The term means pertaining to the Gospel (as expounded by the four gospels) or conforming to the basic doctrines of the Gospel (as enunciated by the NT as a whole). By extension it signifies one who is devoted to the Good News-or “Evangel”-of God's redemptive grace in. The Apostle Paul summarizes the Christian evangel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. There he affirms, as the central preaching-content of the primitive missionary churches, that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was buried and rose the third day, and was seen, and that all this eventuated in fulfillment of the prophetic- scriptural disclosure of God's gracious salvational purpose to provide redemption for sinful man.
In its secular Greek sense the word euaggelion could refer not simply to news or ordinary events, but could be used even of a false story of victory fabricated in wartime to boost military morale. But the Word-Event Jesus Christ-His incarnation, teaching, death, resurrection, and exaltation-particularized euaggelion as “good news.” Related terms depict the messenger or bearer (euaggelos) of these good tidings, and the evangelist, one who proclaims the good news, designated by the rare word euaggelistems which occurs three times in the NT (Acts 21:8; Eph. 4:11; 2 Tim. 4:5).
In subsequent Christian history a distinction evolves between “evangelical” and “evangelistic,” the former stipulating conformity to the fundamental facts and truth of Christianity, the latter designating a sense of missionary compassion and urgency. But primitive Christianity had no category of believers who were not at the same time missionary-minded. Nor was Christian evangelism compatible with defection from the truth of revelation. To deny the vicarious death and historical resurrection of Jesus Christ is to forfeit the Gospel and the central theme of Christian faith and preaching, the exclusive sufficiency of Christ and His work for our salvation.
The term “evangelical” therefore categorizes a commitment, not a negation or divisive attitude. Its original content is supplied by the apostolic preaching, at first in vocal and then in written form, so that the substance of the Good News is conveyed by the gospels and in the NT as a whole. Evangelical Christians are thus marked by their devotion to the sure Word of the Bible; they are committed to the inspired Scriptures as the divine rule of faith and practice. They affirm the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, including the incarnation and virgin birth of Christ, His sinless life, substitutionary atonement, and bodily resurrection as the ground of God's forgiveness of sinners, justification by faith alone, and the spiritual regeneration of all who trust in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.