Since the first century AD, Christianity has spread throughout the world, until today, it is claimed to be the principal religion in the West. The majority of so-called ‘good living people’, certainly in this country, profess to be “Christians”, and yet we ask, “What is a Christian?”!
Is a Christian someone who “goes to church”?
Is a Christian someone who generally tries to “live a good life”?
Is a Christian someone who devotes his time and energy to voluntary work and charities etc.?
The Oxford Illustrated Dictionary defines the word “Christian” as:
“a person believing, professing or belonging to the religion of christ - a person resembling christ or following or exemplifying his teaching”
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
The word “Christian” in the Bible comes from a Greek word which means simply “follower of Christ” (see Strongs Bible Concordance). So we see that a true Christian is someone who follows Christ and therefore it is imperative for anyone wishing to be a Christian to find out how he should conduct his life from the example of Jesus.
Jesus said to his disciples,
“Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever i command you” (John 15:14)
A true Christian then, or friend of Christ is someone who keeps his commandments.
WHAT ARE CHRIST’S COMMANDMENTS?
These, of course, are far too numerous to detail individually, but a continued careful reading of the scriptures will fully acquaint the discerning reader with the commandments laid down by Christ for his followers to obey. However, there are several important commandments we can usefully consider relative to this question, “What is a Christian?”. We submit that any who do not comply with these commandments of Jesus, although perhaps being ‘good living people’, cannot possibly be a “Christian” in the true sense of the word.
Nowadays, most of the so-called Christian denominations disregard baptism (i.e., scriptural baptism, which is total adult immersion - not infant sprinkling) as unnecessary for salvation and teach that we only need to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” to be saved. However, Jesus himself plainly stated that,
“he that believeth AND IS BAPTISED shall be saved” (Mark 16:16)
There is an example, recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (chapter 10), of a man named Cornelius who lived a very ‘good’ life. He is described as a
“devout man and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people and prayed to God alway”
Could he claim to be a true Christian? Peter, one of Christ’s apostles, was sent to this man to instruct him concerning the commandments of Christ, and specifically to baptise him, because WITHOUT HIS OBEDIENCE IN BAPTISM, for all his piety, HE COULD NOT BE SAVED.
“COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM AND BE YE SEPARATE”
Christ commanded his followers to keep themselves separate from the world, so that they could devote their lives to following him (1 John 2:15). The reason is, as the apostle John goes on to say,
“all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world”
Therefore, any association with the world is only a distraction and a hindrance in one’s service to God.
What in apt summary of the state of our world today, where men and women are preoccupied with getting the most they can, any way they can.
WHAT OF THE TRUE CHRISTIAN?
A true Christian finds himself living in the world but not involving himself in it in any way, and as a result is most likely ridiculed and mocked by those around him. But again, Jesus prophesied of this state of affairs when he comforted his disciples with these words;
“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19)
How do these things affect us and any hope we might have of a future life?
The whole of Christ’s teaching revolves around how men and women can overcome the inevitable curse of death and live for ever in God’s kingdom.
Can we then believe what we like, live a generally “good” life and still hope to be saved from death? The scriptures make the position quite clear. There can be no compromise. The apostle John wrote,
“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4, see also Matthew 7:21)
WHAT THEN OF SO-CALLED CHRISTIANS TODAY?
We have seen From God’s word that any who wish to bear the name “Christian” must “follow” Christ in total obedience to him. To give this complete dedication, Christ’s follower must be fully conversant with all that is required of him, and we therefore recommend the example of a group of first century disciples (Christians) who
“received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily” (Acts of the Apostles 17:11-12)
It is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (chapter 2) that many believed in Jesus AND WERE BAPTISED and that they
“continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers”
We submit that all true Christians should do the same.