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.

Ephesians 2:8-9

What does it mean to be a Christian? Some people think that if they live in a Christian country, they are Christians. Others think that if they were baptised as a baby, they are Christians. Others think that if they go to church, say their prayers, and help others, they are Christians. But what is the biblical idea of a Christian?

There are actually only three references to “Christian” in the Bible. Acts 11:26 tells us “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” King Agrippa told the apostle Paul, “You almost persuade me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28). And finally, Peter speaks of one who “suffers as a Christian” (1 Peter 4:16).

But the language Paul uses here in Ephesians to describe Christians is much more dramatic. He describes the natural state of all men as being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Death in Scripture always means separation. Physical death separates us from our bodies and our loved ones, but spiritual death separates us from God, and the Bible warns about a “second death” which is eternal separation from God (Revelation 20:6).

But because of God’s great love and mercy, He put in place a plan to save those who believe in Jesus. “Salvation” means to rescue from a place of danger, whether physical danger (like drowning or a burning building), or spiritual danger.

Paul describes Christians as those who once were dead in their trespasses and sins but who through faith have been made alive in Christ. By faith they have responded to God’s grace and have been saved and brought into a place of spiritual safety. He insists that this salvation is a gift from God, based entirely upon His grace and not something they earned through their own efforts or works. If anyone could get to heaven by their own merits, they would be worthy of praise; but salvation is of the Lord and so He alone is worthy of all glory and honour. “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). So, with the apostles, we would appeal to you to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).


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