Summary: Biblical Christianity
READING: Ephesians 2
TEXT:“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ephesians 2:8 - 10 NIV.
There are many matters of which total ignorance and complete indifference are neither tragic nor fatal. I am sure that there are few of us here this evening who would be able to explain in detail all the processes by which a brown cow eats green grass and produces white milk. However, our inability to describe the process doesn’t spoil our enjoyment of the milk! Many of us are very ignorant of the workings of Einstein’s theory of relativity, expressed as E = MC2 - so much so that if someone were to ask us to explain it we would have difficulty. Not only are we ignorant of Einstein’s theory, we are quite indifferent to it! Yet our ignorance and indifference are neither tragic nor fatal.
However, there are some matters where ignorance and indifference can be both tragic and fatal. One such matter is the answer to the question, “What is a biblical Christian?” In other words, according to the Scriptures, when does a man, woman, boy or girl have the right to the name “Christian”? Now one must not make the assumption lightly that he or she is a true Christian. A false conclusion after all, can be tragic and fatal. So it is of vital importance that we understand what the Bible teaches concerning this issue. I therefore want to set before you this evening four strands of the Bible’s answer to the question, “What is a biblical Christian?” According to the Bible, a Christian is a person who has faced realistically the problem of his or her own personal sin.
One of the many things which distinguishes the Christian faith from the other religions of the world is that Christianity is essentially and fundamentally a sinner’s religion. When the angel announced to Joseph the approaching birth of Jesus Christ, he did so in these words, “21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 1:15, “15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst.” The Lord Jesus Christ himself says in Luke 5:31-32, “ 31 It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” A Christian is someone who has faced realistically the problem of personal sin.
When we turn to the Scriptures, we find that each one of us has a two-fold personal problem. On the one hand, we have the problem of our sin and, on the other hand, the problem of our wicked hearts. If we start in Genesis 3 and begin with the tragic account of man’s rebellion against God and his fall into sin, then trace the biblical doctrine of sin all the way through to the Book of the Revelation, we see that it is not oversimplification to say that everything that the Bible teaches about this doctrine can be reduced to these two fundamental categories - the problem of sin and the problem of a wicked heart.
What do I mean by “the problem of a sin?” I am using this terminology to describe what the Scriptures set before us as the doctrine of human guilt because of sin. The Scriptures tell us plainly that we were sinners long before we had any personal existence upon the earth: “ 12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12).
When did we “all” sin? We all sinned in Adam. He was appointed by God to represent the entire human race. When he sinned, we sinned in him and fell with him in his first transgression. That is why the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” Man was created without sin in the Garden of Eden; but from the moment Adam sinned, we too were charged with guilt. We fell in him in his first transgression and we are all part of a race that is under condemnation.
Furthermore, the Scriptures teach that after we are born, additional guilt accrues to us for our own personal transgressions. The Word of God teaches that, “20 There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20); and every single sin incurs additional guilt. You see, our record in heaven is a marred record. Almighty God measures the totality of our human experience by a standard that is absolutely inflexible. This standard touches not only our external deeds but also our thoughts and the very motions of our hearts - so much so, that the Lord Jesus said that the stirring of unjust anger is the very essence of murder, and the look with intention to lust is adultery -