Someone recently asked me “How can Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Biblical Unitarians and Trinitarians all say they are 'Christians' when they each believe in a different God or a different Jesus?"
My first thought was, “Whoever believes what I believe is a true Christian because I know the truth!” Sound kind of like just about every church you walk into? Good thing I didn’t say that out loud! This type of knee jerk reaction to another’s beliefs causes more separation among the Body of Christ than in fixes. We need to suck up our pride in order to humble ourselves to the Word of God.
Instead of responding with a quick shot of personal opinion I went to the bible. After careful study and deep consideration, here’s my answer straight from the Word: We are to accept as fellow Christians all those who call on the name of the Lord Christ Jesus, believe in him and accept him as their personal Lord.
That’s everyone. You have to accept them as fellow Christians even if they don’t believe in God or Jesus the same way you do. Like freakin’ OUCH! Right? There’s a good and very logical reason for this seeming atrocity of justice against your personal pride. I’ll explain why in a little while. Let’s get the basics down first.
The apostle Peter says in Acts 2:21, “…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Everyone without distinction but with one primary rule. Anyone who does not accept and conform to this one rule disqualifies themselves from being a true Christian.
That rule is found in Romans 10:9. The apostle Paul says “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” That rule is “Believing”. Believing is where the journey of being a true Christian begins.
Back to Acts 2, a few verses later in the same speech, Peter says in verse 38, “Repent, [metanoeó - to change one's mind or purpose – has little to do with feeling sorry or ashamed] and each of you be baptized [immersed] in the name [character, authority] of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive [Greek word lambano – receive into manifestation] [of the] gift, the Holy Spirit.”
To be a true Christian, a real follower of Christ, the ones calling out to Jesus must change their mind and life purpose, believe in their heart that Jesus Christ is Lord and that God raised him from the dead meaning he is alive and functioning in his job as savior today.
Knowing this, ask yourself an honest question. Do you meet those criteria? If so, then you are a true Christian regardless of your status in life, your age, your race, your gender or “life choice persuasion”, your position in your church, or even who or what you believe Jesus and God to be.
When Saul went looking for Christians to persecute and throw into prison, he looked for “all who call on [his] name” (Acts 9:14). So we see that the biblical phrase for designating members of his Body is those who call on his name, or recognize him as their Savior.
Many Christians argue about their beliefs on who Jesus Christ really is. Some say he is the Son of God, others say he’s God himself while others say Jesus is Michael the arch angel; and so on.
People do not have to believe in the fullness or even the accuracy of the truth to be saved, but they MUST turn their hearts toward God for deliverance through Christ FIRST. Not to the government, or to themselves, not to the Pope or to other gods... but to God Almighty himself regardless of the minute details of their own personal theology.
Now take a second and breathe. Let all that sink in. If you have any pride in your personal beliefs concerning the bible or any arrogance toward being SURE you are right, then you need to let that go and be meek to what the Word says and be humble to God’s level of grace.
And thank God for that level of grace! Think back to when you first gave your life to the Lord. How much of the bible did you know at that time? Probably not nearly as much as you do today.
Do you think the 3000+ souls who were saved after Peter’s moving speech in Acts 2 knew the fullness of the truth in God’s Word? Not even close! They were a diversified group of people, some Jews and others from many different religious and theological backgrounds.
Some even believed in a pantheon of Greek and Roman gods. But they believed in the man from Nazareth whom Peter preached. They believed in God’s son whom God raised from the dead and the people were saved.
People must turn their hearts to God first before He can work with them otherwise they are hopelessly lost to the world and subject to the devil. Personally speaking, this makes sense to me. I was polluted by the world and before I turned to the Lord. I prayed from my heart with tears in my eyes for Him to show me the truth and thus began my 20+ year journey into spiritual discovery (and still learning more every day).
The same can be for everyone else if they just turn to God for answers first, cry out to Him for knowledge and wisdom and put their trust in Him to help us fix our problems through the salvation of the Lord Jesus. Psalm 34:15–17 says, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.”
