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What Is A Biblical Christian?by Pastor Albert N. Martin


There  are many matters concerning which total ignorance and complete indifference are neither tragic nor fatal. I believe many of you are probably totally ignorant of Einstein's theory of relativity, and if you were pressed to explain it to someone you would really be in difficulty. Not only are you ignorant of Einstein's
theory of relativity, you are probably quite indifferent, and that ignorance and indifference is neither fatal nor tragic. I am sure there are few of us who can explain all the processes by which a brown cow eats green grass and gives white milk. It  does  not  keep  you  from  enjoying  the  milk. But there are some things 
concerning which ignorance  and  indifference  are  both  tragic  and  fatal,  and  one 
such thing is the Bible's answer to the question I am about to set before you.

'What is a biblical Christian?' In other words, when does a man or woman, a boy or girl, have the right to take to himself or herself the name Christian, according to the Scriptures?

We do not want to make the assumption lightly that you are true Christians.
I want to set before you four strands of the Bible's answer to that question.


Now one of the many unique things about the Christian faith is this — unlike most of the religions of the world, Christianity is essentially and fundamentally a sinner's religion. When the angel announced to Joseph he approaching birth of  Jesus Christ, he did so in these words, 'Thou  halt  call  his  name  Jesus,  for he shall save his people from their sins' [Matt  1.21]. The apostle Paul wrote in I  Timothy 1.15, 'This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners'. He came into the world to save sinners. The Lord Jesus Christ himself says in Luke5.31-32, 'Those that are  healthy do not need a doctor but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance'. And the Christian is one who has faced 
realistically this problem of his own personal sin.

When we turn to the Scripture and seek to take in the whole of its teaching on the subject of sin, right down to its irreducible minimum, we find that the Scripture tells us that each one of us has a two-fold personal problem in relation to sin. On the one hand, we have the problem of a bad record and, on the other, the problem of a bad heart. If we start in Genesis 3 and read that tragic account of man's rebellion against God and his fall into sin, then trace the biblical doctrine of sin all the way through the Old Testament, and on into the New, right through to
the Book of Revelation, we shall see that it is not over-simplification to say that everything  that  the  Bible  teaches  about  the  doctrine  of  sin  can  be  reduced  to  those two fundamental categories - the problem of a bad record and the problem of a bad heart.

What do I mean by 'the problem of a bad record'? I am using that terminology to describe what the Scripture sets before us as the doctrine of human guilt  because of sin. The Scripture tells us plainly that we obtained a bad record long before we had any personal existence here upon the earth: 'Wherefore, as by  one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned' [Rom 5.12]. When did the 'all' sin? We all sinned in Adam. He was appointed by God to represent all of the human race and when he sinned we sinned in him and fell with him in his first transgression. That is why
the apostle writes in 1 Corinthians 15.22, 'As in Adam all die'. We passed our age of accountability in the Garden of Eden and from the moment Adam sinned we were charged with guilt. We fell in him in his first transgression and we are part of the race that is under condemnation. Furthermore, the Scripture says, after we come into being at our own conception and subsequent birth additional guilt  accrues to us for our own personal, individual transgressions. The Word of God teaches that there is not a just man upon the face of the earth who does good
and does not sin [Eccles  7.20], and every single sin incurs additional guilt.

 Our record in heaven is a marred record. Almighty God measures the totality of our human experience from the moment of our birth by a standard which is absolutely inflexible; a standard that touches not only our external deeds but also our thoughts and the very motions and intentions of our heart; so much so, that the Lord Jesus said that the stirring of unjust anger is the very essence  of murder, the look with intention to lust as adultery. And God is keeping 'a detailed record'. That record is among 'the books' which will be opened in the day of
judgment [Rev 20.12]. And there in those books is recorded every thought, every motive, every intention, every deed, every dimension of human experience that is contrary to the standard of God's holy law, either failing to measure up to its  standard or transgressing it. We have the problem of a bad record - a record in which we are charged with guilt; real guilt for real sin committed against the true and the living God. That is why the Scripture tells us that the entire human race stands guilty before Almighty God [Rom 3.19].

