WHO IS A CHRISTIAN? by DAVIDSON ARINZE
INTRODUCTION by EDITH OHAJA
After the Lord Jesus Christ was taken up to heaven following His crucifixion and resurrection, his disciples began to preach the gospel to others, first among the Jews, but later among the Gentiles also. In one of the Gentile cities where they were thus engaged, people called them Christians, alluding to the fact that they were like Christ.
“… And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” – Acts 11:26
Today, about two millennia later, we see a more varied interpretation of the word that creates some confusion as to its correct meaning. For instance, many people will readily check the box against the word “Christian” when asked to identify their religious affiliation on a form. Of this number, some will tell you they have been Christians all their lives because they were born into Christian homes while others will tell you the church they attend as proof of their Christianity. Some others will inform you they are born again Christians.
So who actually is a Christian? Is it something one is born into or acquires by association or is there a process for becoming a Christian?
To help us clarify these issues, we have this guest post from a beloved brother, Davidson Arinze, who is a seasoned preacher and teacher of the word of God. A whale of thanks to him for sharing from his wealth of biblical insight to us and abundant grace on his ministry in Jesus’ name. (You can learn more about the ministry of the servant of God at the end of this post.)Can a person be a Christian all his or her life or is there a process for becoming one? Click To Tweet
THE GENESIS OF THIS POST
In the late 1980’s, an indigenous Christian association was formed in Akpugoeze, a town in Oji-River Local Government Area of Enugu State in South Eastern Nigeria, known as Akpugoeze Christian Union. However, this name was later considered by most members of the association as being an all en-compassing name for all churchgoers in the town.
Due to the all-inclusive name of the association, there was that problem of determining which churches in the town were qualified to be members, especially as the association was meant for only born again, indigenous Christians of the town.
Consequently, in December 1989, a seminar was organized, and I was privileged to be appointed to deliver a paper or message entitled: WHO IS A CHRISTIAN? And by the grace of God, through the revelation of God’s word on that topic, not only were members of the union present helped, it also became very clear who a Christian was as well as who were qualified to be members of that association.
Today, that seminar message has become a book, published in 2014, under the same topic. The ensuing post is an edited extract from the first chapter of the book. God bless you as you read!
WHO IS A CHRISTIAN?
Properly stated, a Christian is that person, male or female, who believes in, and practises the teachings of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Matt. 28: 19-20). Notice that he or she does not stop at believing and confessing such a belief, but goes further to practise those principles in his or her daily life. For the Lord Himself said in the Gospel according to St. John: 14:15:
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
And His half-brother, James, instructed the Christians of his day in his General Epistle along this line when he wrote:
“But be ye DOERS of the word, and not HEARERS only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1 :22, emphasis, mine).
In other words, James advised that we should not only claim to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, rather, we should substantiate our faith in Him by “walking as he walked” or practising what He (the Lord) taught us in the Word of God (I John 1 :7). It is pertinent to state here that this is different from struggling to keep the Ten Commandments without the love of God in our hearts (Romans 10:14; Jam.2:8).
HOW DOES IT START?
It must be borne in mind that none of us was born a Christian. No man, woman, boy or girl was born a Christian even if the birth happened in a sanctuary and on a Sunday morning. We were all born with, and in sin, whether or not our parents were born-again before we were born. And this is in agreement with the words of King David in the book of Psalms:
“Behold, I was sharpen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).
Apostle Paul in trying to prove that no flesh could be justified by works of the law, made this truth very clear in his letter to the Romans in this way:
“For all have sinned (through Adam and Eve), and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23, words in bracket, mine).
So, none of us was born a Christian. We can only become Christians at a point in our lives. Hence the question is: “How does one become a Christian, and at what point in time?”
In the Gospel according to St. Mark, we read as follows:
“And he said unto them, go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that BELIEVETH and is baptized shall be saved; but he that BELIEVETH NOT shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16, emphasis, mine).
This is Mark’s account of the Great Commission which the Lord Jesus gave to His Church – His Body, of which He is the Head. And that was in the period between His resurrection and ascension.
He commanded the church then and the church now, to ‘go’ into the world and meet sinners out there. He neither commanded His disciples then nor does He command us now, to ‘go into all the churches’, but into all the world – the unbelieving world. But today many of us have not gone out into the world where the sinners are. And because we have not gone out into the world to meet sinners as we have been commanded, they (sinners) have come into the churches, as it were, to meet us. And this is the reason we seem to have almost more “goats” than ‘sheep’ in many of our congregations today, whereas if we had met them outside with the gospel they would have entered the churches as “sheep” and not as “goats”, so to speak (John 10:27-30).