God is faithful to His promises. God’s will is that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. As 1 Timothy 2:3 says, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,”
There’s something about truth. Most think it’s subjective to one’s own opinion. But if that were the case, then technically it can not be truth. Truth is based on infallible fact. Anything less is merely conjecture.
There can only be ONE true Jesus. But since the truth of God is spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2:14), we’ll never know exactly what that truth is until we take the first step of joining the family of God by accepting the Messiah as our personal Lord and savior. Then, and ONLY then can the truth of God’s word begin to be revealed to us AS WE STUDY AND LEARN. No study = No learning.
Let’s put all this into a real world example.
Let’s say you work for a business owned by your father that is like a rescue mission; and you’re the manager. You’re job is to take people in, clothe them, gives them protection, a job, some authority and a purpose.
What if someone calls out to you for help, but they don’t know you very well. They get your name wrong or they think you’re the boss when you’re only the boss’s son. They’re not entirely sure what your business is or what it does, etc.
What do you do? Do you turn him away because he got your name wrong? Or because he’s not 100% clear about the inner workings of your business?
All this person knows is that you help people, and he needs help right now. You wouldn’t turn him away in his time of need on a technicality would you? Of course you wouldn’t! You’d take him in and teach him.
Is Jesus any different than you in this respect? Do you really think Jesus would turn someone away simply because they’re a little fuzzy on the details? He would not be a very good savior if he did that.
So you take him in and begin teaching him things he needs to know. You teach him who you are. What your placement in the company is. How things work. What his new job is. Who he now works for. How much authority he has.
Then you give him the tools he needs to do his job correctly (the gift of holy spirit) and sent him on his way. You offer him a direct line so he can call you anytime has questions or needs some extra help with something.
What if you take this guy in but he refuses to learn anything about the company or accept any job assignments. He just hangs around doing nothing but always expects or even demands a handout. And then blames you because things don’t go perfectly his way or doesn’t get exactly what he wants when he wants it. (Sound like any Christians you know?)
Can you fire him? Kick him out? Force him to work? No, no and no. All that is strictly against company policy.
Company policy clearly states that if someone calls out to the boss or to his son, and believes in his heart that the company can help, that the son is alive and accepts the son as his boss, then he’s hired. He is to be treated as family. He can never be fired. His placement in that company can never be taken away from him no matter what.
Can he gain favor with the boss by learning everything he can about the company then doing his job to the best of his abilities? Sure he can!
Can he lose favor by laying around, doing nothing, not learning anything and not doing his job? Of course. He certainly won’t be winning any awards. He may even be downgraded in pay and authority, but never fired; at least in this lifetime.
A scenario like that in a real job can be frustrating. To those who play by the rules, do their job and get things done, special treatment to the slackers in life does not sit well with our sense of fairness.
This is where we need to be meek and humble to God’s Will that all mankind be saved and come to a full knowledge of the truth. The door to God’s kingdom is always open to anyone who has enough gumption and courage to walk through it. If God kicks them out or closes the door then His Will can not come to pass.
You get it now? You see why we have to accept all believers as Christians regardless of their personal beliefs? How smart is God? How righteous is God?
Wrapping it all up
Throughout time God has granted special abilities to certain people at certain times. To get them out of trouble or just to bless them, God has shown great love and mercy to his people. Just like in the days of old, this special love and mercy is still available today. As a matter of fact God has poured out more love and mercy to us in this generation than he has ever before to anyone else… including his Chosen People (the Jews in the OT)!
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, so that who ever would believe on him would be saved. Saved is the Greek word “sozo”. It means saved or rescued from a problem or situation. It also means made whole from an affliction, as in healed.
What are we saved and healed from? From ourselves, from this evil world and from the penalty of sin to name a few out of many!
