People have many, different ideas about what makes a Christian a Christian. Even non-Christians, at times, take it upon themselves to tell Christians how to be Christian (and they don’t see either the hypocrisy or the absurdity in that).
Most people believe you’ve got to be “good” to go to heaven. Others require people to believe their (or their pastor’s) interpretations of certain Bible passages before they consider them Christian (as if they are the arbiters of who is Christian and who is not). Still others say a person must confess his sins and get baptized in water.
Certainly there are verses that talk about behavior and doctrine after we’re saved. But what does the Bible say about how to be saved?
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Notice it says we are saved by grace. Do you see the contrast between grace and works? Being good is works.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
Notice that not even works of righteousness can save us. Putting this verse together with Ephesians 2:8-9, we see that salvation is:
- The gift of (or from) God
- According to God’s mercy
that we are not saved:
- Of ourselves
- By works, not even works of righteousness
and that we are saved by:
- Grace (God’s favor toward us that we didn’t earn)
- Regeneration (being born again), which is a washing
- Holy Ghost (holy spirit), which is a renewing
And notice it says holy spirit is “shed on us abundantly.”
Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3-8 that he must be born again, specifically, that he must be born of the spirit. Being born of the spirit literally creates new spirit within us (“that which is born of the Spirit is spirit”), which is holy.
But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
Notice it says this is the word of faith (Ephesians 2:8: “by grace are ye saved through faith”), not works. The word of faith brings the grace which saves you. Here it is:
That 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.
Notice it doesn’t say maybe!
Notice, also, it doesn’t say confess your sins! It says confess the savior from sin, the Lord Jesus Christ. You make him your lord (master, ruler, commander, boss, the one from whom you take orders) and say so.
It also says believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead.
And notice, in this same context, it says:
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
So, call on the name of the lord, or confess with your mouth the lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead. They are the same thing. How you call on the name of the lord is you confess the lord Jesus and believe God raised him from the dead. That’s how to be saved!
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
So, to call on the name of the lord (which is to confess with your mouth the lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead), we must believe in (i.e., trust) the lord Jesus. That’s how we get saved! Nothing else is needed!
1 John 3:23-24:
And this is his [God’s] commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he [Jesus] gave us commandment.
And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
Notice it says he that keeps his commandments dwells in him. What commandments? Jesus condensed all the Old Testament commandments into two: Love God and love your neighbor.
What about what people say? Should we do everything everyone “knows” is right? Peter said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
So what commandments should we keep? The ones in the previous verse: “That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another,” as Jesus said.
But notice it says we know he abides in us by the spirit he has given us. That’s the key! That’s what constitutes a Christian! The spirit he has given us! And just in case you missed it, it says it again in the next chapter:
1 John 4:13:
Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
That’s how we know! The spirit from God is the key! You get it by confessing the lord Jesus and believing God raised him from the dead, which is calling on his name, which is believing on his name, which is keeping his commandments. You are a Christian if you have holy spirit!
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
The “Spirit of God” and the “Spirit of Christ” are the same thing, God’s gift of holy spirit. If you have holy spirit, you are Christian and if you do not, you are not. It’s just that simple.
1 John 5:1:
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
“Christ” means “Messiah.” Whoever believes that Jesus is the Messiah is born of God, i.e., born again or saved. Why? Because Messiah will rule forever. He’s a living lord. Since Jesus died, if he’s the Messiah, God must have raised him from the dead.
Notice it does not say any other doctrine is necessary for salvation. All you need to know is Jesus is the Christ, the lord who God raised from the dead.
So we’re saved by:
- God’s grace
- Being born again (regeneration)
- Having holy spirit within us
Since our own works can never save us, we’re totally dependent on God’s grace.
We get born again when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, which is to call on the name of the lord, which is to confess with our mouths the lord Jesus and believe in our hearts that God has raised him from the dead.
When we’re born again, we’re born of the spirit so we have holy spirit living within us.
We know that God lives in us (that we’re Christian) by the holy spirit which God has given us.
Nothing in the Bible says we have to be “good” to go to heaven. In fact, the Bible says we cannot be saved by our works, not even if they’re righteous works!
Nothing in the Bible says we have to believe any particular doctrine or interpretation of scripture to be righteous. Rather, it says we are to believe God raised Jesus from the dead.
Nothing in the Bible says we must confess our sins to be saved. Rather, it says we are to confess the lord Jesus.
God has made it so simple.
1 John 5:12:
He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
If you have the son, you have holy spirit, which is everlasting life. If you do not have the son, you do not have holy spirit life.
1 John 5:13:
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
If you believe on the name of the son of God, God wants you to know that you have eternal life.
It’s not about sin or doctrine or anything else. The one criteria is holy spirit. Anyone who believes on the lord Jesus, calls on his name, has confessed him as lord and believed in his heart that God has raised him from the dead is born again, is saved, has holy spirit, is a true Christian. It has nothing to do with works or performance.
Rather than thinking that someone who claims to be Christian is not a Christian, or, worse yet, condemning him for not being a Christian, we who know who we are need to walk in love and learn to help our brothers and sisters walk in love.
God is not a god of exclusion, but of inclusion.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
We are to rescue people from the snare of the adversary, not condemn them.
God bless you