Has the problem of your own bad record ever  become a burning, pressing  personal concern to you? Have you faced the truth that Almighty God judged you guilty when our first father sinned, and holds you guilty for every single word you have spoken contrary to perfect holiness and justice and purity and righteousness? He knows every object you have touched and taken contrary to the sanctity of property and every word spoken contrary to perfect, absolute truth.
Has this ever broken in upon you, so that you awakened to the fact that Almighty God has every right to summon you into his presence and to require you to give an account of every single deed contrary to His law, which has brought guilt upon your soul?

Certainly we have the problem of a bad record but we have an additional problem - the problem of a bad heart. We not only are pronounced guilty in the court of heaven for what we have done. The Scripture teaches that the problem of our sin is one that arises not only from what we have done, but from what we are. When Adam sinned he not only became guilty before God, but defiled and polluted  in his own nature. The Scripture describes it in Jeremiah 17.9, 'The heart is  deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?' Jesus  describes it in Mark 7.21, 'From within, out of the heart of man, proceed...'and 
then He names all the various sins that can be seen in any newspaper on any day — blasphemies, pride, adulteries, murder. Jesus said that these things rise out of this artesian well of pollution, the human heart. Notice carefully that he did
not say,'For from without, by the pressure of society and its negative influences, come forth murder and adultery and pride and thievery'. That is what our so-called sociological experts tell us. It is 'the condition of society' that produces  crime and rebellion. Jesus says it is the condition of the human heart. For from  within,  out of the heart, proceed these things — lies, selfishness, self-centredness, total pre-occupation with my feelings and my desires and my plans and my perspectives.

We have hearts that the Scripture describes as 'desperately wicked' - the 
fountain of all forms of iniquity. To change the biblical imagery, Romans 8.7  reads, 'The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of  God, neither indeed can it be'. Paul says that the carnal mind, that is, the mind  that has never been regenerated by God, is not reflective of some enmity; he  calls it enmity itself. 'The carnal mind is enmity against God'. The disposition of  every human heart by nature can be visually pictured as a clenched fist raised  against the living God. This is the inward problem of a bad heart - a heart that  loves sin, a heart that is lie fountain of sin, a heart that is at enmity with God. And
such is the problem that every one of us has by nature.

Has the problem of your bad heart ever become a pressing personal concern to you? I am not asking whether you believe in human sinfulness in theory. Oh,  there is such a thing as a sinful nature and a sinful heart. My question is: Have  your bad record and your bad heart ever become a matter of deep, inward,  personal, pressing concern to you? Have you known anything of real, personal,  inward  consciousness  of  the  awfulness  of  your  guilt  in  the  presence of a holy  God? - the horribleness of a heart that is 'deceitful above all things and
desperately wicked'?

A Bible Christian  is a person who has in all seriousness taken to heart us own personal problem of sin.

Now the degree to which we may feel the awful weight of sin differs from one person to another. The length of time over which a person is brought to the  consciousness of his bad record and his bad heart differs. There are many  variables, but Jesus Christ as the Great Physician never brought his healing  virtue to any who did not know themselves to be sinners. He said, 'I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance' [Matt  9.13]. Are you a Bible 

Christian, one who has taken seriously your personal problem of sin?


