What is a Christian?

by Matt Slick

What is a Christian?  Many think they are Christians because they claim to believe in Jesus.  But, believing in Jesus often means nothing, or anything, particularly here in America where pluralism and relativism are rampant.  Intolerance is the only thing not tolerated by the postmodernist who says, "My truth is different from your truth so don't judge me with your outdated morals."  Such commentary by the non-thinking and spiritually dead is all too common.  But it doesn't change the true meaning of what it means to be a follower of Christ.  So, what does it mean to be a Christian?

First of all, to be a Christian, you must first know who Christ is.  Biblically, He is God in flesh, the second person of the Trinity (John 1:1, 14; Col. 2:9).  He is the great "I AM" (Exodus 3:14; John 8:58).  He is the savior who was born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), who died, was buried, and rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-4), physically (John 2:19-21).  He alone is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).  Only by the name of Jesus may a person be saved (Acts 4:12), and all who do not trust in Him alone for the forgiveness of their sins will be judged (Matt. 25:41) accordingly.  Jesus is both God and man (Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 2:5; Phil. 2:5-8).  He is our eternal intercessor (Heb. 7:25) who mediates our salvation to the Father (1 Tim. 2:5).  To Him be the glory.

It is not merely some man who was wise (Secularism).  He was not the product of sexual relations between a god and goddess from another world (Mormonism).  He is not a man in tune with the divine consciousness (Christian Science).  He is not the first created thing in the universe (Jehovah's Witnesses).  He is not the harmonious, really-neat-teacher (New Age).  He is the creator of all things (Col. 1:16-17; Isaiah 44:24).  He is Lord!

Once you know who Jesus is, you must trust Him to forgive you of your sins.  Ask Him to forgive you.  He will.  Then, once you are saved, you are a Christian.  But, you are not a trophy to be placed on a shelf and left alone.  You are more like a pair of sneakers to be used.  That is what it means to be a Christian.  It means you have found the true Savior--not a false one of the cults.  It means you have been saved by God's grace through faith (Eph. 2:8) and are now seeking to please Him in your life by following His commands (1 John 2:4).  Such obedience does not save you nor contribute to your salvation.  This obedience is motivated by love and thankfulness and is a response of being saved.

So, being a Christian means knowing the true Christ and following Him in truth.

However, in America, apostasy has reared its ugly head in the church.  There are those who do not hold Christ in the highest of regard as God in flesh; and because they fail to do that, they fail to understand the gospel, they fail to become saved, and they fail to understand what it means to be a Christian.  Take the following quote as an example (Note I am not suggesting all Methodist churches are like this):

"Glide Memorial Methodist Church in San Francisco has this Call to Worship in their printed bulletin on Sunday and recited by the leader:  "We are all of us Christians, Jews, liberals, Bolsheviks, anarchists, socialists, Communists, Keynesians, Democrats, Civil Righters, Beatniks, ministers, moderate Republicans, pacifists, teachers, doctors, scientists, professors, Latin Americans, New Africans, Common Marketers, even Mao Tse-Tung. Doubtless. From Lyndon Johnson to Mao Tse-Tung, we are all Christians."   This church once preached the Gospel and from which, several decades ago, a most powerful evangelistic note was sounded.  Today, many of its services are performed in the mode of the modern dance. Suggestive gyrations are indulged in and the church has become a haven for dope addicts, hippies, homosexuals, and sex-pots."  (Tan, Paul Lee, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations, (Garland, Texas: Bible Communications, Inc.) 1996.)

There is nothing wrong with ministering to the lost, but it is all for nothing if a false Christ and false hope of what it means to be a Christian is presented.  So, I ask you, are you a Christian?  Do you follow the true and living God the Son?  Do you trust in Him alone for the forgiveness of your sins?  Examine yourselves as the scripture says and trust in Christ alone for the salvation that is freely offered (Rom. 6:23).





About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.