The number of people who profess Christianity can be counted in the millions. All think they are in right standing with God. But are they? There are many hundreds of differing doctrines. Can all of them be correct?
What did Jesus warn?
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matt. 7:13-14)
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matt. 7:21-23)
Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. (Luke 13:23-24)
Did Christ mean what He said? Indeed he did! The fact is: It is an enormous assumption to believe that because one professes Christ, he is a Christian and will be saved! The Apostle James wrote: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (Jas. 2:19-20).
To be a nominal Christian is one thing, but to really practice what Christ and the Bible command is another. How, then, can one really know he is a Christian and in right standing with God? How can he be identified?
From the statement that Jesus made in Matthew 7:21, we know one must do the will of the Father to be saved. What is the will of the Father? The answer: The same as that of Christ. Christ said: “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak” (John 12:49-50).
The Law of God
What should be obvious, then, is that a true Christian will be obedient to Christ and the Father. But how? The answer: A true Christian will keep the Law of God. This is exactly what Christ said we must do. His words were: ” . . . If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:17). When asked which, He said: ” . . . Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 19:18-19).
These are all part of the Ten Commandments. But notice: The first four of the Ten Commandments, as well as the tenth, are not mentioned. Does that mean we should not keep them? Some say so. They believe that obedience to these commandments is not necessary. If that is true, then it is all right to commit idolatry, to bow down before idols, to take God’s name in vain, to break the Sabbath, and to covet your neighbor’s wife and other various possessions. When asked what was the great commandment, Jesus said: ” . . . Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40). What this means is that true Christians must keep all Ten Commandments! Here is the reason: The first four commandments teach us how to love God, the last six how to love our fellow man. Could it be possible to love one’s neighbor, but not love God? Conversely, could it be possible to love God, but not one’s neighbor? According to Christ, it could not.
Many view the Old Testament Scriptures as obsolete. The God of the Old Testament is regarded as harsh and intolerant, but Christ is considered as loving and understanding, the One who freed us from the yoke of legalism. But what did Christ say? ” . . . It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). This includes the Scriptures from both the Old and New Testaments. Many do not understand that Christ was the God of the Old Testament! The Apostle wrote: “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:1-4).
The One who became Christ spoke the words of God recorded in the Old Testament. The words of God, therefore, are found in both the Old and New Testaments. Jesus said man must live by all of them.
This is why He said:
He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak. (John 12:48-50)
True Christians live according to these words and the Law of God. Near the “time of the end” those who truly keep the commandments of God will be persecuted. “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17).
The Sabbath and Holy Days
The Law of God includes the Sabbath and Holy Days. This is another important identifying sign of a true Christian. True Christians keep the Sabbath and Holy Days. Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28). One who is Lord is also Master. A master is one who is obeyed. The notion that the Sabbath was “done away” by the crucifixion of Christ is easily disproved. It was Christ who was nailed to the cross; the Law of God was not. In fact, a New Testament text clearly tells Christians to keep the Sabbath. It is found in Hebrews 4:9. The text reads: “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” In this chapter Paul illustrates the type and antitype. The type is the rest that Israel enjoyed after they took possession of the holy land. But the antitype is the real rest for all of mankind (which is salvation in the Kingdom of God). The word “rest” in Hebrews 4:9 is an incorrect translation. It is from the Greek word sabbatismos, which means “a keeping of the Sabbath.” Since the weekly Sabbath is a type of the rest in the Kingdom of God, Paul tells us there remains a keeping of the Sabbath for the people of God. Christ kept the seventh-day Sabbath, but did Paul? Yes, indeed! Notice Acts 13:14, 42-44; 17:2; 18:4.
What about the Holy Days? Should Christians observe them? Leviticus 23 lists all the Holy Days, along with the sacrifices. The assumption is that since the sacrifices are “done away,” the Holy Days are also done away. Is this true? It is clear that Christ kept them (Matt. 26:18, John 7:37). But some people reason that while Christ kept them, they are no longer necessary because the Law of God was nailed to the cross at the time of His death. Is this what the Apostle Paul believed? New Testament Christians, as well as Paul, kept them long after the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 2:1-2; 18:21; 20:16; 27:9). Obviously they did not believe the Holy Days were nailed to the cross. Both the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days are identifying signs of God’s true people.
