This imputation is twofold: we receive Christ’s holiness and forgiveness and Christ takes upon himself our guilt and judgment.

Impartation is Christ releasing within us his very life so that moment-by-moment we may experience his presence enabling us to make righteous choices. In summary, Christ’s righteousness is a gift which can be described as a wedding garment—a white robe of righteousness—completely covering us in Christ enabling us to spend a lifetime of communion with the Father (Isa. 61:10). This same righteousness is imparted to us on a constant basis enabling us to display of the fruit of the Spirit, as we trust Christ in our weaknesses and struggles.[19]



Too Judicial?

Some of our presbyters complain that the presentation of the gospel in the Charismatic Episcopal Church (C.E.C.) is increasingly judicial. Teaching that is an echo of Luther's "objective justification” seems to be overshadowing the East's view of the "incarnational" nature of salvation, the restoration of the image of God in man in Christ.
I appreciate these presbyters’ concerns and there is much merit to the theory of recapitulation as taught in Eastern Orthodoxy, but it is my understanding that the CEC embraces both understanding of salvation: imputed/imparted righteousness and recapitulation/imago Dei (i.e., theosis). Both are found in scripture and tradition, both has weaknesses that the other theory complements.

(These theories of the atonement and salvation, and I do mean theories because who can possibly describe or articulate all that Christ accomplished on that bloody tree, in the cold hard grave, and in the effulgence of resurrection morn, are human attempts to come to grips with God’s great act in Christ on Calvary.)

Many criticize the Reformation's understanding of forensic righteousness because of the law court metaphor. A law court seems impersonal and abstract. Imputed, or forensic righteousness, seems to teach a declaration in heaven of righteousness for the believer without the corresponding transformation of character on earth. The problem with rejecting this understanding is that this is the exact image that the Apostle Paul uses in Romans 1:16-17 and in Romans 3:21-26.

The phrase the “righteousness of God” (dikaiosune theou) means that an individual is vindicated in a divine law court because of the work of Christ. The term signifies that people who are still sinners stand not guilty before God because of the gift of righteousness. This righteousness from God is truly a gift (Rom. 5.17), it is from God (1 Cor. 1.30), it is received by faith (Gal. 2.20, Rom 9.30-31), it is reckoned therefore making it a status (Rom. 4:3, 5, 6, 9, 11; 6.11) and it has as it's source the very nature of God therefore making this gift what Martin Luther called an “alien righteousness” (Phil. 3.9). Clement of Alexandria agreed when he stated, “Justification means both the discharging of the debt of sin, and the crediting (imputation) of Christ’s righteousness”[20]

The problem that I, or anyone of you, would have with the doctrine of imputed righteousness is when a believer claims to have a righteous standing before God and yet lives inconsistent with the holy standards of the New Testament. This inconsistency occurs when Evangelical preachers neglect to recognize that the righteousness of God (dikaiosune theou) also means transformation. That is, the righteousness of God is the saving power of God to change an individual's life and transform them into the Christ-like character.

The righteousness of God is not only a status, but is the very power that transforms us into righteous people. Romans 1:16-17 is emphatic concerning this truth:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live’” (RSV).  In other words, the declared righteousness of God is an effective righteousness in that it transforms an individual's life.  Romans eight teaches that Christ died destroying the power of sin which enables us to live the righteous life God demands.

Therefore, the righteousness of God (dikaiosune theou) declares us righteous in the Father’s court of law while simultaneously transforming us into the likeness of Christ.

            Verse 20: Evangelicals believe in evangelism and mission: “Be reconciled to God.” We now have the responsibility for ministering the truth of the gospel. Since justification by faith, unmerited grace, and penal substitution are all Biblical and historic truths, the CEC is therefore obligated by God to share this Good News with others.

Mission is the people of God intentionally crossing barriers from church to non-church, faith to non-faith, to proclaim by word and deed the coming of the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ; this task is achieved by means of the church’s participation in God’s mission of reconciling people to God, to themselves, to each other, and to the world, and gathering them into the church through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit with a view to the transformation of the world as a sign of the coming of the Kingdom in Jesus Christ.[21]

Verse 21: Evangelicals believe in penal substitution: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us . . . .”

[Illustration: Through the Valley of the Kwai by Ernest Gordon see C. J. Mahaney, Living the Cross Centered Life (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2006), 54. In the missing shovel incident, a soldier gives up his life to keep his friends from being killed by an irate Japanese officer. He takes their place and receives their punishment even he was innocent. No shovel was missing: the officer had miscounted. Caveat: We do not face death from a fellow sinner, but justly deserve the just judgment of God. We are indeed are guilty of sin and deserve God’s wrath.]

