Who is a Christian?

Romans 2:17-29

The single greatest question that a person will ever consider is this: “Am I a Christian?” Eternity itself waits for the answer. If the answer is, “Yes, I am a Christian,” positive consequences will result: a belief in, and a love for Jesus Christ, as both Lord and Savior; the pursuit of holiness (Romans 2:7); a Divine evaluation of heart and life on the final Day of Judgment (Romans 2:6); the granting of eternal life (Romans 2:7).

If the answer to the great question of one’s divine relationship is, “No, I am not a Christian,” then four consequences will follow: life will continue to be lived in rebellion to the Lord; each day sins will be added to a treasury of wrath (Romans 2:5); a day of divine evaluation will come (Romans 2:6); and tribulation and anguish will be rewarded to the unrighteous, for sinners will be confirmed in a state of wickedness (Romans 2:16).

A terrible future waits all who are outside the sphere of grace, and the mercy of God. It is also unnecessary, for the gospel invites all men to salvation and service. But the gospel also warns individuals to count the cost of spiritual commitment. Only those who endure unto the end shall be saved. Only those who follow Christ to the Cross will receive eternal life. A person who decides to commit himself to Christ will be asked another question, which is this: “What is the evidence of salvation?”

People may think that they are saved, when they are not. People may sincerely believe that religious activity equals salvation, but it doesn’t. The greatest illustration of this delusional thinking is found in the history of the Jews.

The Jews came to a place in their religious experience when they thought they could rest. They believed in life after death, and they were confident that they had eternal life, and would live forever in the presence of God. Their confidence was built upon certain pre-suppositional thoughts.

  • Racial superiority. The Jews believed in this and they believed that of all the races, they were the most excellent one (Romans 2:17).
  • The Law of Moses. The Jews were proud that to them was given the Law of God (Romans 2:17).
  • Monotheism. The Jews did not worship idols of wood and stone, like the Gentile nations (Romans 2:17).
  • Divine Revelation. The Jews knew the will of God (Romans 2:18).
  • A Superior Social Code. The Jews were able to render righteous judgment in social disputes because they judged out of the Law (Romans 2:18).
  • The Ability to Teach. The Jews were confident that they, above all others, could be, and should be, the guide to the morally blind, and a light to all that are in darkness (Romans 2: 19-20).

Given all of this background, is it any wonder that the Jews looked at themselves as being safe and secure, and in favor with God above all others? Is it any wonder that they yielded to the sins of pride and self-righteousness? If the Church recoils at the arrogance of the Jews of old, it shouldn’t because the ancient sins of Israel have become, in many cases, the modern sins of the Church. The charge can be made fairly, that a large portion of the professing Church is religious, but not regenerated. The charge can be made that a large portion of the corporate Church has become smug, and self-righteous, and spiritually satisfied. A sense of security prevails inside the Western Church at the end of the twentieth century. The Church has grown to be proud of herself for several reasons.

  • The Church has a more complete Bible. If the Jews had the Law of Moses and the prophets, the Church has that, and more, for the Church has the gospel, the epistles of Paul, and the Revelation of John.
  • The Church knows the Messiah. While the Jews continue to look for the Messiah, the Church has found Him.
  • The Church has a rich heritage. Like the Jews, the Church honors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  • The Church believes that she is now a guide to the blind and a light to those who are in darkness (Romans 2:19-20).

Is it any wonder that so many within the Church have succumbed to the temptation to be self-righteous? To both the Jews of old and to the Church today comes the gospel message that religion is not righteousness. Works of the flesh do not equal works of righteousness. The root of righteousness will produce the fruit of righteousness. It is this holy fruit which was missing in the life of the Jews according to Paul, and it is this holy fruit which is missing in the life of the Church today. Specific shocking behavior can be noticed in both ancient and modern structures.

Paul implies that the Jews were guilty of stealing. While teaching others not to steal, the Jews stole from God by failing to honor Him with their gifts. Paul implies that the Jews were guilty of committing adultery. While teaching others that God hates immorality, this practice was tearing the social fabric of society apart. Paul implies that the Jews were guilty of idolatry. While teaching others not to have any God but Jehovah, the Jews were guilty of covetous which in the sight of the Lord is idolatry. The whole argument of the Apostle is that the lifestyle of the Jews proved that they had no true spiritual life that was pleasing to God.

Every Christian man must ask himself, “Do I blaspheme the name of God by the life I live?” Every Christian woman must ask herself, “Do I blaspheme the name of God by the life I live?” Every Church must ask itself, “Do we blaspheme the name of God by the life that we are now living?” If the honest answer is, “Yes!” then the lesson needs to be learned: “Not all Christians are Christian” just as “not all Jews are Jews.” If that teaching sounds confusing and contradictory, it isn’t really. The Bible teaches that God recognizes different kinds of Jews and different kinds of Christians.

For example, there are the racial Jew, the religious Jew, and the regenerate Jew. The racial Jew is anyone who is a direct descendent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The religious Jew refers to those who observe the Law of Moses while the regenerate Jew has reference to those who honor and unite with the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So it is in the Church. Racial Christians are people who sincerely believe that they were born and baptized into the Christian faith because they are Italian, or American, or some other nationality. Salvation is identified with the race itself. Then come religious Christians, who believe that living a moral life, joining a Church, or doing good works will get them into heaven. Salvation is something that was given to them in a religious ceremony as children. Salvation then is something for them to lose; it is not a Pearl of great treasure to be found. Last, there are regenerate Christians, those who have been born from above by the Spirit of the living God. Only the regenerate Christian is truly born of God and pleases Him. Only those regenerated by the Holy Spirit have a heart of flesh.