Thursday, April 22, 2010

What it Means to be a Christian?

In a some of my posts I mention hypocrites that claim to be Christian. I am unsure of how I come across when I do this, because of a discussion I am having with an individual in the comments of an older post. And so I am writing this post to try and clarify myself a little better.

The Simple Side of Salvation

First I must address that there is a simple side of what it means to be saved (which is what makes one a Christian). It goes like this: If you will repent (turn from your sin to Jesus) and put your faith in Jesus (like you would a parachute) - you will be saved. Simple enough. But; there is also a complicated side of what it means to be a christian

The Complicated Side of Salvation

In his book, “Unmasking The Cults” – which addresses cults of Christianity (as defined by theology), Dr. Alan W. Gomes writes,

"Central doctrines"
of the Christian faith are those doctrines that make the Christian faith Christian and not something else.
1. The meaning of the expression "Christian faith" is not like a wax nose, which can be twisted to mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean.
2. The Christian faith is a definite system of beliefs with definite content (Jude 3)
3. Certain Christian doctrines constitute the core of the faith. Central doctrines include the Trniity, the deity of Christ, the bodily resurrection, the atoning work of Christ on the cross, and salvation by grace through faith. These doctrines so comprise the essence of the Christian faith that to remove any of them is to make the belief system non-Christian.
4. Scripture teaches that the beliefs mentioned above are of central importance (e.g., Matt 28:19; John 8:24; 1 Cor 15; Eph 2:8-10).
5. Because these central doctrines define the character of Christianity, one cannot be saved and deny these.
6. Central doctrines should not be confused with peripheral issues, about which Christians may legitimately disagree. * Peripheral (i.e. non-essential) doctrines include such issues as the timing of the tribulation, the method of baptism, or the structure of church government. For example, one can be wrong about the identity of "the spirits in prison" 1 Peter 3:19) or about the timing of the rapture and still go to heaven, but one cannot deny salvation by grace or the deity of Christ (John 8:24) and be saved.
7. All Christian denominations — whether Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant — agree on the essential core. The relatively minor disagreements between genuinely Christian denominations, then, cannot be used to argue that there is no objectively recognized core of fundamental doctrine which constitutes the Christian faith.

So there are essential doctrines that define what the Christian belief is - and if any are denied, then the individual or group cannot claim to be Christian (this is why Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, etc aren't Christian).

And to expound a more complete list of these essentials let me share The 12 Undeniable Doctrines (in no particular order): The Deity of Christ, The Verbal Inspiration of Scripture, The Virgin Birth, The Sinless Life of Christ, The Vicarious Death of Christ, The Bodily Resurrection of Christ, The Blood Atonement, The Omnipotence of God, The Depravity of Man, The Doctrine of Redemption, The Doctrine of Damnation, Salvation in Jesus Alone.

I apologize that I cannot detail all of what these doctrines mean and their Scriptural reference here (I don't want this blog post to be too long - but feel free to email me if you would like an explainiation).

The Evidences of Salvation

And then there are two evidences of salvation.
1) The inward evidence - the direct witness of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16).
2) The outward evidence - a life of righteousness and true holiness; being set apart (Ephesians 4:24, Titus 2:12). This is why the title "Christian" came about (it means Christ followers)

As such, if either evidence is missing there is great cause for concern.

So to sum it up

Many claim to be Christian, but not all are. There will be many who claim to be Christian and Jesus will say to them "I never knew you, depart from Me" (Matthew 7:23). My hope is that my posts that address these folks would compel them to examine themselves - and that in doing so they will repent and put their faith in Jesus. and truly be a Christian (as the Bible defines it).

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