How to Become a Christian
by Mark Mountjoy
The New Testament Scriptures are very clear about what it takes to become a Christian. The Gospel biographical accounts written by Matthew and Mark, Luke and John form the bedrock upon which one’s faith, salvation, and spiritual vocation can be successfully begun and sustained.
The Book of Acts, the fifth letter in the New Testament, however, shows us historical examples about how Jews and Israelites, proselytes and God-fearers, Romans and barbarians, men and women, married couples, single individuals and entire households, from all walks of life, became Christians in antiquity. And it is from the examples below that we can ascertain the answer to this important and imperative question.
The Essentials of Authentic Christian Faith
The essentials that are central to being a Christian revolve around the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, his birth, mission, message, death, burial, resurrection and ascension, his Second coming, and eternal reign.
His birth: Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:1.
His mission: Isaiah 53; Daniel 9:24; Psalms 40:7
His message: Matthew 11:28; John 14:6; John 17. Jesus came from God and went to God (John 1:1, 3, and 14)
His death: Matthew 16:21; Luke 9:31; Revelation 1:18; 11:8.
His burial: John 19:38-42; Matthew 28:13
His resurrection: Matthew 28:4, 6; Acts 9:4; Revelation 1:18
His Great Commission: Matthew 28:19-20; Isaiah 9:7; Ephesians 3:21.
His ascension: Acts 1:9-10.
Jesus founded the Church, over which he is the husband, shepherd, and fullness of Deity in bodily form. Acts 2:47; Ephesians 3:4-6 and Colossians 2:14-18.
His return: Matthew 10:23; James 5:1-9; Revelation 1:1,3, 7; 22:6, 10 and 20.
Jesus exercises sacerdotal rule as sole High Priest and governor. (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 7:21; 1 John 2:1).
The entirety of what it means to be a Christian can be summed up in what one believes about Jesus Christ. What we need to know about Jesus can be ascertained from the many Old Testament prophecies of his coming to the New Testament testimony of what he lived and accomplished, to the historical realities which validate the prophecies he uttered with oaths. All point to the truth and verity of the Jewish Scriptures and corroborate that redemption from sins and eternal life can only be found in the person of Jesus, the Son of God.
The Embracing the Christian Faith
Repentance. We must repent of our sins. Sin is what separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2) and “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Therefore, if we want to be Christians, we must be willing to repent of our sins.
Now, repentance comes from the Greek word “μετάνοια” (metanea) and means “to change one’s mind or purpose” and it means to make efforts to sin no more 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. If we are willing to repent of our sins, we can be saved Acts 3:19; Acts 17:30-31.
Confession. We must confess our faith. Those that want to be redeemed by the blood of Jesus must confess their faith in him, that he died, was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures, (Romans 10:9-10 cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
It was Jesus Christ who said, “Whosoever, therefore, shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32 cf. 2 Timothy 2:13). The Scriptures give us the example of a man who confessed his faith (Acts 8:26-39, note verse 37).
Baptism into Christ. We must be water baptized. There is considerable confusion about baptism because some think it isn't necessary, while others believe we are saved before we are baptized. But note the role baptism played in the following Scriptures:
On the Day of Pentecost example of 3,000 people (Acts 2:38) They were told to “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Acts chapter 3 command from the Apostles, “Repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out, and the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
The Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26ff) And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, “See here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” And Philip said, “If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went his way rejoicing.”
Cornelius and his household (Acts 10) “Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized?”
The businesswoman Lydia and her household and the Philippian jailer and his household:-
“And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a riverside, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us” (16:13-14).
Luke continues with the account of how Paul and Silas ended up in a jail in the city of Philippi.
“And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.
And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.
And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,
And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, and teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.
And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bands were loosed.
And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said,
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway” (Acts 16:16-33).
The Ephesians (Acts 19:1-5) “And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
The conversion of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 22:1-16):-
“Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defense which I make now unto you. (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,) I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished. And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid, but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.
And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there,
Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
As one can see, in the New Testament baptism is always included in the process of faith; it is not considered a work of the Law, something additional or meritorious. On the other hand, circumcision (or the minutiae of the traditions of the Jewish elders) are counted as meritorious (Colossians 2:16) but obeying the Gospel in water baptism) puts one “into Christ” (Galatians 3:27-29).
Because baptism itself is faith in the operation of God according to the Apostle Paul. He wrote:
“And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:10-12 cf. Romans 6:1-4 and 1 Peter 3:21).
Upon emerging from the waters of baptism, according to the Apostle Paul, “even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-5).
Living the Christian Life
Walking in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit is a life commitment to discipleship. It is a journey towards a destination upwards to the new Jerusalem, the habitation of God and the saints beyond the veil (Hebrews 11:15; Revelation 21-22).
The crucified life. While belief informs us and baptism puts us into Christ and His blood washes away our sins, we must carry our cross for the Bible tells us “...they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:24 cf. 2 Peter 1:5-7)
The Apostle Peter gave us words of encouragement to continue to grow because being a Christian is not a one-time decision, but an ongoing process: He wrote:
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-11).
From the beginning of the New Testament to conviction about its claims, commitment to Jesus Christ, and becoming a Christian, the change, transformation, and momentum of life is aimed in one direction only: the New Jerusalem and one is, in every way, preparing for life after life. And it is towards this end local groups of Christians form in order to assist and encourage one another to stay the course no matter what the vicissitudes and circumstances life may happen to bring.
Christian work and worship, ministries, and services happen in order to bring the good news of the Gospel of Jesus to wider audiences to expand the kingdom of God and rescue more souls from sin’s crimson stains and the prospect of outer darkness and tribulation and anguish after death (Romans 2:3-10 cf. Jude 13 and Revelation 14:13).
The question what must I do to be saved? is answered in the New Testament Book of Acts: It is about belief and obeying the Lord Jesus, his birth, life, death, burial and resurrection, ascension, a confirmatory return. It is belief in the truth of the Gospels that he is who he said he is: The Son of God, who came down from heaven and the Lord unto whom we must obey and serve.
Our commitment to Jesus brings us into relationships with others of like mind and together we make up the called out, the saved, the Church. As the Church we worship, edify and missionize to strengthen and build God’s kingdom as we march toward our journey’s end in the New Jerusalem, the eternal abode of God and the saints.
Caption: The Apostle Paul and the Philippian jailer. Source: claygentry.com