Ask the Authors-Question #1

Posted: November 18, 2012 in Question and Answer

The following is a concise answer to a question asked of the authors of this blog, intended to give a simplified answer to the question asked.  If you also have a question you would like to ask surrounding the Christian faith, you may pose your question by visiting the “Ask the Authors” page.  The warranted belief email address will be provided where you can ask your question.

David from Sweden asked:

What makes a Christian a Christian?

Matt’s answer:

Believing in Jesus

It might be easy to say that believing in Jesus makes a Christian a Christian.  However, while this is thoroughly biblical, it is requires qualification, first in what is meant by belief and second by who is meant by Jesus.  A classic verse about belief in Jesus says that if you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).  As simple as this sounds, there were some false teachings in the early church that complicated things.  Paul made a point of mentioning three times in five verses that we are saved by grace through faith, not works (Ephesians 2:5-9), and elsewhere had to deal with people forsaking this grace to preach another Jesus and another gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6-9).  John had to deal with deceivers claiming that Jesus Christ had not come in the flesh and he said that they were not part of the church (1 John 2:18-27, 4:1-3; 2 John 7-11).  So even though belief in Jesus was sufficient, some had the wrong Jesus and the wrong beliefs.

For example…

A recent example of this involved a Christian woman who lashed out against some criticisms of the “Christian” convictions of a well-known Mormon, as she considers Mormonism to be just another Christian denomination.  Greg Koukl responded by saying that “terminology can be misleading if the doctrinal content is not the same.  It simply is not enough to say, ‘We believe in Jesus,’ even when a string of orthodox confessions are tacked onto the confession” (Solid Ground, p.4).  In other words, if Mormons do not mean what Christians mean when they confess belief in Jesus, then just like early church heresies, they are not Christians.  In the Book of Mormon, in contrast to the verses from Ephesians above, it says “it is by grace that we have been saved, after all we do” (2 Nephi 25:23).  If it is “Jesus plus…” it is not Jesus at all. Now, God knows the hearts of people (1 Chronicles 28:9; John 2:24-25) and He ultimately knows who is a Christian and who is not (2 Timothy 2:19).  However, the Bible allows some general conclusions about what makes a Christian a Christian by which we can judge, so we need not label everyone “Christian” who claims to be one.

More to it

There is more to being a Christian than believing in Jesus, but I single that out, because it is the crucial point cults and various other belief systems would attempt to supplant in some way or another.  Christians walk by the Spirit of God and exhibit its fruit (Romans 8:1-11; Galatians 5:16-24) and show their faith by their good works (Galatians 5:6; Philippians 2:12-13; James 2:14-26).  So there are other things that are common to Christians, but the distinguishing and central factor is belief in Jesus as the risen Lord.  An explanation and evaluation of the Christian worldview can also be seen in the series on worldviews, starting with the introductory article and then the article on Christianity.


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