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Biblical concept of an authentic Christian

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."

2 Corinthians 5:17

The traditionally called Christian world experienced in these last days an intense agitation caused by the resignation of a Pope and the election of another, to be the Supreme earthly head of the so-called Christian Church. People of many nations in the world, in various areas of national society, experienced moments of great emotion. All media prioritized the fact, giving him unusual prominence.

The most distinguished personalities came up with the most contradictory opinions and guesses. Contemplating all of this I was left thinking of the extent to which this historical upheaval has to do with the purpose of God for authentic Christianity. All this intense movement took more into account the robust and magnificent religious organization called the Catholic Church, of notoriously human and never spiritual connotation. A tremendous play of personal interests, in the dispute for secular power, of clerical projection, of financial control of the robust monetary bank of church property etc., motivated intricate political procedures and other orders, often adopted without the slightest scruple, little compatible with spiritual and moral order and decency.

In fact the focus is not "Christianity" in its correct conception and biblical purpose, but the temporal movement of a powerful human organization, misleadingly called "Christian Church" in the service of interests, often vested, of those who control and direct it.

So, I think it appropriate to consider the "biblical concept of an authentic Christian." Paul’s text above (2 Corinthians 5:17) is, appropriately, in the following context of the passage in which the Apostle speaks about the judgment seat of Christ, that must, in God’s time, evaluate and judge what every Christian has done here, "that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad " (2 Corinthians 5:10). Christians will be judged according to a retrospective of their works, with the purpose to grant awards or receive the disapproval of the Lord.

In Romans 14:10, Paul states, "we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ". Therefore, the "Christian" will give account to the Lord for what he has been and what he has done in the world. This responsibility comes from the inexorable fact of him being a "new creature". He must therefore express new life, a new procedure, compatible with the condition of "Christian", leaving behind the old things, inherent in the old nature.

 

 1. What is it to be a Christian?

Being a Christian implies being "different" from the natural man, one who has not yet been born again. A manifest and undisguiseable posture before the world, that of a "new creature", in contrast with the attitude of the "natural man" (the old creature). It is the posture of who owns the "new life", obtained by faith (John 1:12), in the Person, in the Word and in the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It therefore results from a "new birth" (regeneration), an operation of spiritual character, not natural, by the action of the believed Word (Romans 10:17; 1 Peter 1:23) and of the Holy Spirit, who convicts the sinner of his sin, of Righteousness and of Judgment (John 16:8).

The water baptism symbolizes this fact well, as we see in Romans 6: 4 ... “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life ". The Lord Jesus Christ emphasized this truth speaking to Nicodemus, when He said it was necessary to "be born again", because those not born of water (the Word) and of the Spirit cannot "see" the Kingdom of God; cannot "enter" in the Kingdom of God (John 3: 5-8). The new birth is made imperative, which has nothing to do with the natural process of human generation, since the "new life" is the result of an eminently spiritual process.

Paul, emphatically states that only he who is in Christ “is a new creation ". This implies, necessarily, that everything is made new; all old things have passed away (those that consist in the experience of the natural man, i.e. without Christ). All has been made new, says Paul, because the life of the spiritual man (one who is born again) must be different from that he had before being born again. His behaviour now, can not have anything to do with the old creature. The change must be radical and should be, inevitably, noted by those who are not Christians.

2. How to become a Christian?

It is the exercise of faith that enables the conquest, by the sinner, of the unparalleled benefit of "new life", and of all the other benefits coming from it, in the enjoyment of the wonderful process of SALVATION. We read in Hebrews 11:6, that "without faith it is impossible to please God".

But there are two more expressions, of fundamental sense for the correct Christian reality, which define the process of true "new birth": "repentance and conversion". No one becomes an authentic  Christian, a "new creature", if he does not repent of his sins and turn to the Lord. These were the key expressions used by the Apostles, to define the essential attitude of the old man in order to become a new creature.