This may account for some avoidable problems encountered by some pastors in their churches today. A pastor by definition is a shepherd. And we know that the primary role of a shepherd is to shepherd or take care of sheep, and not to rear goats. So then, if a flock or a congregation is made up of sheep, the pastor finds it easier to cope. But where you have a flock dominated by goats rather than the normal sheep, the pastor has to bump a lot of skulls or face serious challenges in trying to cope with the situation.
The Lord Jesus said in the Gospel according to St. John: 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
He had introduced Himself as the good shepherd earlier on in this chapter, who would give His life for the sheep. And here He said, “My sheep hear my voice …” Goats will not hear but the sheep will and, follow. Goats would not follow because they would not hear in the first place. And this is because the pastor or the shepherd is not primarily anointed to rear goats, but to shepherd or care for the sheep (Jeremiah 23:1).
My point is that many of those goats are there because we have not obeyed the Great Commission to ‘go out’ to preach to them. So they found their ways into the churches. May be they came to enjoy our Christian music (which is not bad in itself) or they have come in for any other reasons.
Having said this, we need to understand that there cannot be any perfect congregations right now on earth otherwise, they (such congregations) would not need pastors. So there are bound to be goats scattered here and there amongst the sheep of the flock till the rapture. It is only unfortunate where there are more goats than sheep in a particular assembly. But there cannot be a goat-free-congregation in our present church groups. That was why in the parable of the tares, the Lord – the Master – instructed the servants to let both (tares and wheat) grow together until the harvest. The reapers, knowing the difference between tares and wheat, will not make any mistake as to gather both tares and wheat together into the same place (Matt. 13: 24-30).
So we must go out into the entire world and preach the gospel (not politics or human philosophy) to every creature. Then when anyone hears the gospel and accepts it into his or her heart, his or her journey of Christianity has properly begun. The person has become a Christian. And as he or she grows or develops in his or her new life and starts living out the indwelling life of Christ on a daily basis, he or she has become a Christian both in principle and also in practice (Mark 15: 16).
Therefore, whether one becomes a Christian outside or inside the church, it must be as a result of one’s faith in the Christ as must have been presented in the preaching of the gospel, either directly or indirectly (Romans 10:17). Another truth is that any church that ministers the way Jesus did will always attract the unbelievers most of whom would later become Christians inside the church.
Jesus told Nichodemus in St John’s Gospel that a man needed to be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God: because no one was born a Christian. As it is written:
“Jesus answered and said unto him, verily verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3).One becomes a Christian when one is saved or born again. - Davidson Arinze Click To Tweet
So, one becomes a Christian when one is saved or born again, just like one became a sinner when one was born the first time (Psalm 51:5; Rom.5:19). When we refer to some people as ‘Christians’, and refer to some others as ‘born-again Christians’, the latter is tautological, because there is no other way to become a Christian except through the new the birth (John 3:3-5). In other words, if we used the word “Christians” appropriately in the first place, we wouldn’t have the need to make such a distinction. And the new birth occurs when we believe the gospel, repent of our sins, receive and confess Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. As Apostle Paul declares in his Epistle to the Romans:
“… 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 with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
This is what entitles us to call ourselves children of God.
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).
This experience is accompanied by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who witnesses that we are saved by enabling us to call God Abba Father. Whereas we were born physically of our natural parents before, we have now been born spiritually of water (the word of God) and the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:25 & 26, Titus 3:4-7).
“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:15-16).
The Holy Spirit also serves as our Teacher guiding us into all truth and enabling to live right if we would hearken to His counsel (John 16:13, 1 John 2:27).
So do not just claim to be a Christian; do not be a mere churchgoer. Repent of your sins and turn to the Lord Jesus today. If you have already done this, live a life that honours God; do not grieve His Spirit who lives in you (Ephesians 4:30).
You are richly blessed, in Jesus’ name!
PRAYER FOR SALVATION:
Almighty God, thank you creating me in Your image and sending Your Son, Jesus, to die in my place to pay the debt for my sins. I hereby repent of every wrongdoing and accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life through Christ Jesus. I receive Him today as my Lord and personal Saviour. I also receive the grace to live according to Your word through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Note that all scriptural quotations in this post are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Davidson Arinze has been in full-time gospel ministry for the past thirty years; and has been with All Christians Fellowship Mission, for twenty-five years. He is a pastor, a theologian and an educationist, by the grace of God, and has served as Resident Pastor, Area Overseer and District Overseer in various churches and sections of All Christians Fellowship Mission, Nigeria. A prophetic teacher, preacher and writer, his ministry has touched and transformed many lives and ministries both within and outside All Christians Fellowship Mission to the glory of God.
He is married to Mrs Tina Arinze and they live and serve God in Jos, Nigeria with their son, Favour Osinachi Arinze.
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