What Is a True Christian?
Based on Article http://www.reformation21.org/articles/what-is-a-true-christian.php by Jeremy Walker
2 Corinthians 5:17 is foundational in that it makes a clear declaration that one who is a Christian is one who has been changed! Read and consider it carefully: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Does this describe one who is in love with the sins of his flesh, one who cares not for the Word of God or the ways of God? Or does this describe one who should love the things of God and grow in his understanding of God’s Word and repentance of his sin?
But how can you tell if you really are a Christian? How can you know if you have been born again? What are the definite marks of a new creation in Christ?
An excellent book by Gardiner Spring called The Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character suggests seven things that are not, in themselves, conclusive marks that a professed work of grace is true or false (commentary on each of these points in Walker’s article).
- Visible morality
- Head knowledge
- A form of religion
- Eminent gifts
- Conviction for sin
- Strong assurance
- Notable time or manner of one’s professed conversion
While a Christian will display these in some degree, the mere presence of any or all of these does not prove one’s salvation.
There is almost nothing more dangerous than to imagine oneself saved and yet to remain unsaved. There is nothing more blessed than to know oneself a Christian grounded on a solid foundation.
From the Word of God, we gain a divine understanding of how we can be sure of our own standing in Christ – secure in His righteousness. 1 John gives us at least four indispensable indications of true Christianity (again, commentary on each of these points in Walker’s article).
- A humble and wholehearted embrace of the divine diagnosis of and remedy for sin
- A humble reverence for and joyful devotion to God and his glory
- A principled pursuit of godliness with an increasing attainment in holiness
Affection for and attachment to God’s redeemed people
These four marks will invariably be present in a true child of God. They will not be perfect until glory, but they will be present now.
We cannot afford to be fooled, imagining ourselves saved when we are not.
If these indispensable indications, these marks of a true believer, are not in your heart and life, then you are not a Christian, whatever you claim or imagine, and you should not fool yourself nor dishonour Christ by claiming his name without walking in his ways. You blaspheme Jesus and expose him to scorn by taking the label of a true believer but living apart from his gracious power and saving wisdom.
But if these things are present in you and true of you then you are a Christian, and you should not dishonour Christ by denying the source of grace in you. Some doubting and fearful saints are terrified that they will lay claim to God’s grace in Christ without having it, and so walk in shadow if not in darkness, robbed of joy and neither being blessed nor blessing others as they might.
Jeremy Walker is a pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church. He blogs at The Wanderer and is co-author of A Portrait of Paul: Identifying A True Minister of Christ (Reformation Heritage Books, 2010). My comment: This book on Paul is a most wonderful book that will benefit any Christian and every pastor.