In the Bible we are told again and again that Almighty God has taken the initiative in doing something for man the sinner. The verses some of us learned in our  infancy underscore divine initiative in providing a remedy or sinful man: 'God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son . . .'; 'Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent us Son to be the propitiation for our sins'; 'But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us. . .' [John 3.16;  1 John  10;  Eph 2.41. You see, the unique feature  of the Christian faith is that it not a kind of religious self-help where you patch yourself up with the
aid of God. Just as surely as it is a unique tenet of the Christian faith that Christ is a Saviour for sinners, so it is also a unique tenet of the Christian faith that all of our true help comes down  from  above  and  meets us where we are. We cannot  pull ourselves up by our own boot-strings. God in mercy breaks in upon the  human  situation  and  does  something  which we could never do for ourselves.
 Now when we turn to the Scriptures we find that that divine remedy has at least three simple but profoundly wonderful focal points:

(a) First of all, that divine remedy is bound up in a Person. Anyone who begins to take seriously the divine remedy for human sin will notice in the Scriptures that  the remedy is not in a set of ideas, as though it were just another philosophy, nor is it found in an institution, it is bound up in a Person. 'God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son'. 'Thou shalt call his name Jesus for he shall save. .  .' He, himself, said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the  Father but by me' [John 14.6]. That one divine remedy is bound  up  in  a  Person  and that Person is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ - the eternal Word who
became man, uniting to his Godhead a true human nature. Here is God's 
provision for man with his bad record and his bad heart, a Saviour who is both  God and man, the two natures joined in the one Person for ever. And your  personal problem of sin, and mine, if it is ever to be remedied in a biblical way will be remedied only as we have personal  dealings with that Person. Such is the  unique strand  of the Christian faith - the sinner in all his need united to the  Saviour in all the plenitude of his grace, the sinner in his naked need and  the  Saviour in his almighty power, brought directly together in the Gospel. That is the glory of the Gospel!

(b)It is centred in the cross upon which that Person died. A cross that leads to an empty tomb, yes! And a cross preceded by a life of perfect obedience, yes! And when we turn to the Scriptures we find that the divine remedy in a unique way is centred in the cross of Jesus Christ. When he is formally announced by John the Baptist, John points to him and says,'Behold the Lamb of God who is bearing  away the sin of the world' [John 1.29].Jesus himself said, 'I did not come to be
ministered unto, but to minister and to give my life a ransom for many' [Matt  20.28],  and  true  preaching  of  the  Gospel  is  so  much  centred in the cross  that Paul says it is the word, or the message of the cross.The preaching of the cross is 'to them who are perishing foolishness, but unto us who are being  saved it is  the power of God' [1 Cor 1.18], and this same apostle went on to say that when
he came to Corinth - that bastion of intellectualism and pagan Greek philosophy with its set patterns of rhetorical expertise - 'I  came  amongst you determined to  know nothing save Jesus Christ and him as crucified' [1 Cor 2.2].

You see, God's gracious remedy for sin is not only bound up in a Person, it is  centred in the cross of that Person - not the cross as an abstract idea, nor as a religious symbol, but the cross in terms of what God declares it to mean. The  cross was the place where God heaped upon his Son, by imputation, the sins of his people. On that cross there was substitutionary curse-bearing. In the   language of Galatians 3.13, 'God made him to be a curse for us'; 'God made him to be sin for us' [2 Cor 5.2] - the one who knew no sin. It is not the cross as some nebulous, indefinable symbol of self-giving love, it is the cross as the  
monumental display of how God can be just and still pardon guilty sinners; the  cross where God, having impted the sins of his people  to Christ, pronounces  judgment upon his Son as the representative of his people.There  on the cross  God pours out the vials of his wrath, unmixed with mercy, until his Son cries out, 'My God, my God, why have you abandoned  me? why  have you forsaken  me?' 
[Psa 22.1; Matt 27.46]. There in the visible world at Calvary, God, as it were, was demonstrating what was happening in the invisible spiritual world. He shrouds the heavens in total darkness to let all mankind know that he is plunging his Son into the outer darkness of the hell which your sins and my sins deserved. Jesus  hangs on the cross  in the place  of an undefended guilty criminal; he is in the  posture  of  one  for  whom  society has but one option, 'Away  with  him', 'Crucify  him', 'Hand him over to death', and God does not intervene. There in the theatre
of what men can see, God is demonstrating what he is doing in the realm where we cannot see. He is treating his Son as a criminal, he is causing him to feel in the  depths of  his own soul all of the fury of the wrath that should have been vented upon us.

