Let me be clear from the outset—no one can truly know the relationship another person has with Jesus Christ. There are some people whose lives seem to testify to the reality of their salvation more than others; still, only God truly knows what is in a person’s heart.
I was recently listening to an interview—no, a grilling that Franklin Graham endured from the talking heads at MSNBC in which they attacked him because he was honest concerning his opinion regarding whether specific politicians were Christian based on personal experience with and/or observation of the subject individuals or his understanding of the belief system with which they identify. It made me realize once again how so many people are confused about what makes a person a Christian.
According to the Bible, the term “Christian” was first used to identify the followers of Jesus Christ in the first century in a town called Antioch. Again, let me be clear, the Bible is the only acceptable source for establishing what qualifies one as a Christian. The term “Christian” is used today with a far broader application than that established in scripture. So, what does the scripture say?
Isaiah 45:5 “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me:”
Psalms 68:20 “He that is our God is the God of salvation….”
Psalms 62:1 “Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation.”
The true Christian recognizes God as the One and Only God—not one among many—who is the source of our salvation.
Luke 1:26–35 “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said…. Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest….Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
A true Christian believes that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God; He has no brothers by birth through the flesh. He was born of the virgin Mary through the supernatural seed of God by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit.
John 14:6 “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Ephesians 2:8–9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
A true Christian does not accept that salvation, spending eternity with God in heaven, can be obtained in any way other than by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. You cannot earn your salvation. Your works, the way you live your life, only give evidence of your salvation. ANY religion than includes works as necessary to one’s salvation is a false religion.
John 10:25–30 “Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.”
Romans 10:9 & 13 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved…. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
1 Corinthians 15:1–4 “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you…By which also ye are saved…unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:”
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
A true Christian will publicly profess Jesus as Lord—God, the supreme authority; he/she recognizes Jesus as One with the Father. A true Christian recognizes the authority of Jesus to command us how to live our lives and chooses to follow Him. One isn’t born a Christian; you have to repent of your sins and ask God to save you.
A true Christian believes that Christ died on the cross for our sins and in His bodily resurrection from the dead.
Romans 8:1, 9 & 14 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit…. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his…. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
Galatians 5:22–23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering [patience], gentleness [morals, kindness], goodness, faith [moral conviction of the truth of God’s word], Meekness [humility], temperance [self control]: against such there is no law.”
A true Christian will give evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit through his/her life. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in our lives that will be manifest in our character as demonstrated by the traits listed in the verses in Galatians above. The Holy Spirit never leads us into sin or to act in disobedience to the word of God.
Obviously, the true Christian does not live a perfect life; but it should be the desire of his/her heart to strive to live in obedience to God’s word. If you claim to be a Christian and continually act in disobedience to the word of God, I would question your profession. If you do not have that desire or knowingly act in disobedience to the word of God without guilt, you should question your profession. Again, only God can know a person’s heart.
Psalms 44:21 “Shall not God search this out? for he knows the secrets of the heart.”
Luke 16:15 “And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knows your hearts:”
Matthew 7:21–23 “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
1 John 2:1–3 “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous….And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.”
The sad truth is that there are many who profess to be Christian, but are trusting in their works to get them to heaven; good works won’t get you to heaven—not even if done in the name of the Lord. The Lord is clear in declaring that those who trust Him will choose to do His will. The sad truth is that many will be damned for eternity because they refuse to accept God according to His will and His word.
Matthew 7:13–14 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Even Franklin Graham can only give opinions regarding someone else’s faith. As he so clearly stated, one can only be sure of one’s personal relationship with God when measured against the word of God. The verse above, however, is very clear in stating that few relative to the whole of humanity will gain eternal life.