The Correct Name
True Christians will be members of the Church that has the correct name. This is another important identifying sign. They recognize that the name of the true Church is the “Church of God.” No less than 12 times this name is mentioned in the New Testament. The first mention is in Acts 20:28: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy [Spirit] hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Next is 1 Corinthians 1:2: “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” Now turn to 1 Corinthians 10:32: “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.” Following is 1 Corinthians 11:16: “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” And 1 Corinthians 11:22: “What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.” 1 Corinthians 15:9 is another example: “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Another illustration is 2 Corinthians 1:1: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia.” Then turn to Galatians 1:13: “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it.” Also read 1 Thessalonians 2:14: “For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews.” 2 Thessalonians 1:4 adds to this: “So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure.” So does 1 Timothy 3:5: “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” And finally 1 Timothy 3:15: “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
It should be recognized, however, that while some call themselves by the correct name, they do not have the other identifying signs that are vitally important in establishing the identity of true Christians. All of the identifying signs are necessary in order to distinguish what is true and what is false. Read on to find what all these signs are.
The next identifying sign of true Christians is that they recognize the truth about pagan doctrines-doctrines that are accepted by the vast majority of professing Christians. The many pagan doctrines accepted by nominal Christianity stem from Greek Hellenism. Greek Hellenism originated in pagan speculation. Some of the major doctrines we need to consider in this article are: the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, the doctrine of heaven and hell, and the doctrine of law versus grace.
Consider the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Two texts alone are sufficient to completely discredit it. These are found in Ezekiel 18:4, 20: “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” See verse 20 also. The fact is that every human being has sinned. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Plainly, then, all will die. The Hebrew word for “soul” is nephesh. It simply refers to physical life, the result of air in the lungs and blood coursing through the veins. It means no more, no less. It carries no connotation of immortality. What happens when a man dies? God states: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:19). The fact is: The only hope of life after death is the resurrection of the dead.
The Apostle Paul wrote:
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Cor. 15:19-22)
But surely, the righteous man goes to heaven upon death. According to Jesus, he does not. He said: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:13). King David was a righteous man. If anyone should be in heaven it is David. Yet, what did the Apostle Peter say about David? “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. . . . For David is not ascended into the heavens . . . ” (Acts 2:29, 34). Does this contradict what the Bible says about the translation of Enoch, and how Elijah was carried off to heaven in a whirlwind? No it does not! The Bible speaks of three heavens-the atmosphere, that is, the proximity of the earth where air exists; the heavens, where the stars and other heavenly bodies are located; and, the third heaven, where God’s throne is located (See 2 Cor. 12:2). Enoch and Elijah were simply transferred to another location right here on the earth. They did not go to the heaven where God’s throne is located. Jesus said so!
The doctrine of heaven has its roots in Gnostic speculation, the same source from which Greek thought drew many of its doctrines. The pagan doctrine of heaven, decidedly, does not come from the Bible. Vague texts are interpreted to make it appear this is the case, but it is not. The Bible does not contradict itself (John 10:35). Vague passages must be understood in the light of clear and easily understood texts, not by discarding or ignoring them for the purpose of justifying false pagan doctrines. Clear-cut, easy-to- understand texts show the Bible does not support the doctrine of heaven as is believed by most professing Christians today. Church historians refer to the acceptance of these pagan doctrines as “the acute secularism or Hellenism of Christianity.”
The doctrine of an everburning hell is another belief that has its roots in paganism. It goes back to ancient Greek mythology, and was popularized during the Middle Ages by the work of Dante in his Divine Comedy. The Bible does not support the notion of an everburning hellfire. Again, vague texts are interpreted to justify this belief. Clear-cut texts show the opposite.
Take for example, Malachi 4:1-3:
For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.
The wicked are not tortured in agonizing pain for eternity. They die. The fate of the wicked is everlasting punishment, not everlasting punishing (Matt. 25:46). The Scriptures do not support the doctrine of an everburning hellfire.
God’s Health Law
Another important identifying sign is that true Christians understand God’s health law-the law of clean and unclean meats. While there are a number of factors that contribute to bad health, such as a lack of exercise, insufficient rest, improper diet, the over consumption of alcoholic beverages, cigarette smoking, stress, etc., the law of clean and unclean meats is paramount. It is found in Leviticus 11, and Deuteronomy 14.
