What is a Christian?
Well, to begin with, it's not what an atheist or an agnostic says a Christian is. Neither is it what a Hindu or a Muslim says a Christian is. And most surprisingly of all, perhaps, it's not what a Christian says a Christian is either!
A Christian is what Christ says a Christian is because He is the Person who started our religion. How does one know what Christ said? Quite simply, by reading what He said in the Bible.
When He left this world, Christ gave all authority to His twelve apostles. So we can know what a Christian is by what His apostles said too.
A Christian who believes in what the Bibles says about his religion may therefore be called a 'Bible-believing Christian'. That is what we in this ministry claim to be: Bible-believing Christians.
A person who teaches or practices anything that contradicts what Christ or His apostles said cannot therefore be a Christian. He can call himself that, but as far as the Bible testimony is concerned, he is not one. He can be a 'Christian' but not a 'Bible-believing Christian'. It's important we distinguish the two
Many who claim to be Christians get around this 'problem' by saying that 'tradition' is important too, even when tradition contradicts what the Bible plainly teaches. Christ had a few things to say about people who put their traditions before biblical truth. He strongly criticised those who ignored the teachings of the Bible for the sake of their own tradition, because these traditions make the Words of God null and void (Matthew 15:3,6; Mark 7:13). To such people He said:
"You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 'These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men'" (Matthew 15:7-9, NIV).
If you are a Christian and want to believe in 'tradition' outside the Bible, you can of course do that if you want. We live in a free society and God has given us the power of free choice. No one can force you - or should force you - to believe what you don't want to believe. We at IAT respect that right to choose. Everyone is free to choose what he wants to believe in. But please remember Christ calls such people "hypocrites" because they profess to believe in one thing (what the Bible teaches) yet believe and practice what the Bible doesn't teach - their own 'tradition', whether in 'church tradition' or the Jewish "tradition of the elders" (Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:3,5).
It's not always our fault that we believe in tradition. We're not responsible for the way we were raised and what we were taught when we were young. God is merciful, kind and patient with us in our ignorance and gives us grace with time to repent when we come to know the truth (Acts 17:30). Parents have the responsibility to raise their children but when we are adult it's important that we constructively challenge what we were taught with a view to honouring what the Bible teaches if it's a Christian we claim to be. People in their late teens and twenties do this anyway. It's a part of maturing. I was raised in the Episcopalian tradition, and though I was an atheist for many years, I assumed (wrongly) that Episcopalian tradition and Bible teaching were one and the same. I was wrong. I was to discover that the Bible teaches very different things to "human tradition" (Colossians 2:8). It is surprising just how brainwashed we have been by those who adhere to tradition, who were brainwahed in their turn by their fathers. Ultimately the responsibility for this error falls on our ancestors who knew the truth and willfully turned away from it. So we must be charitable because we too were once ignorant.
Let me give you an example. If someone calling themselves a Christian told you: "A Christian is a person who goes to Church on Sunday", most people - Christian and non-Christian - would assume that was true because millions do. But did you know that the Bible nowhere speaks of people going to a 'church', let alone to church on a Sunday? From Genesis to Revelation, we find the same witness: people either worshipped at home, outdoors, in the tabernacle, temple, or synagogue. But never a 'church'. And did you know that from the beginning of time, the people always worshipped on the creation rest day - without exception? And the Bible gives it a name - it's called the Seventh Day Sabbath (Gen.2:2-3; Ex.20:8-10). The idea that one worships in a 'church' or on Sunday is a "human tradition". It's not biblical. It wasn't taught by Christ and it wasn't taught by His apostles. The excuse is given that Christ was resurrected on a Sunday so it is fitting that we change the Sabbath from the creation rest day to Sunday. But did you know that the Bible strictly forbids changing God's appointments? And did you know that Christ wasn't resurrected on a Sunday but a Saturday?
Now I can understand how a Christian who has always worshipped in a church on Sundays might think worshipping somewhere else on a creation rest day (which isn't Saturday either, incidentally) is 'strange', 'weird' or even 'cultic'. I've certainly been called these things by Sunday Church-worshippers. But as one Bible-believing Christian amusingly retorted to being called 'weird': "That's OK. I just believe more of the Bible than you do." And that's basically what the great 'controversy' is between Christians with different beliefs - some believe in the Bible more than others, and the others believe in "human tradition" more than their Bibles.
