What is a Christian
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WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN? A BIBLICAL APPROACH

by James Demetrios Fratzia (1995)

This paper will examine the proposition that from a Biblical perspective, a Christian is someone who has received the Holy Spirit.  Certain assumptions have been made and these will be noted. The proposition will be examined by considering relevant teaching in both Old and New Testaments. Essentially, this paper will argue that the transformation of God’s people by reception of the Holy Spirit is on view as the Old Testament promise is fulfilled in the New Testament[1] by Jesus, the Christ.

What is a Christian?

From a Biblical perspective, a Christian is someone who has received the Holy Spirit

ASSUMPTIONS:

The first assumption made is that God not only exists, but that God has revealed himself in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. This revelation is assumed to have been transmitted to us without error[2] and understandable by anyone who is a Christian with a disciplined prayerful and humble approach to it. This discipline of course, involves due consideration being given to the type of writing, the context (historical, geographical and Biblical), the theology and purpose of the writing,  and careful attention to defining what is descriptive of the times of the Biblical writers and what is prescriptive for Christians today.

The second assumption made is that God has revealed himself in the Bible to be ‘one, who is yet three’ – Father, Son and Holy Spirit[3]. Though this triune monotheism may not be necessarily explicit in the bible, it is certainly implicit.

The third assumption is that sinful man has been reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus[4]. Having humbled himself, Jesus Christ is now the reigning Lord of the universe and continues this process of reconciliation between God and man.

It is further assumed that there is a unity in the Bible, provided by God’s salvific purposes through Jesus. Not only is the Bible unified by this purpose but it is assumed that so is human history, our history today, and our ‘history’ in the future.

The Old Testament Hebrew word for spirit (‘ruach’) means ‘wind’ or ‘breath’. It occurs 389 times with a well attested range of senses from inanimate, animate and personal[5]. In the New Testament, the word for ‘spirit’, occurring 372 times, is Greek (‘pneuma’) and covers the meanings of ‘wind’ and ‘breath’[6][7].  Therefore, a continuity is assumed between the Hebrew of the Old testament and the Greek in the New Testament[8]. The ‘Spirit of the Lord’ in the Old Testament is always the personal agency of God, denoting God in his activity in the world[9] (Genesis 2:7; Judges 11:29; Psalm 139:7).

RELEVANT OLD TESTAMENT TEACHING:

An essential feature of the nature of man’s relationship with God in the Garden of Eden was that it was intimate and personal. God declared that this creation was ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:21)[10]. It is this intimacy that is alluded to in Genesis 3:8 where humanity is present in the place where God is “walking” in the cool of the day. As Goldsworthy’s kingdom motif would express it, Adam and Eve were God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule in his world[11]. This intimacy was not simply one of access to one another, to be on face-to-face speaking terms, it was a deeper intimacy of trust, dependence and cooperation. From it flowed blessing, life and security for humanity.

It is partly betrayal of this trust on the part of Adam and Eve that led to their shame before God –they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8b). The implied accusation by Adam that it was God’s fault that they were “ashamed” because God gave him the woman (Genesis 3:12), is clear evidence that honesty and openness no longer characterised man’s relationship with God. Among other factors, the inappropriateness of sinful man to have an intimate and personal relationship with God (from which flowed life, blessing and security) is on view where God banished man from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:23).

Yet the account of the disaster that befell humanity when Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis 3 is not without hope of retrieval. Because before he drove the man out (Genesis 3:24), God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them (Genesis 3:21). Though humankind abandoned God, God had not abandoned humanity. At the other end of history, a history yet to come, the Bible makes it clear that the hope of restoration of this intimate and personal relationship is real. They will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads (Revelation 22:4). They will be God’s people in God’s place of blessing under his rule (Revelation 21:3). From this restoration will flow blessing, eternal life and security because the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:4) and there is no more curse (Revelation 22:2b).