(c) A remedy that is adequate for and offered to all without discrimination. Before we have any felt consciousness of our sin, about the easiest thing in the world is to think that God can forgive sinners. But when you and I begin to have any idea at all of what sin is — we, little worms of the dust, we creatures whose very life and breath is held in the hands of the God in whom 'we live and move and have our being' [Acts  17.28] — when we begin, I say, to take seriously that we have  dared to defy Almighty God who holds our breath in his hands,the God who,  when angels rebelled against him, did not wait to show mercy but consigned  them to everlasting chains of darkness with no way of mercy ever planned  or 
revealed to them, then our thoughts are changed. Once we take seriously the  truth that it is this holy God  who sees the effusions of the foul, corrupt human  hearts which are yours and mine, then we say, 'O God, how can you be anything other than just; and if you give me what my sins deserve, there is nothing for me but wrath and judgment! How can you forgive me and still be just? How can you be a righteous God and do anything other than consign me to everlasting 
punishment with those angels  that  rebelled'. When  you  begin  to  take  your  sin  seriously, forgiveness becomes the most knotty problem  with  which  your  mind  has ever wrestled. It is then that we need to know that God has provided  in  a  Person, and that Person crucified, a remedy that is adequate for and offered  to  all without discrimination. When God begins to make us feel the reality of our sin, if  there  were  any  conditions  placed on the availability of Christ we  would  say, 
'Surely I don't meet the conditions, surely I don't qualify', but the wonder of God's provision is that it comes in these unfettered terms: 'Ho, everyone who  thirsts,  come to the  waters; he who has no money, come, buy wine and milk without  money and  without price. Wherefore do you  labour for that which  does  not  satisfy' [Isa 55.1 -2]. 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Him that comes unto me I will in no wise cast out' [Matt 11.28; John 6.37].

Oh, the beauty of the unfettered offers of mercy in Jesus Christ! We do not need to have God step out of heaven and tell us that we, by name, are  warranted to  come; we have the unfettered offers of mercy in the words of his own Son, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest'.


The divine terms are two - repent and believe. That is what Jesus preached, 'At that time Jesus came preaching, Repent and believe the gospel' [Mark 1.15, 16].
It  is  what  Paul  preached.  He  says,  'I  testified  to  Jews  and  Greeks  wherever  I  went,  repentance  toward  God,  faith  toward  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ'  [Acts  20.21]. 
This is the Gospel that Jesus told his own to preach [Luke 24.45, 46]. He opened their minds to understand the Scripture and told them it was necessary for Christ to die, and to be raised again from the dead the third day, that repentance unto remission  of  sins  should  be  preached  in  his  name  among  all  the  nations,  beginning at Jerusalem.

What are the divine terms for obtaining the divine provision? We must repent, we must  believe.  Now  because  we  have  to  speak  in  terms  of  one  word  following  another,  or  preceding  another,  we  must  not  think  that  this  repentance  is  ever  divorced from faith or that this faith is ever divorced from repentance. True faith is permeated with repentance, true repentance is permeated with faith. They inter-
penetrate  one  another  so  that,  whenever  there  is  a  true  appropriation  of  the  divine  provision,  there  you  will  find  a  believing  penitent  and  a  penitent  believer. 
The one will never be divorced from the other.

What is repentance? The definition of the Shorter Catechism is an excellent one: 'Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of (that is, a laying hold of) the mercy of God in Christ, does  with  grief  and  hatred  of  his  sin,  turn  from  it  unto  God,  with  full  purpose  of,  and endeavour after, new obedience'.

