What is a Christian? part 2
Since one of the purposes for which God gave the Bible was to tell us the way of salvation, let us test the six common opinions which were stated previously against the standard of the Bible. What do the Scriptures say about the six common answers given to the question, “What is a Christian?”
Common answer number one—Salvation is by good works. Scripture—“For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9). From a positive point of view these verses state that salvation is by grace. The word “grace” means unmerited favor. Positively speaking, salvation is the free gift of God. From a negative point of view these verses teach that salvation is not of works lest any man should boast. Again the Scriptures state that it is “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5, 6). Similarly the Bible affirms that “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Romans 3:20).
Common answer number two—Salvation is by heredity. Scripture—“But as many as received him (Jesus Christ), to them God gave the authority to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12, 13). This latter verse affirms that physical heritage, blood lineage, family connections or any other such factors, do not have anything to do with whether or not a person is a Christian. Another passage of Scripture which teaches the same truth is Philippians 3:4, 5.
Common answer number three—Salvation is by religious activity. Scripture—“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out demons? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me” (Matthew 7:22, 23). Other Scriptures which demonstrate that a Christian is not simply one who is active in religious matters are Mark 7:1-7; John 3:1-8; Luke 18: 9-14; Philippians 3:6, 7; Galatians 1:14, 15; Psalm 51:16, 17.
Common answer number four—Salvation is by profession of faith or by mere mechanical actions such as walking an aisle in an evangelistic crusade or praying a certain prayer. Scripture—“Now when he (Jesus) was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not trust himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man” (John 2:23-25). These people made a profession of faith but our Lord would not trust himself unto them because he knew that their profession of faith was not real. Other Scripture passages which teach that merely professing faith or going through certain mechanical actions does not ensure that a person is a Christian are Acts 8: 12-24; John 3:36; James 2:14-26; II Corinthians 5:17.
Common answer number five—you just can’t know whether or not you are saved. Scripture—“For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (II Timothy 1: 12). “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God” (I John 5: 13). Other Scriptures which teach that a person can know that he is truly a Christian are John 5:24; Romans 8:1; II Peter 1:4-11.
Common answer number six—Every human being is a Christian and will most certainly go to heaven. Scripture—“He that believeth on him (Jesus Christ) is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3: 18). “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:44). Other Scriptures which teach that not everyone will go to heaven are John 8:3:44 Revelation 20:11-15; Ephesians 2:2, 3; Colossians 3:6.
When tested by the standard of God’s Word these six common answers to the question, “What is a Christian?” are proved to be inadequate and false. All of them are contrary to the Word of God. According to the Bible if your answer to the question “What is a Christian?” is any one of the six opinions that we have just considered, you are wrong. According to the Bible if the basis for your hope of heaven is founded upon any one of these opinions, your hope is based upon a wrong foundation and you are not a Christian. Why? Because a Christian is not simply a person who performs good works; or a person who has been born of Godly parents; or a person who is active in religious matters; or a person who has made a profession of faith; or a person who has been baptized; or a person who has responded to an invitation.
Well, if these answers are not the correct answers to the question, “What is a Christian?” How does the Bible answer this question? Let us notice four things that the Bible says about a person who is a Christian.
Next up, part 3 of “What is a Christian?”
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