Monday, September 15, 2008

A Biblical Definition of "Christian"

Over at Mormon Coffee there is an excellent post on what the Biblical Definition of Christian his so I posted it here with permission.

By Sharon Lindbloom

There has been some discussion recently on another Mormon Coffee thread about the biblical definition of the word “Christian.” Some years ago I studied out this question. When I had my answer I wrote the following:

What is a Christian?

The word “Christian” is used 3 times in the New Testament.

“…And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Acts 11:26

“And Agrippa said to Paul, ‘In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?’” Acts 26:28

“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” 1 Peter 4:16

The Greek word, ‘Christianos,’ means simply “follower of Christ.”

What does it mean to follow Christ?

“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” Luke 9:23

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13, 14

“‘And you know the way to where I am going.’” Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:4-6

“‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”’” Matthew 7:21-23

One who follows Christ is one who does the will of the Father.

What is the Will of the Father?

“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:40

“Then they said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’” John 6:28, 29

“And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” 1 John 3:23

The will of the Father is to believe in Christ.

What does it mean to believe in Christ?

“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” James 2:19

“And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.’” Mark 1:23, 24

Clearly the belief of these demons, recognizing who Jesus is and understanding His presence, is not what Scripture refers to when we are told to “believe in Him.”

What does it mean to believe in Christ?

“…’The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Romans 10:8-13

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:18

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12

Believing in Christ is not just a head knowledge, but requires complete trust and reliance on Christ, and Christ alone, for all that salvation means.

What is Salvation?

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” Romans 5:8, 9

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” John 5:24

“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.” Colossians 1:21, 22

Salvation, then, is being justified by Christ’s blood, saved from the wrath of God, passing from death into life, being presented unto God holy and pure.

Where is Salvation’s Eternity?

“If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” John 12:26

“…If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father…” John 14:28

The eternal dwelling place of those saved through Christ is in God’s presence, in His kingdom.

What is a Christian?

A Christian is a follower of Christ. A follower of Christ is one who does the will of the Father. The will of the Father is believing in Christ. Believing is not merely acknowledging, but trusting Christ alone for personal salvation. Personal salvation is being reconciled to God, having the promise of spending eternity in His presence.

The relevant question we are tempted to ask here, then, is “According to the biblical definition, are Mormons Christians?” This is not a question we can answer; thirteen million Mormons represent thirteen million different hearts. We can, however, look at the LDS faith system and examine the gospel it promotes. We can determine if Mormonism helps or hinders a person who desires to be a true follower of Christ.

Setting aside, for this discussion, the question of who the Christ of Mormonism actually is, my erstwhile essay on the biblical definition of “Christian” continued,

As we have seen, God has a specific definition attached to the word ‘believe’ when He reveals salvation and His Son to us in Scripture. Mormon doctrine does not allow for the granting of personal salvation to those who trust in Christ alone to be reconciled to God.

[Consider what] Brigham Young taught:

“no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith. From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are…” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, p. 289)

“All those who believe in their hearts and confess with their mouths that Joseph Smith is a true Prophet, at the same time trying with their might to live the holy principles Joseph the Prophet has revealed, are in possession of the Holy Spirit of God and are entitled to a fullness.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, p. 312)

The Book of Mormon…says:

“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)

Joseph Smith, the LDS Priesthood, personal worthiness…Mormonism teaches that God requires all of this (and more) to be added and combined with Christ, in order for an individual to gain a place in God’s presence for eternity. Therefore, based on my understanding of the biblical definition of “Christian,” I regard Mormonism to be a severe obstruction for any Latter-day Saint longing to follow Christ.


Scott Criswell said...

I would agree, the emphasis of works and putting your trust in a man (Joseph Smith) to enter into Heaven is completely contrary to the truth of the Gospel of Christ.

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ"
-Romans 5:1

"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."
- Galatians 2:16

"And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith"
- Philippians 3:9

"Justification is not merely the cancellation of my unrighteousness. It is also the imputation of Christ's righteousness to me."
- John Piper, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die

Scott Criswell said...

If the imputation of Christ's righteousness is given to me then what need is there for any other mediator. None! Christ is our Savior and our God, nothing could possibly be higher than His grace.

Nothing else is needed. For if God has already shed His own blood for me what need do I have for anything else.

As the old hymn goes. "Come to Jesus... and live!"

M. R. Burgos said...

Great Post.