Briefly, it forbids the consumption of fat, blood, and the flesh of all animals that do not have a split hoof and chew the cud. Included are all sea creatures that do not have both fins and scales. One who understands this law will quickly eliminate pork and shelled seafood from his or her diet. Many doctors have linked pork products and shellfish to serious diseases.
In spite of the clear-cut instruction in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, some people are determined to have it their way, so they use various Scriptures to encourage others that this law is “done away.” We have already seen that the Bible does not contradict, so are there Bible passages that permit us to eat these things? Matthew 15:17 is often mentioned for proof. However, an examination of this Scripture in context shows that Jesus was referring to unwashed hands, not unclean meats. Compare verse 20.
Another text often used is Acts 10:11-13. Notice, Peter himself did not believe what many today assume. A number of years after the crucifixion of Christ, when the Law of God supposedly had been “nailed to the cross and done away,” Peter had never eaten anything that was common or unclean (v. 14). To what, then, is verse 13 referring? The answer is given in verse 28. “And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” What is made plain, is that now the Gentiles were to be called to the knowledge of the Truth and were to be included all the privileges that had been given the Jewish converts. The text is not talking about unclean meats.
A text often quoted to support the notion that the Bible permits Christians to eat anything they wish is Romans 14. An examination of the chapter shows that the issue under discussion is weak Christians who practice vegetarianism and observe special fast days. It is not talking about unclean meats.
Lastly, 1 Timothy 4:1-5 is another text that needs an explanation. Among those things included in the doctrines of demons is abstaining from meats that God created for man’s use (v. 3). Yet, verse four seems to contradict this because it tells us every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused. What does this mean? The answer, of course, is found in verse five. Meats are not to be refused if sanctified (set apart) by the word of God and prayer. Where is meat sanctified or set aside in God’s Word? The answer: Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. Along with prayer at mealtime, those meats set apart in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 are the ones acceptable for eating.
Christians who understand God’s health law on proper meats to be eaten are not taken in by the specious arguments given above.
The Spirit of God
True Christians are different from others because they have the Spirit of God! This is a distinctive identifying sign of God’s true people. The unconverted will generally fail to appreciate and recognize this sign because outwardly a true Christian appears no different from any other person. But inwardly it is another matter entirely. True Christians recognize they are not perfect, and that they have faults and difficulties to overcome. But they have come a long way from the time they first committed their lives to God and Christ. Upon repentance and baptism God promises the gift of the Holy Spirit. “. . . Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy [Spirit]” (Acts 2:38).
The Spirit of God is given in measure for the purpose of mastering the pulls of human nature. Man’s nature is indeed his own worst enemy. Jesus said: ” . . .That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lascivious-ness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:20-23). The Apostle Paul adds: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21).
By means of the Holy Spirit, these characteristics can be suppressed and eventually overcome. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:22-24). This is what makes true Christians different. By using the Holy Spirit as God intended, they indeed become a “new man” (Eph. 4:23-24). “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). True Christians recognize this difference in their lives and, like the Apostles, use the power of the Holy Spirit to live a godly life in accordance with the will of God (Acts 1:8, Rom. 6:17-18).
Recognize True Spirituality
True Christians recognize true spirituality. They know that true spirituality is not based on emotion and physical appearance, though these factors are of minor consideration. What is really important is the way Christians live. They are completely sincere, and the godliness they manifest comes from the heart. They know that it is hypocrisy to profess one way and live another. They know that much of what is called Christianity today is not based on Bible truth, but rather on the ideas and concepts of men. They know that many who profess Jesus do not really understand what Jesus taught. They know that religious pretence is not true spirituality. True spirituality is based on sincerity and the knowledge of Truth. Jesus described the wrong kind of spirituality when He said: “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15: 8-9).
Below is a Bible description of true spirituality:
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy [Spirit] teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:9-16)
The above paragraph describes the influence of God’s Spirit in the heart and mind, and the spiritual understanding that comes as a result. One who possesses the mind of Christ understands and recognizes true spiritually. Jesus described this difference between His true disciples and the uncalled of the world: He said: “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matt. 13:11). Such insight is generally regarded as foolishness to the unconverted.
So, the question that needs to be addressed is this: Do you think you are a Christian? If so, do the signs given above identify you? To those who are sincere and truly seeking to know the truth of this matter, a careful self-examination should reveal the answer. Remember Jesus words: “. . . Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)