What Makes A Christian A Christian?

what makes a christian

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

Read: Job 8:1-11:20, 1 Corinthians 15:1-28, Psalm 38:1-22, Proverbs 21:28-29

Relate: What makes a Christian a Christian? Even a cursory glance at history or sociology shows that this question can be much more complex than what first seems. What resemblance exists between a modern country pentecostal church in Alabama and the twelfth century Irish monks? Is there a commonality between today’s persecuted Egyptian Coptic church and the accusation Augustine made of his contemporaries when he wrote: “the church is a whore, but she is our mother”? Eighteenth century Russian Orthodox, nineteenth century Latin catholic, the early pioneer American Methodist churches, Scots Presbyterian that raised up a man like John Knox, the modern Korean pentecostal church leading the way in global missions… There is such a wide variety of culture and tradition and history and even doctrine among those that fall under the umbrella of Christianity.

Some of these might seem very different from the practices of Christianity I know both here in Turkey and back in America, but I could still find a home in such a culture and practice very easily. I could easily picture myself in another era investing a lifetime in a monastery copying scriptures by hand. Others traditions I would recognize as Christian but would not for a second feel comfortable there: like the sixth century lavish iconography of the Byzantine churches in Constantinople. There are others who would like to call themselves Christian but I do not feel they have a right to the name. How do the state churches in Nazi Germany have the audacity to try and call themselves followers of Christ? With such a wide variety of history and culture, what is our litmus test? What makes a Christian a Christian?

React: The answer is actually easier than it seems. What will I do with Christ? Do I believe he truly died on the cross for my sins, was buried and rose from the dead on the third day? Everything else is peripheral. How they do church, what they think of the Bible, the rigidity or flexibility of their doctrine, their opinion of Mary and the saints, whether or not they worship with instruments or even which day the church gathers… as important as things things may seem, compared to the most important thing they are subsidiary. Who is Jesus to me and how will I respond to Him? That is what really matters. The right answer to that question is the only thing that makes a Christian a Christian.


Dear God,
Help me to always keep You at the center of it all. We all have our pet doctrines and causes and methods of being who we are, but at the core help me to never forget that anyone following You, no matter how different their practices might seem, is my brother or sister. Help me also to not forget that even if I might think and say all the right things, if I am not following You, I am in outsider. When people ask if I am a Christian, let my footsteps demonstrate the truth of my answer.

60 thoughts on “What Makes A Christian A Christian?

  1. Beejai. ..
    Who if they are a true Christian could dare argue that.

    Your remarks are not so far unlike the patristic expressions expressed by those mentioned in the “300 Sayings ” series…

    I left a reference to the sites I used for guidance on this.

    I am fuzzy in my remembrance, but you seem to have tapped into the Desert Fathers…if you can access the Philokalia, it is reading along the same lines…

    Or…to start out small, which is recommended, look up St.lack the Syrian. ..just to whet the thirst for such knowledge .

    Let me know if you have the chance to check that out.


  2. I believe that the name Christian was first given to followers of Christ in the Bible. A true follower of Christ believes in salvation through faith alone in the death, burial & resurrection of Jesus. No works or other deeds can get you to heaven. “For by grace are Ye saved through faith, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

    • “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

  3. Well done, concise and thoughtful, embracing the heart of Christianity while scouring humanities history. Not an easy task but you did it gracefully. God bless you Beejai.

  4. Beejai… you might enjoy reading Wounded By Love – The Life and the Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios..also Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives by Elder Thaddeus (my favorite) I am thoroughly enjoying the work of God in you!

  5. I personally believe that a man cannot fully receive the Holy Spirit unless he marries his soul mate. That’s what is written in Genesis. The Holy Spirit was called the Tree of Life because its fruit was an everlasting life. It is guarded by Cherubim against men because the hearts of men are evil.

  6. I like your post, and I would add that, for me, the hallmark of a Christian is someone who lives the teachings of Jesus and walks His path of loving God and neighbor.

  7. I used to think we made moves. The reality is that Jesus shows us his world. In relationships & as Holy Spirit guides us our ideas change. Paul & John in NT had their thinking “blown away”. All old ideas of a Distant Vengful God of OT change to loving Father in NT

  8. The Disciples in Antioch were first called Messianic Jews . . . (from the Acts 11:26, Complete Jewish Bible) Good points. My studies of early church history and how the canon was formed by the Apostolic traditions telling Jesus like Jesus was with Holy Spirit nurture is key to open something . . . a door for Jewish homecoming. What does it take for a Jew to become a Christian? Nothing, because they can’t. Jews become Messianic when receiving Yeshua (Jesus). There is no big change, except for religion to become living faith. Tradition may not change so much, but the Old Covenant becomes New (Covenant). And this brings me to the question, how can Messianic Jews join the Church? Or, even better, how can the Church join with Messianic Jews? What came first? The Chicken or the Egg? (I don’t believe this theological comment came down to this.) CB3

    • Romans 3 says that in Christ there is no Jew nor Greek. The Church is simply the Body of Christ, and any who are called by God and make Christ Lord of their life became a member of Christ’s body. It is not a matter of the Messianic Jew joining the Church or vice versa because (as Beejai said) it’s all about Jesus! It’s about us all Jew, Greek, male and female being joined to Christ.

