What is a Christian?

by Matt Slick

A Christian is someone who professes belief in and follows the teachings of Jesus.  Jesus is the Christ (Christ means anointed one) and the term "Christian" was first used in Antioch (Acts 11:26).  Though this definition of what it means to be a Christian might seem adequate, in reality it is not.  When we ask "What is a Christian?" we must also realize that there are false views of who Jesus is.  In fact, Jesus warned us about this when he said, "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect," (Matthew 24:24).

But in order to recognize what is wrong, we must first know what is true. According to the Bible, God is a Trinity of three divine persons:  the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Son became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1, 14). Furthermore, if we compare what God said to Moses in Exodus 3:14 ("And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”) with what Jesus said in John 8:58 (Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am,"), then you quickly see that Jesus was claiming to be God.  In fact, others testified that he was God in flesh as well:

  • John 20:28, "Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!'"
  • Col. 2:9, "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form."
  • Heb. 1:8, "But of the Son He says, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever..."

Alright, so we can see that Jesus is God in flesh and this is one of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.  However, there are many who claim to be Christians but believe in a false Christ. Mormonism, for example, teaches that God used to be a man on another planet. He brought one of his wives to this world and he and she adrelations in heaven and produced  pre-existent spirit beings. The first one born in the preexistence was Jesus. Therefore, the Jesus of Mormonism is false. Likewise, the Jehovah's Witnesses teach that there is no Trinity. Therefore, Jesus cannot be God in flesh. This is also false.

The true Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible is God in flesh. We see this from numerous passages above. But not only that, the Jesus, the true Jesus of the Bible, is prayed to (John 14:14; Psalm 116:4 with 1 Cor. 1:2), is called God (John 20:28, Colossians 2:9, Hebrews 1:8), and is worshiped ( Matthew 2:2; 14:33, 28:9; John 9:35-38, Hebrews 1:6). False Christ's are not prayed to nor are they called God nor are they worshiped.

But this isn't all.  Jesus was the atoning sacrifice for our sins so that we might escape the righteous judgment of God.  He was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead.  To deny this is to deny an essential of the Christian faith as well as Christ.

So, what is a Christian is more accurately answered by saying that a Christian is someone who has trusted in the atoning sacrifice of Christ to remove the guilt of our sins, who also believes in and follows Jesus, who was God in flesh, second person of the Trinity, who is prayed to, worshiped, and called God.





About The Author

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