Why should God let you into Heaven?

Do you know the answer? Are you confident in your salvation?

Find out!

Evangelical Vs Protestant

Have you ever checked out a church’s website and seen that they identify as “Evangelical?” Or perhaps you’ve seen a Christian author, musician, or popular speaker described as Evangelical or Protestant.

What do the words “Protestant” or “Evangelical” mean to you? This article will explore the origins of both Christian movements. How are they alike and different? What can you generally expect when a church, organization, or person identifies as Evangelical or Protestant?

What is an Evangelical?

The word “Evangelical” doesn’t always mean what it did a seventy years ago. Churches and individuals within the Evangelical movement come from various backgrounds. Some are Reformed, some Arminian, and some Charismatics. However, not all Reformed, Arminian, or Pentecostal churches are Evangelical.

The word “evangelical” (and the word “evangelism”) comes from the Greek word for gospel – evangelion or good news. The bedrock of Evangelicalism rests on two truths: the authority of Scripture and the truth of the gospel.

Evangelicals believe that all Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, is inspired by God. It is God’s Word, without error, and the only infallible guide for what we believe and what we do. Evangelicals believe that the Bible’s original writings had no errors. That’s not to say that all the translations over the past two thousand years were perfect. But when the psalmists, prophets, and apostles wrote the books of the Bible, it was “God-breathed.” They flawlessly communicated God’s Word to humanity through the Holy Spirit. 

Evangelicals believe that the gospel is salvation by divine grace. It comes through faith in Christ’s substitutionary and atoning death on the cross and His resurrection. Only faith is required to receive salvation – not works of any kind.

What is a Protestant?

A Protestant is a Christian from one of the many denominations that emerged from the Protestant Reformation. Five hundred years ago, most Christians belonged to the Roman Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Protestant groups “protested” unbiblical teachings. For instance, the Catholic church said that what the Pope said had as much authority as what the Bible said. The Orthodox church said tradition had authority. The Catholic and Orthodox churches had “add-ins” for salvation, such as following the sacraments.

Historical Protestants believed in salvation through faith alone instead of a combination of faith and good works. They believed in “unmerited favor,” meaning that a person cannot earn God’s favor. Salvation comes by God’s divine grace. They believed in Scripture alone as the only error-free authority for what we do and believe. They rejected the Pope (or the Orthodox Patriarch) as the supreme authority over the churches.

Protestants don’t believe the sacraments (like baptism and holy communion) save a person. However, they don’t all agree on when baptism should happen (as a baby? Or after salvation?) or what’s involved with communion.

Today’s Protestant churches include most denominations that aren’t Catholic or Orthodox. It includes Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, and many non-denominational churches.


  1. Protestants: The Protestant Reformation began in the 16th century with Christians who wanted to reform unbiblical beliefs and practices in the Catholic Church.

Although the priest Martin Luther launched the Reformation, several forerunners taught some of the basics of Protestant belief. For instance, the 9th century Claudius of Turin taught that faith is the only requirement for salvation. He rejected the supremacy of Peter, who Catholics thought was the first pope. In the 1300s, John Wycliffe rejected the Pope’s authority over kings and other rulers. He translated the Bible into English. This was revolutionary, because the Catholic church insisted that it only be read in Latin, which most people didn’t understand.  

In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the door of Wittenburg’s All Saints Church. He criticized false doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. He also raged against abuses, such as selling indulgences, where people paid money to receive forgiveness of sins. He emphasized “sola scriptura,” or only the Bible for our beliefs and practices.

Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other reformers said that the Pope had no authority over church government or what the churches believed. They taught that the Bible was the only authority and that salvation was by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

  1. Evangelicals: The Evangelical movement began among Protestant Christians who wanted to get back to the basics. Three essential doctrines where 1) the authority of the Bible, 2) a personal salvation experience (being born again), and 3) the importance of evangelism.

