The author in this article seeks to set the tone of what it means to be a Christian from a Biblical point of view. Granting explanation to several terms that are found in the Bible that are used to give definition pertaining to who, and what a Christian is, and at the same time seeking to answer the question of personal responsibility that any given person may need to exercise to become, and maintain as a Christian.
According To The Bible What Does It Mean To Be A Christian?
The other day a person said to me, “It sure takes lots of work to learn to be a Christian.” Is this person’s statement a valid statement? Does it really take a lot of work to learn to be a Christian? Or can being a Christian even be learned? Or perhaps this person’s statement is completely untrue, and it takes no effort to be a Christian? Or still yet, perhaps the person’s statement is partially true, and it takes some effort to be a Christian, and if it is true that it takes at least some effort to be a Christian, then it makes sense that we would want to know what effort is required.
As has been the norm of my life, I believe we should look to the Scriptures for answers related to these questions. I invite you to join me. For I believe that Yeshua our creator and redeemer has the bottom line answers to all of life’s questions. In Fact, I testify to you that He is the answer.
A Brief Story To Illustrate How True Faith Looks To The Bible For All Answers
A certain youth of 16 or 17 years had his summer employment among a group of men and other youth. Daily they were allowed a break. (What some may call a coffee break) During this time various topics would come up in the conversation of the men. This certain youth was a Christian, and quite literally had fallen in love with the Bible and the truth contained therein. Therefore it was completely common for him to join in the discussions that were carried on in the break room with comments from a Biblical point of view. He was often heard expressing this comment, “The Bible says…..” Then he would say what it was that the Bible said in reference to the topic at hand. One day as the break time ended he rose to leave the break room in order to return to his duties, one of the older men in the group called across the room to him saying, “Don’t you ever have an opinion of your own, for all you ever say is what the Bible says?” My friend, I would suggest to you that the habit of this youth in using the Bible as his source of enlightenment was entirely wise and profitable in respect to pleasing God, particularly since ultimately it is only God’s pleasure that matters, I would say that the youth had a very wise manner of thought and practice. Therefore, let us continue this article in that same vein of wisdom.
Questions We Will Seek to Answer in This Article
- Where did the term Christian come from?
- What does it mean to be a Christian?
- Why do I need to be a Christian?
- Is it work to become a Christian?
- Is it work to maintain as a Christian?
- Can one know true and full peace, love, joy, temperance, satisfaction, etc. without being a Christian?
- Can one inherit eternal life without being a Christian?
If you were to visit the nation of Israel you would find there the presence of three major religions, which are referred to as: Christianity, Judaism, and the Muslim faith. I visited Israel some years ago, and at that time it became apparent to me that very many of the people who live and conduct business there refer to anyone who is not a Jew or a Muslim as a Christian. But is this definition of a Christian consistent with what the Bible teaches a Christian is? Still others that I have spoken with through the years when asked the question, “Are you a Christian?,” answered something like this. “Yes, I guess so, at least my parents took me to church all my life”. Does going to Church make one a Christian? Others may say, “I believe in Jesus and God.” Does that make them a Christian?
In the Bible, the term Christian is first used (Acts 11:26) as a title for the group of people in a city called Antioch in the 1st century AD. (“Anno Domini”– which is a Latin term for “year of our Lord”–others refer to this age as CE, which stands for “Christian Era”. Which is mostly accurate, but not entirely accurate, because Yeshua lived thirty some years before the “birth” of what most people refer to as the Christian Church, and besides that, in all reality the Church of God existed before this time being under the old covenant. — Of the two, I prefer the term AD, “Anno Domini”, chiefly because its focus is on Yeshua, who is the head of all things, versus on Christians, who are the recipients of the blessings of the Great One. However, a more accurate means to identify dates would be to use the Creator’s Calendar which dates from the beginning) These people from Antioch had adopted the faith of Yeshua, denying whatever religious, or non-religious background that they had possessed previous to this time. In fact, before they were called Christians, they were commonly referred to as either disciples, or believers. The term “disciple” noted that they had given themselves over to the learning of, and the faithful following of another, (Matthew 5:1) and in this case that other was the person of the Lord Yeshua. The term “believer” (Acts 5:14) meant that the sum total of what was important in their lives, what they held dearest, was the faith they possessed, and that faith was based on the person and promises of Yeshua, whom they saw as the “door” to the eternal triune God, whom the Jew’s of old referred to as Yehovah. (Pronounced YeHoVah) So I believe it is accurate to say that if you lived in Antioch at that time and you were called a Christian, you would have been known to possess the faith of Yeshua, and because of that faith to have both loved and served Him. I believe that these qualities, still to this day, and in very land, are still the most basic tenants of what it means to be a Christian.
Is Becoming A Christian Equal To “Turning Over A New Leaf”?
