The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. (NIV, Acts 11:26)
In the Nazarene Church, one of our core values is that we are a Christian church. Let me be clear to begin with, there are many Christian churches that bring many beautiful, and distinctive characteristics to God’s Church. We have differences, but we are bound by some common beliefs that make us Christian. So, what is a Christian?
The short answer is simply that a Christian is a person who puts their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. This sounds like the obvious answer, but it demands that a question be answered: “Which Jesus?” See, the name, “Jesus”, itself is not what the Christian puts their faith and trust in. It is the specific person that the name represents and that the Christian follows. The Jesus that the Christian puts their faith and hope in is the Jesus of the Bible.
The Bible teaches us, among many other things, that Jesus is not a created being, nor is he the product of God the Father having relations with another being. John writes, for the intent purpose of clarifying some things about Jesus:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3 NIV)
The Jesus that Christians worship is God. As we dig more into the Bible, we find that He is part of the Triune God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 8:6; Matt. 3:16-17; 1 Pet. 1:2). The Bible also teaches that there is only one God and all other gods are imaginary (Deut. 6:4; Is. 44:6; 1 Tim. 2:5). In other words, the Jesus of the Bible is not one of many gods, nor a lineage of gods, but the only God.
The Jesus of the Bible is also incarnate. That is to say, He took on real flesh and became absolutely human while still being absolutely God (Col. 2:9). The Jesus of the Bible left no room for the idea that He was simply a good man, or a great prophet. A person named Jesus, who was a good person, and only a good person, sounds wonderful, but he is not the Jesus of the Bible.
The Jesus of the Bible is also the expected messiah. The Jews anticipated one whom God would send to establish His kingdom forever. He would be the savior of Yahweh’s people. Many expected a great conqueror who would pour out God’s wrath upon their enemies and establish the kingdom through military power. This was not the messiah that came. When Jesus came, He preached radical ideas like, love your enemy (Matt. 5:43-45), and serve others (Matt. 20:26-28). They responded by crucifying Him until dead.
That which was meant to kill Jesus, God used to create life. Through the death of Jesus, the Bible teaches us that atonement was created for anyone who would receive God’s mercy. Paul explains this aspect very clearly when he writes:
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Rom. 10:9-10 NIV)
The Jesus of the Bible created a means of salvation that is only accessible by faith. In other words, you cannot possibly do enough good deeds on your own to earn it. To be clear, the Jesus of the Bible, also teaches that true faith will always result in good deeds (Matt. 22:37-40; see also James 2:14-17).
The Christian is the one who puts their faith and trust in this Jesus. He is God alone and the creator. He was crucified—creating the only means of salvation and rose from the dead—assuring eternal life. He commanded that we love others and deny ourselves for the sake of Him and His kingdom. This is the Jesus of the Bible. This is the Jesus that the Christian puts their faith and trust in.
Following, and obeying this Jesus is the only thing that truly makes us Christian.
Grafted by His Grace,
Pastor Raul Granillo