      • Thanks for your theologycake perspective. Good point! I agree our future is still being formed. I need to subscribe to you. I am not a scholar, but more like a journalist, and when someone yanks my chain, about my understanding of bible, I have to comment. My quote was from the Complete Jewish Bible, have you seen that? I think such brilliant translations may help more Jewish folk to seriously consider becoming Messianic Jews (same as Christian). I need to read you. . . 🙂 [Also see the Messianic Manifesto by David Stern.]

        • It would be great to hear your perspective on my blog, Charles. I am snooping around your site as we speak! I haven’t read the Complete Jewish Bible. I should check it out. I’m not a scholar too 🙂 But I don’t think it is necessary to have a seminary degree, as every Christian is called to be a student of the Word. Sound theology, I believe, is informed from basic instruction in how to study, with the inspiration and teaching of the Holy Spirit and is held accountable in Christian community.

          Yes! Good translations are very helpful in study. Evangelism, particularly evangelism and Jews is a very interesting (and I would guess it can be a very divisive) conversation. I’ll be sure to look up Stern as well. Thanks for the tip!

        • Thanks sir/ma’am for an enthusiastic reply to my seemingly invasive comment. Snoop away. I hope my stuff is linked properly. I am learning to place links in first paragraphs that can target more distant paragraphs as a help to bring end-points into view. For example, last week I wrote a page called Twelve Mysteries and it became too long. Such monster pages can use some structure to help readership. 🙂

  9. Jesus became my friend, long before I accepted him as my saviour
    As to “what-makes-a-Christian-a-Christian” a person become a Christian when he / she accepts Jesus and dies to “self” and asks Christ into his / her heart

  10. Reblogged this on ChristianBlessings and commented:
    Only Jesus Christ makes A Christian a Christian.. A person does not become a Christian by religious practice or fancy doctrines. Let us be assured we have that personal relationship with Christ and crown Him Savior and Lord of or lives.

  11. Amen-Amein!! Jesus ( Yeshua ) Christ is KING of kings and LORD of lords, HE is the ALPHA and OMEGA, the FIRST and the LAST!!

    Happy Shavua Tov Everyone ( A good Week )!!

    Love Always and Shalom, YSIC \o/

    Kristi Ann

  12. Christian, of course, suggests being Christ like – a follower of the Christ and in context, Jesus. However I believe this discussion is more about Salvation. Consider this: The Word was with God and Was God. The Word is God. The Word filled a Man? The New Testament would say yes. The New Testament is part of a canon put together around 260ad by people we do not know. Can I know God today? I would answer, yes we can know God/The Word today. We can know Him personally and communicate with Him. The Question: Should the Ground of my faith be history or personal knowledge? Should my focus be on what I get for my faith or on what my faith gives me the strength to give to others in time, energy and love?

  13. So appreciate this post. My latest post received two very heavy comments and it was so good for me to work through them in my mind, but I also needed encouragement from others. Others who love Jesus at their savior. So I appreciate reading your profound yet simple truths here.

  14. I always believed with a very immature mind that all knew Christian meant following Jesus Christ. Until I realized that some call themselves Christian because they believe there is a God. It disturbed me that polls show that 70 called themselves Christian in America but only 20+ percent believe Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. So now when I say Christian I add a (following Jesus Christ) God Almighty sent His son to save man-kind. He is the truth and the only way to be a Christian. For only The Lamb is worthy….. to save

  15. John 3:3 is our Lord Jesus’ recommendation. Turning Romans 10:10 into a prayer of salvation, from ones heart, gets a person born again and he becomes a Christian. Satan, the enemy knows this, so, what does he do? He uses wolves in sheep’s skin to pervert the work of the cross. Did Jesus not warn that many are called, few are chosen? “Broad is the way”, He taught, “and many go through that route, to their eternal destruction”, the good Lord concluded. Let true believers keep practising the true faith so as to show those who have not yet apprehended the glorious Light: JESUS! AMEN!!

  16. Beejai, you have a wonderful understanding of the spirit of scripture. As far as what makes a Christian a ‘Christian’ the answer is given repeatedly by Christ in harmony with his words found in Matthew 12:46-50, those who obey his last commandment before going up to heaven in Matthew 28:19,20 and follow council found in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. The closing words of that last passage remind us that we are all sinners and fighting our own inclinations towards what is wrong. We must be patient and not​ pharisaecal in our treatment of those who are slightly weaker than ourselves spiritualy ​at any given point. Keep in mind the two greatest commandments that call on Christ followers (Christians) to love in everything we do. A TRUE CHRISTIAN is a person who attracts people to Christ through a genuine love of them.

  17. It is definitely something to consider. I think we become Christian because we know that we can not do it on our own. We are always constantly asking God for help and I believe that that is the hardest thing for us Christians to admit. When we need help.

  18. Well structured and said. My sentiments are as yours. It’s about our personal relationship with God and not where where we do church.

  19. A Christian is not a Christian by what they say but how they live. So many people think it’s just following a bunch of rules but really it’s a lifestyle in reaction to a God who loves them.

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