What is a Christian? How does one become one?
– The cultural/national model.
– The family model.
– The non-Christian alternative model.
A Christian is a Christian by new birth, when he or she believes the gospel. (1 Cor 15:1-2, Ephesians 1:13-14; John 1:12, 3:3,16, Romans 10:9-10).
Since none of us has control over God’s work of regeneration, we must be concerned with 2 things.
1) What is essential to the gospel?
2) What does it mean to believe?
I. Essentials of the Gospel
The gospel is summarised by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. The Gospel involves some historical events.
However, the Gospel is not contained in those historical events. It is contained in the correct interpretation of those events. As we ask questions about those events, what emerges is a set of truths that are essential to the Gospel.
Why did Christ die for our sins? What does that say about us? [depravity, inability to save ourselves]
Why did Christ die for our sins? What does that say about sin’s penalty? What does it say about eternal punishment? [sin bringing death, God’s holiness & justice, eternal punishment]
How could Christ die for our sins? What qualified him to stand in our place? What was His relationship to God, and what was His relationship to us? How did this come about? [Christ fully God & fully man, Trinity, virgin birth, substitutionary atonement]
Why did He need to rise again from the dead? [Vindicated as holy & as God, guaranteed our forgiveness and eternal life, able to ascend and be our mediator & future judge.]
Why is it important that this was reported according to the Scriptures? [inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture]
Arising from this study of Scripture, we arrive at some essentials of the Gospel: The Triune God, the deity and humanity of Christ, His virgin birth and incarnation, His substitutionary atonement, bodily resurrection & ascension and future return, His mediating role today, the reality of future judgement.
Which of these doctrines could be adjusted, or left out without harming the gospel?
II. The Meaning of ‘Believe’
1) Belief involves mental agreement. There is no faith where the mind rejects the above interpretation of the gospel. Understanding and assent is foundational, but it is not sufficient.
2) Belief involves affective embrace. (John 6:35-37, 51) Here Christ equates faith with coming to Him and consuming Him. The believing heart changes direction of life and attitude toward sin (repentance), and embraces Christ as final and total sustenance for spiritual life.
3) Belief involves confirmatory actions. Jas 2:17-26, Mk 16:16.
A Christian is one who, by God’s supernatural drawing and enablement, believes in the above sense, the essence of the Gospel, without denying any of its fundamental doctrines, and displays evidence of his regenerated heart and gifted faith with confirmatory actions.