Well, it's all very well to say that a true Christian is a 'Bible-believing Christian'. There are many who claim to be 'Bible-believing Christians' and yet they belong to churches and denominations who all teach different things. Again, we have to ask: how much of the Bible do they believe? Typically, they will answer "all of it", but once you show them something that contradicts what the Bible teaches, they will usually fall back on some sort of 'tradition' to justify themselves.
Let me give you another example. If someone calling themselves a Christian told you: "A Christian celebrates Christmas on 25 December each year", most people - Christian and non-Christian - would assume that was true because millions do. But did you know that the Bible nowhere speaks of Christians celebrating Christmas? In fact, it specifically forbids celebrating any religious festival (as opposed to a private one like a wedding anniversary) that God has not appointed! Worse, Christmas can be traced to a pagan festival which the Bible specifically forbids. In fact, God has given all true believers moedim or 'Appointments' in which they are to gather together for worship. First, there is the weekly seventh-day Sabbath (the same as Seventh-Day Adventists and many other Sabbatarian Christians and Messianics observe). Second, there is the monthly New Moon. And third, there are the Seven Festivals which are known as Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement and Booths.
To get around the plain Bible teaching so that they can continue with their traditions, many Christians claim that we are not under the Law anymore and that Christ abolished all of these moedim. The odd thing is (from the traditionalists' view-point), Christ specifically upheld the moedim and told us to observe them "until heaven and earth disappear" (Matthew 5:17-20). And neither He nor the apostles taught that Christians were no longer "under the Law".
Let me give you one final example (I could give you hundreds). If someone calling themselves a Christian told you: "A Christian believes in God whose Name is Jehovah but whom we just call 'Lord'", most people - Christian and non-Christian would assume that was true because millions do. But did you know that one of the Ten Commandments specifically commands us to worship God's using His Name (Gen.4:26; 12:8; 13:4; 21:33; 26:25; Ex.6:3; 15:3; 20:7; 33:19; Lev.22:2 ... Rev.15:4, etc.) and gives that Name hundreds of times in the Bible? And did you know that His Name is Yahweh? If you didn't, I wouldn't blame you, because most of our Bibles have been changed by Jewish scribes who thought the Name too holy to utter and substituted in 'Adonai', meaning 'Lord', instead. Yet God has forbidden anyone from changing the Bible. Fortunately, there are many pious believers who are restoring the true Name of God back to the Bible. In fact, if you are a committed Christian, you would be horrified to learn where our English words 'God', 'Lord' and such come from. You would be even more appalled to learn that the word 'Jehovah' means 'God is perverse' in Hebrew - it's a bastard word made by combining the consonants of one (YHWH) with the vowels of another (Adonai). It never existed in the Bible and is an affront to Yahweh. And in case you didn't know, Christ was never called 'Jesus' in the Bible but Yah'shua or Yeshua - the word 'Jesus' didn't even exist when the New Testament was written.
You would be shocked to discover just how much "human tradition" actually exists in Christendom which is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Indeed the Christian assemblies looked nothing like the modern or even 'traditional', 'orthodox' churches we find today. They didn't babble gibberish or roll around on the floor laughing or in uncontrollable spasms as millions of charismatic Christians do today but had the gift of speaking known foreign languages supernaturally. They didn't worship a 'Trinity' but worshipped Yahweh-Elohim as Echad (One) (Mark 12:29), and they didn't (as is the trend today in liberal churches) say that all religions are much the same. They didn't believe that husband and wife were 'co-heads' in the family or that believers only met together with other believers once a week every Sunday, but that the father was the head of the household and that the passion for Christian fellowship was so strong that they lived close by to one other, met frequently in each other's homes and pooled their resources for cooperative ministry a bit like modern kibbutz's! (Acts 2:42-47). And above all, they were characterised by three things: faith in Christ, obedience to the commandments, and love for one another:
"Here is the patience of the saints (believers, Christians); here are those who keep the commandments (Torah/Law) of Elohim (God) and the faith of Yah'shua (Jesus)" (Revelation 14:12, NKJV).
"My (Yah'shua's/Jesus') command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command" (John 15:12-15, NIV).
They sung the "Song of the Lamb" (Yah'shua/Jesus/New Testament) and the "Song of Moses" (The Torah/Law/Revelation of Yahweh the Father) (Rev.15:3). With the Law of Torah in one hand and the testimony and faith of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) in the other, they lived a Gospel rather more complete and whole than the one being preached by the majority of churches and Christians.
So what is a Christian? I hope that I have given you pause for thought. If you would like further information, please get in contact with me.
May you be blessed in your search to discover what Biblical Christianity actually is.
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