What makes us Christian? Is it going to church; gathering with other believers? Is it being part of the church council or the worship team? Or perhaps reading our Bible daily or praying saintly prayers? Maybe it’s giving money to the poor or being a respectful citizen…? Sadly enough, if these were the marks of a true Christian, all of us would be doomed.
How are you feeling about your spiritual life and your relationship with Jesus at the moment? The National lockdown due to COVID-19 has forced us to refrain from many “churchly” activities that we usually take part in – singing together, having Bible studies together, praying together, participating in Holy Communion together, just to name a few. Do you feel unsure of your faith now that you cannot participate in these things? For certain, these are all lovely things to do and I am sure that many of you miss these activities, as do I. But are these the signs of a newborn believer? If nothing else, this lockdown should make us ponder the purpose of these things.
In the book of Ephesians the apostle Paul helps us to see the true marks of a believer:
“In him (Jesus Christ) we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:11-14 ESV
Notice how many times Paul mentions our works. That’s right – zero times. Everything in our salvation – from being chosen, the forgiveness of our sins, through to our inheritance of Eternal Life – happened in Him and through Him, to the praise of His glory. Can I get a virtual Amen? All humour aside, nothing in our whole beings could ever have saved us, since we “were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you (we) once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience…” (Ephesians 2:1-2). If nothing of ourselves made us Christians in the first place, then surely the signs of us being Christians is nothing of ourselves.
Paul said that the sign of a true Christian is the seal of the Holy Spirit. His presence in us is a guarantee of our salvation. Paul said in his letter to the Romans that “the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” (Romans 8:16) It was so important to Paul that he said this to the Ephesians twice: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved… For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God..” (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8 emphasis added)
The Holy Spirit’s presence in us is also what will keep us Christians. Not any of our good works or our service to church or our spiritual activities. By grace we have been saved through faith. Sola gratia. Sola fide. Solus Christus. Sola Scriptura. Soli Deo Gloria. The good works that come as a result of our salvation are also from God and were predestined by Him – “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) To God be the glory!
So if the Holy Spirit truly lives in us, let us pray together with Paul “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you (us) the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your (our) hearts enlightened, that you (we) may know what is the hope to which he has called you (us), what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:17-21) Amen!