What is a true Christian?


Many have attempted to “define” who or what is a true Christian.
However, far too often, a totally false explanation has been offered.
For example, some would say that somebody is a Christian who is a
member of a “Christian” church. Others claim that one is a Christian if
he or she believes in Jesus Christ. Still others state that one becomes
a Christian if he or she is baptized into a Church organization,
perhaps even as an infant.

What is the Biblical truth on the
matter? It is important that you understand, because otherwise you have
no immediate hope for your future. We read that there is no salvation
in any other but in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). In order to be saved, you
must be a follower of Christ–a true Christian.

First of all,
the word “Christian” is only used three times in Scripture, namely in
Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; and 1 Peter 4:16. In all these cases, the word
applied to God’s disciples–true followers of Christ–who were innocent
of evil doing and who had to be willing to suffer for Jesus Christ–as

A definition of a true Christian is given in Romans 8:9:

you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit if indeed the Spirit of God
dwells in you. Now if anyone does NOT HAVE THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST, HE IS

A true Christian, then, is one in whom Christ’s Spirit
dwells. And when Christ’s Spirit, which is also the Spirit of God the
Father, dwells in a Christian, the individual will live and think in a
certain way, as Romans 8:4-7 explains:

“… that the righteous
requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not WALK
according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live
according to the flesh SET THEIR MINDS on the things of the
flesh, but those who LIVE according to the Spirit, the things of the
Spirit. For to be carnally [or fleshly] minded is death, but to be
spiritually MINDED is life and peace. Because the carnal [or fleshly] mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God,
nor indeed can be.”

When the Spirit of Christ lives in a person,
he or she will have the MIND OF CHRIST (Philippians 2:5), which
includes the desire to keep the law of God–the Ten Commandments (John
15:10). Christ’s Spirit will help us not to sin–and sin is the
transgression of God’s Law (1 John 3:4, Authorized Version).

we keep God’s law, we will love our fellow man (Galatians 5:14). When
we are being led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:18), we will not fulfill
the lusts of the flesh (verse 16). And as a consequence, we will bring
forth in our lives the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace,
longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
self-control” (verses 22-23).

1 John 2:3 tells us that we know
God the Father and Jesus Christ “if we keep His commandments.” Verse 4
continues: “He who says, ‘I know Him’ [that is, I belong to Him, I am a
Christian], and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the
truth is not in him.” God’s Holy Spirit is a Spirit of truth (compare 1
Peter 1:22)–therefore, if the truth is not in such a person, then
Christ’s Spirit is not in him.

In order to receive God’s Spirit,
we must first repent of our sins–what we have done and what we are;
that is, we must repent or feel deeply sorry about the fact that we
have followed our carnal human natures and sinned (Acts 2:38). When we
repent of sin, we repent of having transgressed God’s law, and we begin
to keep God’s law. This can also be described as “conversion” or
“change”–by ceasing to walk in the way of breaking God’s law and by
beginning to walk in the way of keeping it. Acts 3:19 says: “Repent
therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” And
Acts 26:20 describes, in Paul’s own words, how he “declared… to the
Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting

We must also believe in the Sacrifice of Jesus
Christ; that is, that His death paid for the penalty of our sins, as
well as the gospel message which Christ proclaimed (Mark 1:15). And we
must be properly baptized as an outward sign of our repentance and
faith (Acts 2:38).

How many well-meaning people actually
repented of their sins BEFORE they were baptized? How many well-meaning
people understood before their baptism that they must keep God’s law,
including the commandment to keep the Sabbath; in fact, that they must
already show God, by their conduct, that they are willing to obey Him,
before they become baptized (Acts 5:32)? If these requirements were not
fulfilled, they would not have received Christ’s Spirit, and they would
not be “Christians” according to the Biblical definition.

even those who were baptized, as adults, after they felt sorry for
their sins, are called upon to examine themselves whether they are
REALLY true Christians–true followers of Christ. We read in 2
Corinthians 13:5: “EXAMINE yourselves as to whether you are in the
faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ
is in you?–unless indeed you are disqualified.”

Many have proven
to fall into that last category. They THOUGHT they had genuinely
repented of their sins, before they became baptized, but, in fact, they
never had. They THOUGHT they had become true Christians, but the Bible
and history tell a different story. John states in 1 John 2:19: “They
went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us,
they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be
made manifest, that none of them were of us.” Jude describes those
people who might even ATTEND Church services with true Christians as
“sensual [or worldly] persons, who cause division, NOT HAVING THE
SPIRIT” (Jude 19).

1 John 3:10 tells us that if we are
Christians–true followers and children of God–we will practice
righteousness. That is, we will live a righteous life, which is
well-pleasing to God. The one who does not practice righteousness is
“not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” But the one who
“keeps His commandments abides in Him, and HE IN HIM. And by this we
know that He abides in us, by the SPIRIT [which] HE HAS GIVEN US” (1
John 3:24).

Once we are properly baptized, we are commanded by
God to partake of the annual Passover, by eating a piece of unleavened
bread and by drinking a small amount of red wine, symbolizing the body
and blood of Jesus Christ who died for our sins (1 Corinthians
11:23-26). But before doing so, we must EXAMINE ourselves whether we
fully understand the deep significance of Christ’s Sacrifice, so that
we don’t eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord “in an unworthy
manner,” without “discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Corinthians 11:27-28).
Otherwise, we would be eating and drinking “judgment” to ourselves,
which might even result in sickness and death (verses 29-30). Compare
the Q&A in Update #224 on, “Discerning the Lord’s Body.”

be a true Christian, then, is a LIFE-LONG commitment to God and His way
of life. We are never to become indifferent about our calling and give
up. The LIVING Jesus Christ resides in a true Christian, through His
Spirit, leading the way, and the Christian must follow Him (compare
Revelation 14:4). We are to “sanctify the Lord God in [our] hearts” (1
Peter 3:15); that is, we are to set aside for Christ a place in our
hearts so that He CAN live in us and lead us.

Again, we ask: How
many well-meaning people qualify as true Christians according to this
Biblical definition? And most importantly for you is this question: Do
YOU qualify? Are YOU a true Christian?

For more information, please read our free booklets, “Baptism–A Requirement for Salvation?” and “And Lawlessness Will Abound…”

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

©2023 Church of the Eternal God