What does it really mean to be a “Christian?”
This is the #1 question we need to answer in the American church today!
The word “Christian” is often used of anyone who believes in the gospel of Jesus. As long as they agree with what the Bible says, that Jesus is the Christ who died for our sins and rose again (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), they can check the Christianity box out of all the world religions.
The golden rule today seems to be: don’t question anyone’s profession of faith, and they won’t question yours.
Basically, if someone says they are saved, then they are.
But is this really what the Bible teaches it means to be a “Christian?”
1 Corinthians 15:1-4, where it gives us the information of the gospel to believe in, also says you can believe “in vain.”
James 2:18-20 tells us “even the demons believe” and surely we would not use the word “Christian” to describe demons. James says faith without good works (acting upon it, a changed life) is not really saving faith at all.
Jesus, at the end of his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:21-23, says that on the day of judgment “many” will profess their faith in him, but will not be saved. They will have even done good works in the name of Jesus, but they will not be saved. In the end, Jesus says he does not know these “workers of lawlessness.”
Do you see what Jesus says here? You can’t be a “Christian” if you continue in sin.
Perhaps it would be helpful for us to disregard our contemporary definition of “Christian” for what the Scripture says it really means to be “in Christ.”
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. ~2 Corinthians 5:17
So you also much consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. ~Romans 6:11
Both of these verses say if someone is truly “in Christ” they will have a changed life. It will be something you can literally behold! Instead of believing the gospel happened 2,000 years ago, the gospel is now something that has happened to them! They have died with Christ to their old life of sin! They have risen with Christ to walk in newness of life!
To be a Christian is not just someone who believes “in Christ” but who lives “in Christ.”
There are deceived believers. The Bible clearly presents this category of souls who think they are saved but truly they are not. Jesus says there are “many” and they are among us in the church right now!
The apostle John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, wrote the Gospel of John so that we would “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31).” But John also wrote the Epistle of 1st John, where he says:
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. ~1 John 5:13
John knew our profession of faith in the gospel, does not automatically lead to the assurance of salvation. He wrote his epistle so we could be sure. And after his introduction, one of the first things John does is call out those who would claim to be Christians but don’t live like it:
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. ~1 John 1:6
The apostle John continues to use antithesis to show us whether we are in the light with Christ or in the darkness apart from him. He writes about whether we confess our sin or deny it (1 John 1:8-2:2). He writes about whether we keep Jesus’ commandments or disobey them (1 John 2:3-6). He writes about whether we love our brother or hate our brother (1 John 2:7-11). Has our faith led to spiritual growth in our life (1 John 2:12-14)? Do we love the world or love the Father because you can only love one or the other (1 John 2:15-17)?
Eventually, John gets to the issue of whether we keep on sinning or have started a new practice of righteousness because of our relationship “in Christ.”
Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. ~1 John 3:7-9
So, what does it really mean to be a “Christian?”
Can you be a “Christian” if you say you are but keep walking in darkness?
Can you be a “Christian” if you continue in sin?
The church in America says “Yes.”
The Scripture says “No.”
What do you say?
*I was inspired to write this post by the testimonies of those who got baptized at our church. Many of them thought they were “Christians” because they believed. But it was only when they were challenged with the standard of being “in Christ” that they really experienced the joy of his salvation and power over sin in their lives.
As always, please leave a comment if you agree or even if you disagree! Thanks for reading!