What is a Christian?

If we talk to twenty different people who call themselves Christians and ask them, "What is a Christian", I think we would get more than ten different answers. Most of the definitions would be about what we do. That's how we've learned to think. Though some would be related in various ways, being a Christian means different things to different people.

One of the problems in understanding what it means to be a Christian is that we often discuss it in terms of what a person does to become a Christian. How you become a Christian is a different question than what a Christian is.

At the beginning of the Church, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter was speaking to the Jews that God brought together. Here at the birth of the Church, many of these Jews were asking, "What shall we do?"

"Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.' …And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, 'Be saved from this perverse generation!' (Acts 2:38ff.)

Peter described salvation in two important parts. He said to believe and be baptized, and receive two things, the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. A Christian is a person who, by believing in Jesus Christ, has received these two things:

1. The forgiveness of sins - Something Christ did for me.

2. The gift of the Holy Spirit - Something He did in me.

This passage and many others show us that a Christian is a person who has been forgiven by God, on the basis of Christ's death in his behalf, and a person who has received the Spirit of God, God's very own life.

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Updated 6/1/2010