What is God Like?
What Is a Christian?
“Grandpa,” began John, “in our last discussion you mentioned evangelical Christians. What is an evangelical Christian?”
“Evangelical,” replied grandpa, “is a general term used to describe Christians who believe the gospel as it proclaims the grace and mercy of God to fallen man. They believe man is saved from eternal separation from God not by anything he has done or can do, but by Christ’s death on the cross which satisfied the righteousness of God Who cannot overlook sin.”
“Are there any other kind of Christians?” inquired John.
“Well,” explained grandpa, “there are some people who would claim to be a Christian, but their claim is not based on Bible teaching. The word Christian occurs only three times in Scripture. It means a Christ-one or one who belongs to Christ because he has taken Him as his Saviour and Lord. In Acts 11:26, it says, ‘And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.’ This distinguished them from the Jews who rejected Christ as their Messiah, while the disciples acknowledged that Christ was the Son of God sent from heaven not ‘to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved’ as it says in John 3:17. In the Epistle to Jude, verse four, it speaks of men who appeared among the Christians, but they denied ‘the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Such men are certainly not Christians. Christendom is full of such imposters.”
“What is Christendom?” demanded John.
“Christendom is a word used usually to mean all countries where the Bible and the teaching of Christ is the basis of the popular religion,” answered grandpa. “Sometimes it is used to include all the various denominations, sects and groups found in these countries.”
“Are all these groups really Christian?” questioned John.
“By no means,” emphasized grandpa. “Some are so far removed from the teaching of Christ and the Bible that it is questionable that they should be included even as part of Christendom.”
“In what way do the non-Christians differ from the Christians?” was John’s next question.
“We would have to deal with each one separately to answer that question properly,” responded grandpa, “and there are literally hundreds of different sects so that is impossible in this discussion. However, we can group some of them together and make some general observations which will cover most of the cases. It is quite obvious that atheists who do not believe in God, and agnostics who say you cannot tell whether God exists or not, are not Christians. Most of these do not join to form a sect. The same may be said for deists who believe there is a God, but deny most of the attributes of God accepted by Christians. Then there are some sects and cults, mostly from eastern countries, who mix Christianity with some other religion. This form of heresy began with a man called Manichaeus who lived in the fourth century. People who teach the brotherhood of all mankind usually hold to some form of his teaching. The spiritualists and Satan cults so much in evidence in our day really have no part even in Christendom.”
“I would think there is no argument about these,” agreed John. “They certainly aren’t Christians.”
“There are some sects that hold views that evangelicals would consider unchristian, although we must not conclude that everyone who companies with such a sect is not a Christian,” warned grandpa.
“Would you mind explaining what you mean by that?” requested John.
“Because people could not agree on the interpretation of certain passages of Scripture, they separated from the others and formed a sect of their own,” explained grandpa. “In some cases the differences were slight, but in other cases the difference was very serious. Even where the difference is serious it is possible that an individual in the company is completely trusting in Christ as his or her Saviour, and either rejects the false teaching out right or doesn’t really understand it and so doesn’t take a stand on it. Sometime we should discuss some very strong sects which are not and cannot be Christian.”
‘Then evangelical Christians are the only true Christians,” suggested John.
“Strictly speaking, I would say so,” acknowledged grandpa. “Of course, some who attend church, even if it is evangelical, are not true Christians either. Going to church does not save anyone; nor does being a member of one insure salvation.”
“What then is a Christian?” asked John.
“I would say,” recounted grandpa, “a Christian is one who, realizing he is a sinner and unable to do anything to save himself, throws himself unreservedly on the mercy of God and trusts in Christ and His atoning death on the cross for forgiveness of sins, past, present and future. Having accepted Christ as his Saviour he is the possessor of eternal life, he will live to please God on earth and will spend eternity in heaven with Him. A Christian is not a Christian because of what he has done for God, but because of what God has done for him. The New English Bible in Ephesians 2:4, 8 and 9 puts it in these words, ‘But God, rich in mercy, for the great love He bore us, brought us to life with Christ, even when we were dead in our sins… For it is by His grace you are saved, through trusting Him; it is not your own doing. It is God’s gift, not a reward for work done. There is nothing for anyone to boast of. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ to devote ourselves to the good deeds for which God designed us.’ “
‘That proves that we who are saved are solely and wholly His,” emphasized John. “A Christian is a Christ-one, God’s very own.”
Passages to read: John 3:1-21; 20:30-31; Acts 8:26-37; 11:26; 16:30-31; 26:28; Romans 1:18; 5:8; 1 Corinthians 1:17-31; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 1:3-4; 3:11-13; Ephesians 1:3-10; 2:1-10; Revelation 7: 13-14.