The ‘name’ of God is important because it is a sign of ownership in an intimate relational sense. Therefore it is more than just a covenant concept. It’s invocation implies intimate and personal, right relationship. Very early on in the Old Testament men began to call upon the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:26b). In Hebrew, it is the covenant name Yahweh (I am, or, I will be who will be) that is used. This word in Hebrew is not used again until Moses asks God to reveal his name (Exodus 3:14) as a sign that God really is committed personally to the Israelites in Egypt. The revealing of God’s name is a sign of intimacy, personal commitment, and responsibility. It may be that Moses is hoping that it will allow him (along with special powers and the eloquence of his brother Aaron – Exodus 4:1-17) to convince the Israelites that God really had sent him.

The 10 Commandments and the Mosaic Law were given to Israel through Moses at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20 ff & Leviticus 1-27). The relationship of Israel to the Lord was to be mediated through this Law. God’s commitment to Israel was declared to be unswerving. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be Afraid; do not be discouraged (Deuteronomy 31:8). God’s commitment to Israel was to be reflected in his response to Israel’s commitment to Him through their obedience to the Law. Faithfulness would lead to prosperity, and unfaithfulness would lead to God’s curse (Deuteronomy 4:39-40; 11:26-28).

The curious thing about this teaching is that Moses declared that just as their forefathers resisted God and experienced God’s curse in the desert  (Deuteronomy 1:26-35), so they will resist God (in terms of obeying the Law and the commandments) because they are a “stiff-necked people” (Deuteronomy 9:5-7). He commanded them to approach God not just in a legal, religious and ceremonial relational manner but in a heart-felt , personal and intimate commitment to God. Hear  now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to FEAR the Lord your God, to walk in ALL his ways, to LOVE him, to SERVE him with ALL your HEART and with ALL your SOUL , and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? (Deuteronomy 10: 12-13). What God expected was not simply religious devotion, he expected a personal devotion to him. The genuineness of their commitment to God would be their “life” (Deuteronomy 32:47) or their death. Therefore, Moses commanded them Circumcise your hearts and do not be stiff-necked any longer (Deuteronomy 10:16).

God’s purpose for Israel as a people was that they may be his witnesses to the world around them. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6).

Moses clearly told them that they will fail God and be “dispersed” and “scattered” by God “among the nations” (Deuteronomy 30:1-4). We see this destruction in the history of Israel throughout the Old Testament. Yet the profound promise Moses gave them was that the Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendents, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul and live (Deuteronomy 30:6). Despite their predicted failure, God would take the initiative and change them into people capable of intimate and personal relationship with Him. God’s covenant faithfulness made future restoration inevitable[12].

Why was the failure of Israel to keep their covenant with God so certain? It was because they were stiff-necked and it is God who must do something profound and internal to change them. This is further developed in the Old Testament by Jeremiah speaking to Israel and Judah in exile (Jeremiah 30:3). The time is coming’, declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the House of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord…..I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” (Jeremiah 31:31-33).  Here God reveals continuity with the Old Covenant in that God continues his faithful commitment to his people. But God himself will change them internally under this new covenant[13] so that humanity might once again be capable of entering and experiencing the intimacy of a right personal relationship with God, and all the blessings of life that flow from it – I will be their God, and they will be my people[14]” (Jeremiah :31-33c). Something else is revealed here. No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord (Jeremiah 33:34).  Clearly God’s work will result in an innate intimacy between God’s people and God[15], present regardless of indoctrination, reminiscent of the Garden of Eden before the rebellion of man.

Ezekiel further elaborates on this work of God to change and enable God’s people to know him in a personal and intimate way. “I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit into you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws (Ezekiel 36:25b-27). This work of God will somehow enable his people to keep God’s laws. In the imagery of new “life” coming into the valley of dry bones representing God’s people, Ezekiel links “life” with God’s placement of his “Spirit” into his people and their “settlement” in a special place (Ezekiel 37:11-14). ‘The Spirit and the reconstruction of Israel are intertwined’[16].

The prophet Joel looked forward to a new age when you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be ashamed. ‘And afterwards, I will pour out my Spirit on all people, your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days (Joel 2:27-29). The language here has features of apocalyptic literature but the general thrust is clear. This new age, according to Isaiah, will be an age of re-creation (Isaiah 40:3-5) and an eternal covenant (Isaiah 55:3)[17].

