These days, there is quite a bit of confusion on what exactly makes a person a Christian. Some people equate going to church with being a Christian. Others assume that they’re Christians because their parents are Christians. Still others think that being a generally good person makes a person a Christian.

But the Bible makes it very clear that you’re not a Christian simply because you…

  • Go to church
  • Believe there is a God
  • Have Christian parents
  • Are a good person
  • Have conservative values
  • Vote for a particular political party

None of these things make a person a Christian. So what is a Christian?

In simple terms, a Christian is someone who hopes in Jesus Christ alone to save them from their sins and make them right with God.

Let’s go a bit further by seeing what the Bible has to say about being a Christian.

Helpful Infographic Resource to Download

Use this visual guide as a reminder or study guide to discover 7 essential truths about being a Christian.

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What Is A Christian? A Christian Is Someone Who…

Has Faith In Christ

First and foremost, a Christian is someone who believes in Jesus Christ. Jesus is at the heart of being a Christian, and if you take away Jesus you don’t have Christianity anymore.

John 3:16-17 puts it this way:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Jesus is not just a good man or a moral teacher. He’s not simply a good example. If you are a Christian, you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He came to earth to save any who would believe in Him.

Romans 10:9-10 says,

“...if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

True Christians believe that Jesus is Lord over all things and that He must be followed above all else. He is alive today, having been raised from the dead by God. He rules over everything and salvation is only found in Him.

In Acts 4:12, it says about Jesus,

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

There is no Christianity without Christ, no salvation without Jesus. He is at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian.

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Believes The Gospel

The gospel is the good news of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.

Birth - Unlike every other person born, Jesus was born without sin. He did not have a sinful nature that inclined Him to disobey God’s law.

Life - Jesus lived a sinless, flawless life, always obeying God’s commands to the fullest. He was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet He never once sinned against God.

He is the only person in history to fully obey God in every way.

Death - Despite living a sinless life, Jesus died on the cross in our place for our sins. While He was on the cross, God punished Him for all of our sins, giving Jesus the wrath those sins deserve.

Resurrection - The penalty of sin is death. Because Jesus fully paid the penalty of sin, death no longer had any claim on Him. After being buried in a tomb for three days, God raised Jesus from the dead and He appeared to many of His disciples.

Ascension - After appearing numerous times to His disciples, Jesus ascended to heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of God and reigns over all. He will return some day and make all things new.

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, Paul writes:

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.

The good news of the gospel is that Jesus entered into the brokenness of our world, lived a sinless life on our behalf and then died the death that we deserved. He rose from the dead and is Lord over all. All who believe in Christ have their sins forgiven and are given the righteousness of Christ.

A Christian believes the gospel and it embraces it as their hope for both this life and the life to come.

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Possesses Salvation

When a person believes the gospel, they receive salvation from God. The Bible makes it clear that our sins against God separate us from Him. Because God is holy, He must punish sin. He can’t sweep it under the rug or pretend it didn’t happen. God would be unrighteous and unjust if He did those things.

Romans 1:18 puts it this way,

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

We need to be saved from the wrath of God. We need to be rescued from the punishment that our sins deserve.

When a person believes in Jesus and becomes a Christian, God gives them salvation. He forgives all their sins and bestows upon them the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. An exchange takes place. Their sins are given to Jesus and they receive the righteousness of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:21 puts it this way:

“For He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Isn’t that good news? A Christian no longer needs to fear the wrath of God. The penalty for their sins has been paid by Jesus and God sees them as perfectly righteous.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says,

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Salvation is a free gift from God that is received by faith. It cannot be earned through good works.

What is a Christian? A Christian is someone who possesses the free gift of salvation.

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Is Born Again

The Bible also describes a Christian as someone who is born again. Now, exactly what is a born again Christian? To be clear, there is no such thing as a Christian who is not born again. Every true Christian has experienced spiritual rebirth.

Before a person is a Christian, they are spiritually dead. They don’t love God or want to obey His commands. They are a slave to sin and unable to walk in righteousness.

In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul describes those who don’t know Christ in the following way:

...dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

Pretty bleak, right? Nevertheless, that’s the state of every person apart from God saving them. This is why Jesus said in John 3:3,

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

When a person believes in Jesus and hopes in the gospel, God causes them to become spiritually alive. They are born a second time, though this time the birth is spiritual rather than physical. When someone is born again, they begin to experience new desires. They love God and desire to serve Him. And unlike before, they now have the ability to obey God’s commands.

