What Is a Christian?
I would like to ask you a question. But before I ask my question, I want first to prepare the way. The Bible has many ways to describe what a Christian is. A Christian is a forgiven sinner, a new creation in Christ, an adopted child of God, a heaven-bound pilgrim. One of the most dramatic descriptions of a Christian, however, is found in Romans 6:13, where Paul tells us that a Christian, every Christian, is someone who has been ‘brought from death to life.’ Paul is making a categorical statement. He is not highlighting a possibility but declaring a fact, an accomplished, once for all, unrepeatable and undeniable fact. If you are a Christian, you have been ‘brought from death to life.’ You may not feel you have, but if you are a Christian you have!
First, what is this ‘death’ that Christians no longer live in? In the Bible death is principally a spiritual state. God said to Adam, ‘In the day you eat, you shall surely die’ (Gen. 2:17). Adam ate the forbidden fruit (God was testing Adam’s obedience) and he died. Physically the process of death began to take over his life, but spiritually at that moment he died. Death is the state of alienation from God. Death is the lifestyle of separation from God, the lifestyle of rebellion against the sovereign Lordship of God. More than this, however, death is a dominion, a kingdom ruled over by a king, Satan. This is the kingdom that every single one of us belonged to because of our union with Adam our first head. When he disobeyed God, we disobeyed God in him. He was the head of humanity and when he fell, we all fell; ‘in Adam all die’ (1 Cor. 15:22).
Second, what is this ‘life’ that Christians have been brought into? Just as life is the opposite of death, so this ‘life’ which Christians have been brought into is the opposite of alienation from God and rebellion against his Lordship. ‘Life’ is the sphere where separation from God is replaced by fellowship with God, where alienation from God is replaced by friendship with God. ‘Life’ is the world, the sphere, where God is loved, where Jesus is confessed and loved as Lord and Saviour, where nothing will ever separate us from God’s love (Rom. 8:37-39).
Third, this leaves us to ask how are we taken from death to life? Notice the phrase, ‘have been brought from death to life’. The verb is in the passive mood, that is, God did it. By his gracious sovereign action, God brought us out of death and into life. When did he do this? He did it on Calvary’s cross when God’s Son paid the ransom price of our sin (Mark 10:45). In Adam we all died, but in Christ, our better Head, we were all raised to life. In Christ, God accomplished our rescue from the kingdom of death and darkness (Col. 1:13). But we do not come into the possession of this rescue until we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and embrace him as Saviour and Lord.
Now, finally, my question: Are you living, am I living, as someone who has been brought from death into life? Would anyone looking at your life and my life conclude that we had experienced a resurrection? The idea of resurrection is dramatic. Imagine meeting someone who had died but then been raised to life. The encounter would be dramatic, to say the least. Every Christian is a resurrected man or woman. We have become partakers of the life of the risen Christ. The life of the world to come has already come and invaded our lives. What will such a life look like? Rather than weary you, read Galatians 5, verses 22-23 and Colossians 3, verses 12-17. Now, stop what you are doing. Reflect. Meditate. Repent. Rejoice. By the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, be what you are, someone who has been raised from death to life.
Ian Hamilton is Pastor of Cambridge Presbyterian Church, now worshipping God on Sunday mornings in All Saints’ Church, Jesus Lane, Cambridge and in Resurrection Lutheran Church, Huntingdon Road, on Sunday evenings.
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