The answer is yes, in some ways, but at the same time a very resounding NO in numerous other ways. Yes, in that it is entirely necessary, (Matthew 3:1-12) for one to denounce the former sinful habits of their lives to become a Christian. Yet, at the same time it is not only the denouncing of sin that constitutes becoming a Christian, but something much deeper and spiritual. For to become a Christian one must be born again. (John 3:1-13)This means that one must by faith surrender him/herself to the person of the Lord Yeshua, calling upon Him to become his/her Savior and Lord, and in so doing receive from Him forgiveness of sins. (Romans 10: 9-17) At the time of the exercise of genuine faith the Holy Spirit enters into the body of the new Christian, and he/she is born again. What that means is that the life of God has come into him/her and made their spirit alive, in that before this time their spirit was dead in that it was cut off from the life of God because of the presence of sin in their lives. So, we have in affect a “new creation”, in Yeshua. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Spiritually speaking, this person is now a brand new person inside. So it is therefore true that becoming a Christian is far more than changing the course of one’s life, of changing one’s habits. Yes, it will of necessity involve the exchange of sinful habits for the habits of godliness, but to become a Christian is not just developing better habits in life.
Terms That The Bible Uses that Are “Equals” To, Or Used In Conjunction With The Term “Born Again”
- The term “regeneration” (Titus 3:5) is a term that is an equal to the term “born again”. It is used to describe that the reality of what has taken place in the spirit of the new Believer. It simply means to make alive again.
- The term “washed” (Revelation 1:5) is another that is an equal. This term refers to the reality that the sins of the man or woman, by the blood of Yeshua, and by the Holy Spirit’s working have been washed away. Leaving the spirit of that man/woman absolutely clean. As pure as God Himself.
- The term “sanctified” (Romans 15:16) is still another Biblical term that is used as an equal to the term “born again”. In its most literal sense it means to be “set apart”. For that is exactly what happens when we become a Christian. Our spirit is set apart from sinners, and the world. We, (our spirit) experiences a transformation from the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of light. (Acts 20:25 & Acts 26:18)
- The term “saved” (Ephesians 2:8-9) in still another. This term obvious implies that we were before lost, and that is entirely the case. Before Christ every person is lost. Lost in the sense of not being able to find their way to truly meaningful life, and at the same time no person outside of Christ can find their way to eternal life in the presence of God. Such a person is in themselves without hope. Blessed be God, who in Christ made a way for us to be “saved”.
- The term “in Christ” (Colossians 1:2) is still another that describes being a Christian. For only when one’s spirit can be placed in, and under the care of the Lord Yeshua can one have any hope of being saved. Outside of Christ is the very last place I ever want to be, in Him is every blessing and hope. Outside of Him offers zero hope for any person, only the eventual reality of eternal darkness and misery, set apart from the presence of the eternal God. Believe me Dar One, this is the last place you ever want to go.
- The phrase “ye have known God” (Galatians 4:8-9 KJV) reveals that the Christian has come in to a relationship with certain “connection”, where we have passed from perhaps knowing something about God, to a place where we now have a relationship to, and with Him. Much like a small son or daughter knows his/her parents. This knowing implies relationship with intimacy and advantages.
- The phrase “led by the Spirit”, as is found in Romans 8:14, which reads, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (KJV) implies that those who are Holy Spirit led are God’s children. Therefore, allowed all the privileges of being a child of God, and when one considers the magnitude of God, then one can begin to (As the Holy Spirit opens their minds to perceive) understand the multitude, and enormously of the promises that this relationship provides. Even as being a child of royalty, or being a child of wealthy parents may afford one many advantages, much more being Spirit led (Learning to say yes to the Holy Spirit) offers limitless advantages for the person who chooses to believe God.
- The term “child (son) of God” (John 1:14) is a common term used in reference to the Christian in the Scriptures. Whereas before Christ we were without God, and without Hope, being children of wickedness, children of darkness, now we who are in Christ have been received as adopted children into God’s family. (Romans 8:15) And, because of the limitless grace that is shown us in Christ, because of God’s great love, He speaks to each Christian, expressing to them the very same love that the Father has for Christ. What am I saying? I am saying that God loves you as a Believer (Truly a Believer is one who actively believes, and therefore obeys) equally as He loves Christ Himself. We, who were once His enemies, and who still frequently sin against Him, He offers to us love no less than what He has for Yeshua Himself. (John 14:21-23, John 16:27)
- The term “children of light” is still another term that is reflective of the reality found in a Christian. Whereas we were before children of darkness, now are we light in the Lord. He is our light, and as we allow Him to control our lives, our lives are then, and only to the extent that we allow His light a welcome in us, filled with light. (1 Thessalonians 5:4-8)
The term “justified” (Romans 3:20 & 28) is yet another that is used to describe the Christian. It refers to the legal standing of each Believer before the eternal judge. It expresses the reality that before Christ we (every person) were guilty, and by all rights due the punishment that was associated with our sin. But, in that Christ paid the price for the sins of all men, as we believe our sins are taken away, and we are then looked upon as not having ever sinned against God. Therefore, we have been justified. Praise be to Yeshua for this. For He alone can provide the gift of justification to men.
