“What is a Christian?”


It is widely held that one of the most helpful ways for a student to learn or for a teacher to ascertain a student’s progress, is by asking the right questions. When a student is engaged in such an educational exercise, he not only becomes more informed about his subject of interest, but he also reveals to his teacher much about his grasp of it. The history behind teachers employing this method goes back at least twenty-five hundred years, or as old as the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. He was known to normally instruct his pupils by questioning them (aka “The Socratic Method”). By doing so, he would be able to measure their progress in knowledge, as well as point out their deficiencies. The result? The student would incrementally mature and the teacher would better know his student. 

Therefore, it is right to conclude from this principle, that we can learn a lot about a person by asking him the right questions. Whether they be about earthly or heavenly matters. Our Lord Himself would often employ this same method when dealing with his opponents or instructing His disciples (Matthew 16:13,15; 21:25; Mark 12:35; Luke 2:46-47), although not for the same reasons as you or I (for He was omniscient). This brings us to our subject for this week, namely, that when you ask a person the question, what is a Christian? You can be sure to discern much about his spiritual condition. Have you ever asked someone this vital question? If you have, you probably received any one of the following answers: “To me, a Christian is ... a good person who tries his best to be good and live by the golden rule” (Salvation by Works); “... a very religious person” (Salvation by Tradition); “... a baptized member of a church” (Salvation by Works); “... a faithful child who respects and embraces the faith or religion of his parents” (Salvation by Family); “... someone who goes to Sunday School and church” (Salvation by Works); “... a person who prayed to receive Jesus and followed it with a public profession of faith” (Salvation by Decision); “... a person who just believes in Jesus” (Salvation by Profession). These answers are all well-meaning, some are frightening, some are fuzzy, and still others are just vanilla-OK; but, somehow they all appear to fall a little too far short of both sufficiently and Biblically answering this eternally-vital question. In fact, they possibly reveal too much about the spiritual condition of those who were questioned. Well then, what is a Christian? I believe the best composite definition, in all of Scripture, can be found in Philippians 3:3, “For we are the true circumcision [Regeneration], who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus [Adoration], and put no confidence in the flesh [Consecration]. In other words (in my words), “God opened my eyes to see my sin and enabled me to repent of them and believe the gospel; He’s now at work in me all-day every-day, and is growing me into a mature worshipper of Him (with His people); and, I daily repent and rejoice in the grace of God which not only has saved me, but will sustain me until the day I see His face in glory! The puritan, Richard Sibbes, I think added more clarity to my answer to this enduring question, when he said, “A Christian is a strange person. He is both dead and alive, he is miserable and glorious ... He grows downwards and upwards at the same time; for as he dies in sin and misery, and natural death approaching, so he lives the life of grace, and grows more and more till he ends in glory.” Well then, let us draw near to God now, first, by taking heed to our heart preparation today, for encountering the living God tomorrow morning, in our public Worship service, both through our praises and prayers to Him, with God’s people; and secondly, through our attending to the reading and preaching of His Holy inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word! … Soli Deo Gloria!

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