Man was originally created in the likeness of God. Not physically, but spiritually. Natural man now has body and soul from birth. Soul is breath life. What’s missing in us is that third part Adam and Eve lost. It’s that part from God that makes man truly special; God’s essence in us. The part of God that can be in man but not define him. Can give him power but not rule over him. Can give him righteousness without being a burden.
This essence is the part of God that is called holy spirit. After the fall of Adam, man was stripped of God’s holy essence. It was not until the Messiah arrived that man could have holy essence infused within him again. This messiah has a name. His name is Jesus. His title is Christ. Christ in Greek means anointed. In Hebrew it means Messiah; same title, different languages.
The love that God showed for his chosen people was astounding. He shaded them from the burning sun. He fed them in the desert. He protected them from their enemies. He gave them riches, honor and glory. But ultimately they rejected Him. This brought a profound sadness to our creator who has been sad over it for a long time. But one day they will rise from their slumber and be risen in glory.
Then they who have eyes to see will truly see. Until then, God lives in this world though us, His dear children. With power He asserts glory upon the world… the world he created but has long forgotten him. A world of untold riches, locked in a struggle over damnation and righteousness. Good vs. Evil, Right vs. Wrong, Man’s choices vs. the way God originally intended it.
Be of good courage. Know that your dear father loves you. He has already taken care of you. He has given us, his dear children a little bit of His essence. He’s freely made it available to anyone willing to reach out and accept it; taking it into their own hearts and using it for the glory of God.
What a wondrous thing, this gift of holy spirit. To some, it’s shrouded in mystery; they have it but don’t know what to do with it. To others, it’s lost inside them; they have it and don’t even know it. It’s our job to learn how to use this awesome gift that God has so graciously given us.
This gift holds the potential to do what our Lord Jesus did AND greater (John 14:12). It’s available to everyone who believes. That is the key to all the power in the universe. You have to BELIEVE.
Believe in God. Believe in yourself. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Accept him as your Messiah, as your personal Lord and savior. Believe that He lived a perfect life and died as restitution for your sins. Believe that God raised him up from the dead and that He’s alive today in power, authority and might over his church.
Believe that you too can take part in the Messiah’s kingdom by simply accepting the offer placed before you… before everyone. Jew or Gentile. There is no longer any distinction.
You decide. You believe. You receive. You put the power into action in your heart then it manifests itself unto the world. This great gift was given in part to only a righteous few over thousands of years throughout the OT. It was prophesied that one day it would be fully bestowed upon all of God’s chosen people (the Jews of the OT).
But God had a secret. A “Sacred Secret” that he held from the ages. A secret so intense that if the devil knew of it, he would never have killed the Messiah. This secret is Christ in you, the hope of Glory. It is holy spirit manifest inside you.
Like a seed that is planted in your heart, it is watered by love and obedience to God, and then blossoms into a tree producing the most wonderful fruit. This fruit is called the fruit of the spirit. The fruit of the spirit is manifest as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as listed in Galatians 5:22-23.
Along with the fruit you also get power. Great power that can move mountains, control the weather and cast out demons to name just a few. You get ultimate spiritual power by the strength of God. Anyone can have it. Not just some of it… ALL OF IT!
So what’s the catch? There’s always a catch right? The catch is that you have to repent, have a change of mind and purpose toward life and godliness. You have to believe in, call out to and accept the Messiah as your Lord, as one who has authority over you.
When you do that, when you accept him as your Lord, as being in charge of you, and you love him, then you should learn his teachings and you obey his words.
Jesus has the final word on this subject. He said in John 8:31, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples”. By accepting Christ as your Lord, by following his teachings and being obedient to them, that makes you a follower of Christ; His disciple, a true Christian. God bless you!
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About your True Christian Teacher:
Daniel Sweet is the founder and President of God's Word First Christian Ministry. He is an ordained minister, biblical scholar, true Christian teacher of the holy spirit and an expert author on the subject of Leadership.
He and his wife, Debbra Sweet have overseen the growth and development of multiple in home fellowships and have been instrumental in helping many people come to the knowledge and truth of God’s Word.