Such expressions made the foundation of the emergence of the Church of Christ on Earth. "Repentance" is what Peter proclaims to be essential in the attitude of the sinner, as the sole and appropriate response to the dramatic problem that sin brought to the human creature. He did it at the end of his remarkable preaching, that founded the building up of the body of Christ (acts 2:38). Peter himself reaffirms this foundation of the new life in Christ, in Acts 3:19 ... "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out ". The message of the Lord Jesus at the beginning of his Ministry was no other (Mark 1:15).

The problem of the human being has been sin, which withdrew God from man, abolishing his moral and spiritual values and any possibility of him being as God wanted him, an instrument for realization of His sovereign purposes in the world. Sin became the greatest tragedy for man in the world! Isaiah 59: 2 ... “your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear ". God hates sin, but loves the sinner and so expressed His love and His mercy, through His grace, to restore the lost man (John 3:16; Ephesians 2: 4-5; Romans 5: 8; 8: 1).

On Calvary the Lord Jesus paid our debt, satisfied the divine Justice, freeing us from the eternal condemnation of our sins, atoning them in the solemn sacrifice of His own body, purifying them through the blood that He voluntarily shed, under tremendous and incomparable suffering. This was the price paid for our Redemption (1 Peter 1:18 -20)! The Tomb, where He was placed, He left empty, to ensure the resurrection of our own body (1 Corinthians 15:13, 14, 16, 20). Hallelujah!

Therefore what is left for us to do, besides the exercise of faith?

1. Sincere REPENTANCE of our sins, confessing them and leaving them (Proverbs 23:18; 1 John 1: 9). To "repent" means: to admit sin; to be sorrowful and weep, contritely, for the sin committed; to confess the sin before the Lord; to leave sin. There is no way to get to the condition of "new creature", without sincere repentance, which implies, necessarily, the steps above.

2. TRUE CONVERSION to the Lord. To "convert" is to totally change the course in which we are, to adopt another completely different. The conversion to the Lord takes place only when we dispose ourselves to "change the disastrous course" which we are following, the one of the old creature, to adopt the "new course", that of the "new creature", that the Lord indicates to us. To follow the "new direction" which takes us to the targets of God and to the unspeakable blessings which He holds for us (John 14:6; Psalm 37:5; Proverbs 3:5-6). This is the attitude from which results, also, the "new birth" and the experience of "new life" in Christ. We have a worthy example of this wonderful Christian reality in what happened with the "disciples" in the Church of Antioch (Acts 11:26). There they were called for the first time "Christians", because of the remarkable evidence of the characteristics of the "new creature", widely shown in daily experience in the context of the local "world". They didn't need to declare themselves to be Christians or to use formal identification. The designation was assigned to them by the local people, because of what they saw in them, identifying them clearly with the Master about whom they preached, for and by Whom they lived! The difference in standing was evident to all and because of this they were distinguished with this precious identification. They really were new creatures in Christ!

For this reason the sacred text says that "the disciples” were called Christians for the first time. They were true disciples. They were "different" from the others! Therefore, "Christians"! The new creature must manifest “new life", "new character", "new procedures", "new targets", in short, "all new"! The worthy example of Paul is worth a lot to us: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). Jesus Christ exhorts us: "He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing" (John 15: 5). To be "different" we must take on Christ ("He who abides in Me ") and give Him room in our living ("and I in him "). The "difference" of the Christian, compared to the natural man, will be in bearing "much fruit" ("bears much fruit ") which, inevitably, he will have to do, in total dependence and interaction of Christ, for without Christ  he can do nothing!

3. What are the privileges of the Christian?

Peter extols, in 1 Peter 2: 9, the exceptional privileges we enjoy as "Christians", for being members of the body of Christ, of his beloved Church: a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people. God has clearly defined purposes for the Church, for every Christian, as a member of the body of Christ. We have been called out of darkness into His marvellous light, as the people of God who are now here. Our vocation is well explained: "that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light". What a wonderful privilege is this!

Conclusion – the attitude of the Church traditionally called Christian is widely distanced from the correct biblical concept of authentic Christianity. So it acts as a human organization that deceptively calls itself the "Christian" Church. What a misconception! Let us take advantage of the historic moment of this misguided religious behaviour to reflect on our condition of authentic Christians, recalling the teaching of Paul in 1 Timothy 3:14-5 ... "These things I write to you… so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.