What is a Christian?

Have you ever wondered how a person actually becomes a Christian? Many people have this faulty assumption that just because they were born in America or have attended church their entire lives, they are in fact Christian. What does the Bible actually say? 

While there are many answers to this question, we find a very powerful one in 1 Corinthians 1:1-9.  In verses 1-2, Paul writes, “Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” and later on in verse 9 he writes, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Three times the word “called” is used to describe what it means to be a Christian so we can conclude that Biblically a Christian is called by the will of God to have fellowship with Christ.

God in His sovereignty has chosen to call us to Himself. What is the significance of this calling? What has God called us out of? Before we were made Christians by God’s sovereign grace, we were enslaved to the kingdom of darkness and were by nature spiritually dead. Romans 3:10–12 says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Colossians 1:13–14 tells us that “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Paul also writes in Ephesians 2:4–5, “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.”

So here’s a theological question about calling—if we as sinners do not seek God, and we are spiritually dead, and we are enslaved to darkness, how in the world can we ANSWER the call? If God calls us, how can we actually answer? Do we have the inherent ability to answer the call?

We find the story of the death of Lazarus in John 11:43–44: “When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Does it make sense for Jesus to call out to a dead man to come out of the tomb? Does Lazarus have the ability to respond?  He is dead. But yet, there is power in the call. When Jesus called Lazarus there was inherent power in Jesus’ call that sovereignly affected power for Lazarus to be made alive and come out.

It is the same with any sinner who comes to Christ. We cannot in and of ourselves respond to the call because we are dead. But when Jesus calls us to salvation, He sovereignly affects His power within us to make us go from spiritual death to spiritual life. He imparts faith into our hearts so that we freely believe in Him.

This affects how we do evangelism and share the gospel. What is the spiritual condition of every person to whom you share the gospel? They are not seeking God, they are dead in sin, and they are enslaved to the kingdom of darkness. Can you by your persuasion or words actually affect the CALL? Can you produce within a lost person the ability to come to Christ? Can they produce this ability to come to Christ and answer the call? They cannot and you cannot! So we are both helpless to produce sovereign regeneration in the life of a sinner.

There is one thing you can do. You can call them to come to Christ. This is called the “External Call”. It is the call that goes out of your mouth to sinners which commands them to repent and believe. You tell them to trust Jesus. You call them to repentance.

But yet, there also has to be the “internal call” because not everyone believes when the gospel goes out. Why do some people believe the gospel and others don’t? With all things being equal, can anybody respond to the gospel as spiritually dead sinners? Then why do some respond to the call and others do not? It is because God by His will has chosen to affect salvation in those whom He chooses to do so and brings about the power to believe through the call—just like Jesus did with Lazarus.

You and I cannot control the powerful efficacious call of God to bring a dead sinner to life, but you and I can control the external call. We can tell every single person we come in contact with that Christ saves sinners and urge them to repent and believe. So a Christian is one who has been sovereignly called out of darkness and deadness and depravity into God’s family.

Did God have to call us? Was He obligated to rescue us out of darkness? NO! His call is a call of love. God loves to save sinners.


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