Repentance is the prodigal down in the far country coming to his senses. He left his father's home because he could not stand his father's government. Everything about his father's will and ways irritated him. It was a constant block to following the  desires of  his  own  foul,  wretched,  sin-loving  heart.  The  day  came  when  he  said he wanted what was due to him. He went into the far country. When he left
he  had  a  notion  of  his  father,  of  his  government  and  of  his  ways,  which  was  entirely negative, but the Scripture tells us in Luke 15 that down in the far country he came to himself: 'And when he came to himself he said, I will arise and go to my  father  and  will  say  unto  him,  Father,  I  have  sinned  against  heaven,  and  before  you,  and  am  no  more  worthy  to  be  called  your  son.  Make  me  as  one  of  your  hired  servants'.  And  then  the  Scripture  says  he  did  not  sit  there  and  think  about it, and write poetry about it and send telegrams home to his Dad. It says, 'He  rose  up  and  came  to  his  father'.  He  left  all  those  companions  who  were  his  friends in sin; he loathed and abominated and abhorred everything that belonged
to that life-style. He turned his back on it. And what was it that drew him home? 

It was  the  confidence  that  there  was  a  gracious  father  with  a  large  heart  and  with  the righteous rule for his happy, loving home. And he said, 'I will arise and go to my  father'.  He  did  not  send  a  telegram  saying,  'Dad,  things  are  getting  rough  down  here;  my  conscience  is  giving  me  fits  at  night;  won't  you  send  me  some 
money to help me out and come and pay me a visit and make me feel good?' Not at all! He did not need just to feel good, he needed to become good. And he left the far country. It is a beautiful stroke in our Lord's picture when he says, 'While he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran, and threw  his  arms  around  him  and  kissed  him'.  The  prodigal  did  not  come  strutting  up to his father, talking about making a decision to come home. There is a notion
that people can come strutting into enquiry rooms and pray their little prayer and so  do  God  a  favour  by  making  their  decision.  This  has  no  more  to  do  with  conversion  than  my  name  is  'Abraham  Lincoln'.  True  repentance  involves  recognizing  that  I  have  sinned  against  the  God  of  heaven,  who  is  great  and  gracious, holy and loving, and that I am not worthy to be called his son. And yet,
when I am prepared to leave my sin, to turn my back upon it and to come back haltingly,  wondering  if  indeed  there  can  be  mercy  for  me,  then  —  wonder  of  wonders!  —  the  Father  meets  me,  and  throws  the  arms  of  reconciling  love  and  mercy  about  me.  I  say  it,  not  in a  sentimental  way  but  in  all  truth,  he  smothers  repenting sinners in forgiving and redemptive love.

But note, the father did not throw his arms around the Prodigal when he was still in the hogpens and in the arms of harlots. Do I speak to some whose hearts are wedded to the world, who love the world's ways? Perhaps in your personal life, or in relationship to your parents, or in your social life where you take so lightly the sanctity of the body, you show what you are. Maybe some of you are involved in fornication,  in  heavy  petting,  involved  in  looking  at  the  kind  of  stuff  on  television 
and in the cinema that feeds your lust, and yet you name the name of Christ. You live in the hog pens and then go to a house of God on Sunday. Shame on you! Leave  your  hog  pens,  your  haunts  of  sin.  Leave  your  patterns  and  practices  of  fleshly and carnal indulgence. Repentance is being sorry enough to quit your sin.
You will never know the forgiving mercy of God while you are still wedded to your sins.

Repentance is the soul's divorce from sin but it will always be joined to faith.  What is faith? Faith is the casting of the soul upon Christ as he is offered to us in the Gospel. Forsaking All I Take Him. That is faith! 'As many as received him, to them gave he the right to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name' [John 1.12]. Faith is likened to drinking of Christ. In my soul-thirst I  drink of him. Faith is likened to looking to Christ. Faith is likened to following  Christ, fleeing to Christ. The Bible uses many analogies and the sum of all of  them is this, that in the nakedness of my need I cast myself upon the Saviour,  trusting him to be to me all that he has promised to be to needy sinners.