The Evangelical movement began in the First and Second Great Awakenings that swept the United States and Great Britain. It was partly a reaction to liberal teachings within many Protestant churches. For instances, some churches questioned Scripture’s inspiration and authority. Some equated salvation with church membership or infant baptism.

The Evangelical movement led to a massive surge in world missions in the 1800s. In the mid-1900s, the evangelist Billy Graham taught Christ’s deity, the Bible’s authority, and the necessity of a personal relationship with God. He said, “My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which I believe comes through knowing Christ.” And through his enormous campaigns around the world, he brought millions into a personal salvation experience.

Are Protestants and Evangelicals the same?

Yes and no. Most Evangelicals are Protestants in that they hold to the core doctrines of the Reformation.

Sadly, many modernist Protestants have abandoned the beliefs championed by Luther, Calvin, and other reformers.

We use the term “historic Protestants” meaning what Protestants believed in their early days. In a way, the Evangelical movement was getting Protestants back to their roots.

Martin Luther preached “sola scriptura:” the Bible is the only guide for belief and practice. That is precisely what most Evangelical Christians believe. The historic Protestants believed in salvation by faith, not works, which is also a core doctrine of Evangelicalism.

However, Phil Johnson of the “Grace to You” website says, “For the most part, the evangelical movement is not evangelical at all, and it hasn’t been since the 1950s.”[i]

Some churches, organizations, and individuals identifying as Evangelical have strayed from its core beliefs. They might give lip service to the essential doctrines but what they do is another matter.

For instance, a church’s doctrinal statement may say that God inspired the Bible, which is the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct. But then, they may have leadership models or teach things from the pulpit that don’t align with Scripture. Or they might claim to have a “new” revelation from God. They might even shrug at immoral lifestyles.

Almost everyone who says they are Evangelical believe in salvation by faith in Jesus’ substitutionary death. Historical Evangelicalism always enthusiastically pushed missions and personal evangelism. Today, many so-called Evangelicals are less committed to fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission and more inwardly focused.

What’s the difference between Evangelical and Protestant?

Many theologically conservative Protestants are Evangelical. Other Protestants are moderately or highly liberal in their theology.

Most Evangelicals believe the Bible is inspired by God. It is the authority for what we believe and how we live. This view of Scripture was also a historical belief of Protestants. Today, many liberal Protestants say the Bible is a human book and even inaccurate in places where it disagrees with evolution and other modern “science.” They consider much of Biblical history to be myth or allegory.

Their low view of Scripture even makes some liberal Protestants question the virgin birth or resurrection of Jesus. Some say that Jesus was a good man and a moral teacher, and that’s about it. They believe that people following other religions or no religion won’t go to hell.  

Often, the prevailing culture skews their views on holiness and morality. They align with the world’s agenda, not the Bible’s teachings. Some liberal Protestant churches accept same-sex relationships, sexual relationships without marriage, abortion, and other evils.

The callings of a Christian

Our highest calling is a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

We are called to conform to Jesus’ image – to reflect Him in the evil world in which we live.

  • “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30)
  • “But we all, with unveiled faces, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

We are called to live a holy life.

  • “. . . to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:2)
  • “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence.” (Ephesians 1:4)
  • “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1)
  • “For God has not called us for impurity, but in sanctification.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7)

We are called to make disciples of all nations.

  • “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
  • “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’” (Mark 16:15)
  • “. . . that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47)
  • “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be to you; just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’” (John 20:21)
  • “. . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)


The Evangelical Movement originally lined up with God’s callings listed above. Some Evangelicals have drifted away from these prime directives. It’s time for all Christians to refocus our priorities. We must fulfill the callings of God as individuals, churches, and organizations.

In the words of Os Guinness: “Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively

that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.”[ii]

[i] https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A363/what-is-an-evangelical-a-survey-of-how-the-term-has-been-used-and-abused

[ii] Guiness, Os, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (Nashville TN: Word, 1998).

0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment