What is a Christian?

Being a "Christian" can mean very different things to different people, and many today may not understand very much about Christianity. Yet how often have you heard someone comment after a person has done something wrong: "He claimed to be a Christian!" or "The church is full of hypocrites!" Most of us have probably thought or said this at some time.

The name 'Christian' was first used in Antioch as a nickname for Jesus' followers (Acts 11:26). Other names or terms used in the Bible include: disciples and followers of the way (Acts 24:14).

You may have heard the expression "born again Christian". This is not a modern term but comes from Jesus who said "you must be born again" (John 3:3), referring to that change that happens when someone becomes a follower of Jesus and receives the gift of eternal life.

A Christian is not...

Perhaps it might help to list some of the things that do not make you a Christian:

  • Being born in a Christian country
  • Having Christian parents
  • Going to church
  • Believing God exists
  • Living a good and upright life
  • Being religious
  • Reading the Bible or praying regularly

Jesus gave a very severe warning that not everyone who claims to be one of his followers, actually is a Christian. He said:

Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers!'

Matthew 7:22-23

The question is: what will Jesus say to you?

The Good News

The word 'Gospel' (as in 'The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John') means 'good news'. And the 'good news' is that eternal life is a free gift. Not something we have to earn though good works, by being religious, or trying to live a perfect life. The starting point is where we are now. The Bible says:

It is by grace you are saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no-one can boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

The Problem of Sin

The problem is that we have all failed in the sight of God. The Bible calls that sin. Sin is not just the really bad things people do, like committing murder, but anything that is against God's standards. If we are honest, we don't even live up to our own standards all the time. The Bible says:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23

God’s Character

God loves us. But he cannot just ignore our sin and wrong-doing, any more than a Judge can let off someone who has been found guilty. He must punish sin.

Jesus’ Death on the Cross

When Jesus died on the cross, he took the punishment for our sins. He stood in our place so that God could then forgive us. This is what Easter is all about.

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Repentance and Faith

Faith is much more just just having an intellectual understanding. The heart of the Christian faith is to repent of sin, and to turn to Christ for his forgiveness and gift of eternal life.

Have you done this?

If you are local to Basingstoke, please visit us on any Sunday or contact the Minister to find out more about Jesus and his claims.

Find Out More



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Find out more about Jesus and the Christian faith at christianity.org.uk. This site attempts to explain and explore what Christians of all kinds believe, and not just the beliefs adhered to by one particular group ('denomination' or 'tradition').


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Want to explore in more depth? Bethinking has a wide range of resources to help you understand the Christian faith and how it relates to the modern world. Aimed at university students, it covers: culture & worldviews, suffering, science & faith, other religions, and much more.

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BibleGateway.com is an online searchable Bible with a wide selection of translations in English and many other languages.