So we see by these Biblical expressions, that our part in becoming a Christian is really very small. In fact, our part in becoming a Christian can be summed up in one word, and that is faith. Our part is to believe God, and in so doing act out the expressions of that faith. (John 6:29, Hebrews 4: 1-16) God has provided us a very great salvation, (Hebrews 2:3) and it is completely free to all who will by faith call upon Him turning from their sins. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Why Do I Need To Be A Christian? The Two Most Basic Reasons
- Reality is only found in Christ. The world lies in darkness. (1 Pe. 2:9, 1 Jo. 1:5-6, 1 Jo. 2:8-11) The prince of this world, whose name is Satan, hath blinded the eyes of those who are apart from Christ. Yeshua presents reality to men. He brings the ability to see, and take hold of truth in our lives. Without Christ in our lives we have no ability to know truth from error, and therefore no ability, or hope to experience the benefits of truth.
- In Christ alone is forgiveness of sin. (Revelation 1:5, Ro. 6:23) Simply put, the word of God testifies that we are sinners by both birth and deed. Therefore enemies to God, and therefore subject to eternal judgment. Which means subject to being eternally assigned to the Lake Of Fire if we do not receive Christ by faith as the payment for our sins.
Is It Work To Become A Christian?
No, as it was said earlier, to become a Christian only requires the effort of receiving, which is sponsored by faith. Much like a gift from another cannot become yours until you put for the effort to receive it. Yeshua did the work. He paid the price. He obtained salvation for us. Our lot is only to by faith receive from Him, and then in that faith follow Him. (Ephesians 2:8-10, Revelation 1:5) The born again experience parallels natural birth, for does the child put forth effort to be born? No, it is the child’s mother that puts forth the effort of the child’s birth. However, after the birth possess it will forever remain an effort for the child to stay alive.
Will It Prove A Lot Of Work To Maintain Our Salvation?
Yes, it will prove to be a continuing work to overcome our selfish natural tendencies to work out our salvation. (Philippians 2:12) This aspect of our salvation is also referred to as “sanctification”. But this aspect of our salvation is not the sanctification of our spirit, but rather the sanctification of what the Scripture refers to as the “outward man”. All the habits of sinful man are not erased away when one becomes a Christian. Yes, we are born again. Yes, we are a new creation in Yeshua, but that is the inner man, (our spirit) the outward man is still very much subject to the habits and temptations of sin. (Colossians 3:5, Romans 12:1-3) To overcome these habits and temptations will take very great effort. However, let be said again, the aspect that takes the greatest effort is the denial of our selfishness. When we can learn to surrender to the Holy Spirit, in a day by day, moment by moment manner, then we will find it immensely easier to please God. (Luke 9:23-26) This is what the Scripture refers to as walking in the Spirit. So, to sum up the question: Will it prove a lot of work to be a Christian? – Let us say this, “It will cost you nothing to obtain salvation, but to be maintained in a proper manner will cost you everything.” (Philippians 3:4-17)
Can One Know True Spiritual Virtues Without Being A Christian?
Yes, it is possible in a limited manner for a non-Christian to possess certain Christ like virtues. That does not however make that person a Christian. Just like when you are a Christian you will at times act and think in ways that are not Christ like. Do Christians sin? Yes, they (we) most definitely do, just like non-Christians will do godly things. But as in the case of the Christian, so it is in with the non-Christian, it is the general course of their lives that sets the definition of who, or what they really are. A sinner can do right things while on the wrong road. A Christian may do wrong things while on the right road. (1John 1:8) The bottom line issue is what road are you on, and where is it taking you. The Christian is on the road of saying yes to God, of surrender to God. The non-Christian is on the road of saying no to God, of self will, and rebellion.
Although the non-Christian can experience certain blessings upon his/her life as he or she may do what is right and good, that same person can never know the inner reality of the Holy Spirit’s presence. (1John 3:24, Romans 8:14) Two Biblical examples of this are: “joy unspeakable”, (1 Peter 1:8) and “peace that passeth understanding”. (Philippians 4:7) Both come by way of the Holy Spirit. The human spirit outside of Christ is incapable of knowing these realities. The ultimate of all spiritual blessings and character are only available to the Believer. And beyond these things there exists the reality that the day of accounting comes when all men will stand before God to give account of their lives. On that day only those who names are written in the Book of Life will be granted entrance into the eternal kingdom prepaid for those who love God. All others will be thrown into the Lake Of Fire. (Revelation 20:11-15) This statement answers the last of the basic questions offered at the beginning of this article. Can one inherit eternal life without being a Christian? The answer is: absolutely not. But mind you, eternal life does not come by being a Christian by any definition other than that of the Bible. (John 10: 1-9, John 14:1-6) Yehovah, the great and eternal God will only honor His own word. He is not now, nor will he ever be subject to binding Himself to offering salvation to anyone other than the person who comes to him on His terms as spelled out in the Bible. Amen
And the one word definition of those terms is: Yeshua. (Whom many English speaking people refer to as Jesus) Therefore, above all things surrender yourself to Yeshua.
An American Watchman,
Gregory A DeHart