Ephesians 2:4-5 describes being born again when it says,

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

A Christian is someone who has experienced a spiritual rebirth. God has brought them from spiritual death to life. They once were dead in their sins but are now alive to God.

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Is A Child Of God

In addition to being born again, the Bible also says that a Christian is a child of God. Many people will say that every person is a child of God. And there is a sense in which this is true, in that God has created every person. But as we talked about above, the Bible also says that our sin separates us from God.

When someone becomes a Christian, the wall of separation between them and God is broken down and they are adopted into God’s family.

Instead of being cut off from God, they are welcomed by God as a beloved child.

1 John 3:1 says,

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!”

This is an absolutely amazing truth. Christians have a close, intimate relationship with God. They are not only servants of God, they are also beloved sons and daughters. As sons and daughters of the living God, Christians experience incredible privileges.

If you are a Christian, you can pray to God and be confident that He will give exactly what you need. You can bring all your struggles and worries and fears to God, and He will give you strength and refreshment. You can be confident that God will meet all your needs and always take care of you. Why? Because you are His precious child.

Matthew 7:8-11 describes the intimate relationship Christians have with God:

For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

Even sinful, flawed parents know how to give good gifts to their children. How much more will God, who is infinitely good, bless those whom He has adopted into His family?

A Christian is a precious child of God and has been adopted into His family.

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Is Filled With The Holy Spirit

Not only is a Christian a child of God, they are also filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, equal to the Father and Son, the third member of the Trinity. When a person becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in them.

1 Corinthians 6:19 says,

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”

This is an absolutely staggering truth. In the Old Testament, God’s spirit dwelled in the temple, and only a very select group of people was able to enter the place where God was. Access to the presence of God was incredibly limited.

Now, however, every person who believes in Jesus Christ becomes a temple. God the Father gives the Holy Spirit to every Christian. Incredible, right?

What does the Holy Spirit do in Christians? He…

  • Empowers them to obey God
  • Gives them spiritual gifts to use in God’s service
  • Convicts them of sin
  • Encourages them in weakness
  • Gives them strength in trials
  • Assures them that they are God’s children
  • And much more

Pastor Adrian Rogers says this about the Holy Spirit:

"Don’t de-personalize the Holy Spirit. Don’t think of being filled with the Spirit as if you are some kind of a vessel and the Holy Spirit is some kind of a liquid. Or don’t think of yourself as a battery and the Holy Spirit as an electrical charge. The Spirit is a person and you are a temple."

A Christian is not someone who is trying to get to God through their own good works. Rather, a Christian is someone whom God has filled with the Holy Spirit and who does good works through the power the Holy Spirit supplies.

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Knows Their Purpose In Life

Finally, a Christian is someone who knows their purpose in life. Many people have no idea why they’re on this earth. They try to find purpose and meaning through money or work or sex or alcohol or something else. But their true purpose is found in God alone.

God created every person to know Him and have a personal relationship with Him. Sin cuts people off and ruptures the relationship God intended.

Until that relationship is healed, a person will always feel a sense of unease in life.

As Augustine of Hippo famously prayed, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

When someone becomes a Christian and their relationship with God is restored, their purpose in life becomes clear. They were created to know God personally and love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. They were also created to love their neighbor as themselves.

In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus said,

‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

A Christian knows why they exist. They have clarity on their purpose in life. They understand that they have been created to love God and to love their neighbor. This clarity enables Christians to live meaningful lives.

Are You A Christian?

It’s possible that reading this article has caused you to realize that you’re not a Christian. If that’s the case, there is good news.

You can receive the free gift of salvation from God. You don’t have to do anything to get to God. You don’t have to clean up your life first before God will accept you. You can come to God just as you are and be forgiven, born again, and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus died for your sins so that you could be totally and completely forgiven. If you believe in Jesus as the Son of God and your hope for salvation, you are a Christian. You are welcomed into God’s family as a child of God and can come to God without fear.

Don’t wait any longer to become a Christian. Believe in Jesus today!

Helpful Tools and Resources on the Foundations of Christianity

What Is The Gospel of Jesus Christ?

What is the gospel? It means "good news" and in this article, we’re going to answer the question of why the gospel is such good news.

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What Is Salvation? 4 Life-Changing Truths

Many people have trouble answering this question with clarity. We’re going to see what the Bible has to say in answer to the question, “What is salvation?”

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What Is Baptism and Why Does It Matter?

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