The fact is that I am the one who should have been betrayed, not Jesus, for I have betrayed many. I am the one who should have been spit upon because I mistreated many others. I am the one who should have hung there exposed because of my selfishness and sin. The spit, mockery, and blows to Jesus’ face should have been my punishment. The whip and crown of thorns should have been my sentence. The weight of the Cross and the nails in Jesus’ feet and hands should have been my chastisement. The crown of nails that Jesus wore should have been my headdress. Yet, our precious Lord Jesus Christ took our place, paid our debt, redeemed us from slavery, brought us the victory and declared us righteous in that great heavenly court of law. God incarnate in human flesh became my substitute. “And what is the boast of the Cross? That Christ for my sake took on Him the form of a slave, and bore His sufferings for me the slave, the enemy, the unfeeling one; yea He so loved me as to give Himself up to a curse for me. What can be comparable to this!”(St. John Chrysostom)[22]

Who is Christ for us today? He is the one who took our place at Calvary. In his great love, he bore our punishment and pain on that tree. The Scriptures declare that, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (Gal. 3:13, KJV). All the penalty of the broken law has now been borne by Christ on the Cross. The entire penalty for my past, present, and future sin was placed on Jesus. “But he was pierced for our rebellion,

crushed for our sins” (Isa. 53:5). He has taken our place, he has suffered our purgatory, and he has taken on himself all the wrath of the Father (Rom. 1:18, 5:9). The Holy Trinity’s great love for you and me has brought about Bethlehem for the purpose of Calvary.

Evangelicals believe in the exchanged life: “. . . so that we might become the righteousness of God (v.21).” The Great Exchange is the one-sided trade of my sins, inadequacies, and numerous failings for Christ’s forgiveness, life-sufficiency, and overcoming victory. Ultimately, the greatest of all exchanges is Jesus Christ, the one who is fully man and fully God, truly innocent and without sin, taking upon himself at Golgotha all my selfishness, rebellion, sin and hatred and substituting his righteousness, forgiveness, restoration and love. I can live the exchanged life because Christ by his gracious grace made the Great Exchange of my sin for his righteousness on the Cross.

[God] gave up his own Son as a ransom for us, the holy one for the lawless, the guiltless for the guilty, ‘the just for the unjust’, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal.

For what else but his righteousness could have covered our sins? In whom was it possible for lawless, the ungodly, and us to be justified, except in the Son of God alone?

O the sweet exchange, O the incomprehensible work of God, O the unexpected blessings, that the sinfulness of many should be hidden in one righteous man, while the righteousness of one should justify many sinners!”[23]

Presupposition of Paul (2 Tim. 3:16):  Evangelicals believe in the priority of scripture (sola Scriptura): “All scripture is God-breathed . . . .” The doctrine of sola Scriptura is one of the most misunderstood doctrines of the Reformation. From both within Evangelicalism and without: this doctrine is distorted and gravely mischaracterized. Sola Scriptura does not mean that Evangelicals reject tradition and read only the Bible (i.e., Biblicism). Evangelical doctrine is not solo Scriptura, where all church councils, traditions, church authorities, and Bible commentaries are rejected as guides and interpreters of scripture’s meaning. Reformation Church historian, Timothy George, writes, “Sola Scriptura does not mean nuda scriptura nor scriptura solitaria! It means instead that the Word of God, as it is communicated to us in the Scriptures, remains the final judge (norma normans) of all the teaching in the church.”[24] In another essay, Timothy George, elaborates on the development Martin Luther’s understanding of sola Scriptura:

Under duress, Luther articulated what would come to be the formal principle of the Reformation: all church teaching must be normed by the Bible. The following year, in The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, Luther stated: “What is asserted without the Scriptures or proven revelation may be held as an opinion, but need not be believed.” Late medieval theologians placed Christian tradition alongside the Bible as a source of church doctrine. Luther emphasized instead the primacy of Scripture.