Faith brings nothing to Christ but an empty hand by which it takes Christ and all that is in him. And what is in him? Full pardon for all my sins! His perfect  obedience is put to my account. His death is counted as mine. And the gift of the Spirit is in him. Adoption, sanctification and ultimately glorification are all in him, and faith, in taking Christ, receives all that is in him. 'But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, whom God has made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and   sanctification and redemption' [1 Cor 1.30].

What is a biblical  Christian?  A  biblical  Christian  is  a  person  who  has   wholeheartedly complied with the divine terms for obtaining the divine provision  for sin. Those terms are repentance and faith. I like to think of them as the hinge on which the door of salvation turns. The hinge has two plates. One  that  is  screwed to the door and the other screwed to the door jam. They are held  together by a pin and on that hinge the door turns. Christ is that door, but none enter through him who do not repent and believe,  and  there  is  no  true  hinge 
made up only of repentance. A repentance that is not joined to faith is a legal  repentance. It terminates on yourself and on your sin.

A professed faith that is not joined to repentance is a spurious faith, for faith Is  faith in  Christ to save  me, not in but  from my sin. Repentance and  faith are  inseparable and except you repent you will perish.He that believeth not shall be damned.


Paul said that he preached that men should repent and turn to God and do works meet for, answering to, consistent with, repentance [Acts26.20]. 'By grace are  you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of  works,lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God before ordained that we should walk in them' [Eph2.8-101. Paul says in Galatians chapter 5, that faith works by love.  Wherever there is true faith in Christ there will always be implanted genuine love
to Christ and where there is love to Christ there will be obedience to Christ. True faith always works by love, and what does it work? A life of obedience! 'He that  has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me. He that loves me not, keeps not my sayings' [John14.21-24]. We are not saved by loving  Christ,  we are saved by trusting Christ, but a trust that produces no love is not real. True
faith works by love, and that which love works is not the ability to  sit  out  on  a  beautiful starlight night writing poetry about how exciting it is to be a Christian. It works by causing you to go back into that home and to obey your father and your mother as the Bible tells you to do, or back to that university campus to take a  stand for truth and righteousness against all the pressure of your peers. True  faith makes you willing and prepared to be counted a fool and crazy, willing to be
considered anachronistic, because you believe that  there are  eternal,  
unchangeable, moral and ethical standards. You are willing to believe in the  sanctity of human life, and to take your stand against pre-marital sex and the  murdering of babies in mothers' wombs. For Jesus said, 'Whoever shall  be  ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels' [Mark 8.38]. What is a Bible Christian? Not merely one who says,
'Oh, yes, I know I am a sinner, with a bad record and a bad heart. I know  that  God's provision for sinners is in Christ and in his cross, adequate, freely offered to all, and I know it comes to all who repent and believe'. That is not enough. Do you profess to repent and believe? Then can you make that profession stick, not by a life of perfection but by a life of purposeful obedience to Jesus Christ? 'Not
everyone who says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter  the  kingdom  of  heaven', 
Jesus  said, 'but he who is doing the will of my Father who is in heaven'
 [Matt 7.21]. In Hebrews 5.8 we read, 'He became the author of eternal salvation to all
who obey him' I John 2.4,  'He that says, I know him, and keeps not  his 
commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him.'

Can you make your claim to be a Christian stick from the  Bible? Does your life  manifest the fruits of repentance and faith? Do you possess a life of attachment to  Christ, of obedience to Christ  and  confession of Christ? Is your behaviour  marked by adherence to the  ways of Christ? Not perfectly  - No!  every  day  you  must pray, 'Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who trespass against us'. But you can also say, 'For me to live is Christ', or

Jesus I my cross have taken, All to leave and follow thee.

The world behind me, the cross before me, I have decided to follow Jesus. That is what a true Christian is. How many of us are real Christians? I leave  you  to  answer in  the deep chambers of  your own  mind and heart. But, remember,  answer with an answer that you will be prepared  to  live with for eternity. Be  content with no answer but that which will find you comfortable in death and safe in the Day of Judgment


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