Who Is a Christian?

God’s will is for Christians to be united. But who are the Christians we should unite with? 

Who is a Christian?

A Christian is someone who is “in Christ,” someone who by grace through faith is related to Jesus in a saving way, so that His atonement delivers them from their sins. It is in Christ that sinners are regenerated, redeemed, forgiven, justified, and reconciled. We are all born “in Adam,” corrupt and condemned. But “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17), and “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Anyone who is “in Christ” is a Christian whom we are to love as brothers and sisters in God’s spiritual family.

Identifying True Christians 

Faith can only save us if what we believe agrees with Scripture. The Bible clearly teaches that certain facts must be embraced in order for faith to save. These truths include, 

People are sinners who need a Savior (1 John 1:8–9). 

Jesus is divine (John 8:24–25, 28; Exodus 3:13–14). 

Jesus took on a human nature (1 John 4:2–3; 2 John 7). 

Jesus is the Messiah (1 John 2:22; 4:15; 5:1). 

Jesus died on the cross for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1–4). 

Jesus is the risen Lord (Romans 10:8–9). 

Salvation is by grace through faith and not by works (Romans 3:21–28; Galatians 2:15–21; Ephesians 2:8–9). 

The good news of the gospel is that the God of Scripture sent His Son to take on human nature so that as the Messiah He might die on the cross for our sins and rise from the dead so that whoever repents and believes in Jesus will be saved. 

However, it is possible to accept these truths intellectually and recite them verbally without trusting in Jesus Christ in a saving way. God provides an additional test to authenticate an orthodox confession—the evidence of a transformed life. 

A Credible Testimony 

An orthodox confession of faith must be accompanied by the testimony of a transformed life to be authentic. This is because all those who are “in Christ” are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who regenerated them and sanctifies them. 

What good works does saving faith produce? Jesus stated three: 

If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine. (John 8:31) 

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35) 

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. (John 15:8) 

Perseverance, fruit, and mutual Christian love are three specific indications of who Christ’s genuine followers are. 

Anyone who has Jesus as their Savior has God as their Father and is expected to love His other children. Anyone who confesses “Jesus is Lord” and is saved has the Holy Spirit, and He sanctifies everyone He indwells. Professing Christians who have an orthodox confession validated by a credible testimony should be viewed and treated as brothers and sisters in Christ. No matter what else differentiates them, those who are in Christ should be united in Christ.