However, Luther did not reject tradition outright. He respected the writings of the early church Fathers, especially those of Augustine, and he considered the universal statements of faith, such as the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, binding on the church in his day. But all creeds, sayings of the Fathers, and decisions of church councils must be judged by—never sit in judgment upon—the “sure rule of God’s Word.”[25]

Sola Scripture rejects the “two-source theory” that affirms Scripture and Tradition as being of equal weight and authority in the life of church. Alternately, the doctrine of sola Scriptura rejects the individualistic Anabaptist principle of “no creed but the Bible.” Reformed theologian, Keith Mathison adds,

Instead of advocating chaos, the Evangelical church must regain an understanding of the Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura, which is essentially nothing more than the early Church’s doctrine of scripture and tradition framed within a different historical context. The Church must affirm that Scripture is the sole source of revelation. The Church must affirm that Scripture is the sole, final, and infallible norm of faith and practice. And the Church must affirm that Scripture is to be interpreted in and by the communion of saints within the theological context of the rule of faith. Only by rejecting all forms of autonomy, institutional or individual, can any branch of the Church be in obedience to Jesus Christ the Lord.[26]

I might add that the Canon Law of the Charismatic Episcopal Church affirms that Holy Scripture is “the final authority on all matters of faith and practice,” and “ . . . is to be understood in light of apostolic tradition and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” (Canon Eight, I. B. 1-2). This definition is at its essence the doctrine of sola Scriiptura as taught by the Magisterial Reformers.


Why is the Evangelical impulse important? Because in a world gone mad, the same Christ, who bore our sins, paid our debt, redeemed us from slavery and became our substitute in the heavenly court of law can still change hearts, renovate identities, and give new life to men and women who are enslaved by sin. The essentials truths of pervasive sin, unmerited grace, regeneration, penal substitution, justification by faith, priesthood of all believers, and sola Scriptura are the still the truths that transform. These Evangelical truths are grounded in the Scriptures, found in the writings of the Fathers, and articulated fully by the Reformers.

Therefore, we must renew in our preaching and pastoral ministry the need for the least, lost, and the lonely to come to the Cross. We must remember that the foot of the Cross is not only for the lost, but also is the place of repentance for believers who desire victory and freedom over sin. It is at the Cross where all grace is found. It is through the preaching of “faith alone by grace alone in Christ alone” that life change is to be found. As the Apostle Paul said, “For preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t do it!” (1 Cor. 9:16). “For I decided to concentrate only on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross” (1 Cor. 2:2). The Christian life can be summed up in these three words: Christ, Cross, and grace. We must remember who Christ is for us today! Those who are drawn, motivated and compelled by the Evangelical impulse proclaim this Christ, this Cross and His grace.


[1] Richard Lovelace, “A Call to Historic Roots and Continuity,” in The Orthodox Evangelicals, eds. Robert Webber and Donald Bloesch (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1978), 47.

[2] Stephen Nichols, Pages From Church History: A Guided Tour of Christian Classics (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006), 35.

[3] Watchman Nee, Sit, Walk, Stand (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1957), 22.

[4] John Stott, Understanding the Bible, Revised (London: Scripture Union, 1984), 127.

[5] Charles Spurgeon, The Great Change: Conversion (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), 12-14.

[6] David Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989), 2.

[7] Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God, Preteen Edition (Nashville, TN: Lifeway, 1994), 11.

[8] Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 160.

[9] “Controls” (NIV) “constrains” (KJV) - The force of the verb is present active indicative thus “constrains” is probably the better rendering of the force of that verb. The phrase “love of God” is a subjective or an objective genitive, in other words Christ’s love for Paul controls him or Paul’s love for Christ that constrains him. Many scholars feel that Paul is deliberately ambiguous, so that we will understand both loves to be true: Paul’s passion was Christ and Christ’s passion was Paul.

[10] St. Leo the Great, Sermon LIX (On the Passion, VIII. on Wednesday in Holy Week.)

[11] Jerry Bridges, “Gospel-Driven Sanctification” Modern Reformation Magazine (May/June, Vol. 12, No. 3, 2003), 13-16.

[12] George W. Grube, What the Church Fathers Say About . . . (Minneapolis, MN: Light and Life, 1996), 63.

[13] John Piper, Finally Alive: What Happens When We Are Born Again (Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2009), 32.

[14] Ibid., 37.

[15] E. Stanley Jones, In Christ (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1980), 4.

[16] Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989), 235.

[17] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 723.

[18] The Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 60

[19] Bob Mumford, The Agape Road: Journey to Intimacy with the Father (Nashville, Tenn: Lifeway Press, 2000), 57-59.

[20] Clement of Alexandria, Stromata V: 5.

[21] Charles Van Engen, Missions on the Way: Issues in Mission Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1997).

[22] Philip Schaff, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Vol. XIII, Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997), 46.

[23] Anonymous, “The Epistle to Diognetus” in The Apostolic Fathers, ed. Michael W. Holmes (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1992), 547

[24] Timothy George, “An Evangelical Reflection on Scripture and Tradition,” Pro Ecclesia: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology (Volume IX, Number 2, Spring 2000), 206.

[25]Christian History: Martin Luther, Early Years, electronic ed. (Carol Stream IL: Christianity Today, 1992; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996).

[26] Keith A. Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2001), 347.

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