Additionally, the Old Testament refers to a future (Messianic) leader of God’s people in this new age. God’s regeneration of his people is linked to the provision of a Davidic King. My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees (Ezekiel 37:24).  A new ‘kingship and [a new] covenant are correlates’[18]. Isaiah tells us that this Davidic King will be characterised by the anointing[19] of the Spirit of God.  A shoot will come from the branch of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him- the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:1-3). Furthermore, this servant[20] of God (Isaiah 42:1) will proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”, that the new age has come, because “the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on [him], because the Lord has anointed [him] to preach good news to the poor (Isaiah 61:1-2). This messianic leader of God’s people will represent God to his people (Isaiah 11:9) and represent the people to God (Jeremiah 30:21-22). Therefore, his people are to be united to God through him.

 

RELEVANT NEW TESTAMENT TEACHING:

The Old Testament ends with eschatological hope. In the New Testament there is true fulfillment of this hope. Here we see the transition into the age of the Spirit.[21]

Very early in his ministry Jesus speaks of this change that must occur so that people can genuinely enter this new relationship with God, which he describes as “righteousness” (Matthew 5:20). No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment …..neither do men pour wine into old wineskins (Matthew 9:16-17). He makes it clear that rather than replacing the Law, this change in God’s people will represent fulfillment of what is promised in the Law and the Prophets.Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). Probably his favourite way of describing this change from lip-service and religiosity to genuine righteousness, is the entrance of God’s people into the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus identifies himself as the Messianic leader anticipated in this new age. He refers to himself as the Son of Man, a clear allusion to the divine king with everlasting dominion in the prophet Daniel’s vision (Daniel 7:13-14). He accepts recognition as the Son of David (Matthew 21:9), both the descendent of Jesse who will be Messianic leader of God’s people already mentioned by Isaiah, and the inheritor of the promise to David of an everlasting Kingdom (2 Samuel 7:13). He fulfils the prophecy of the return of the King of God’s people riding on a donkey into Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:9). He applied Isaiah 61 to himself (Luke 4:21). The presence and activity of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ ministry, designated the “Servant” promised in Isaiah. The Kingdom would come after he had suffered[22]. Therefore, with the coming of Jesus, the Messianic Kingdom is “at hand, and it is time for God’s people to change – “repent and believe the good news (Mark 1:15)[23].

The radical change to come in this new age is spelled out to the Jewish religious leaders and authorities when he clears the temple and tells them that he will “raise” a new “temple” for God in three days which will be his “body” (John 2:19-20). The dwelling place of God, the meeting place of God[24], with his people will be the “body” of Jesus (see also Revelation 21:22). Clearly, Jesus is suggesting that the ‘righteous people of God’ will be united to God through him.

This unity to Jesus that allows entry into the Kingdom is clearly described by Paul to be by “faith” (Romans 3:22; Philippians 3:9; Acts 16:30-32). The Greek prepositions used with ‘believe’ (??s, ???????) which mean ‘on’ or ‘into’ imply an active ‘living’ belief[25]. It is a faith that inherently includes obedience (Romans 1:5; 16:26)[26] and an internal ethical change that transforms a believer’s relationship with others (Mathew 25:31-46; James 2:20). It is not simply a matter of confession of Christ[27]. It is also a matter of believing in your heart that God raised him from the dead. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified with the result thatyou confess with your mouth and are “saved” (Romans 10:9-10). Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13) but this calling is personal, intimate and a ultimately a consequence of a regenerating work of God in the caller’s heart[28]. In retrospect, it could very well be describing an activity that has taken place in human history since Genesis 4:26b.

This genuine “faith” which leads to obedience and righteous works is a gift of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-10). It does not arise out of man, but is given by God. The initiative lies totally with God.[29] In a sense there is discontinuity between ‘belief’ in the Old Testament and that in the New. There are very few instances in the New Testament where it has a passive meaning which is the usual meaning in the Old Testament[30]. Yet how does this active faith come about? Certainly it is an activity of man in response to conviction for sin and the salvation offered in the gospel (Romans 1:16-18). But it is not simply a response to divine initiative. It is the work of the Holy Spirit[31]. Jesus says,And when the Spirit comes, he will convict the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment; of sin, because they do not believe in me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged (John 16:8-11). Jesus also says, No-one can come to me [ie, exercise faith] unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44).

Jesus emphasizes God’s initiative in rebirth by the Spirit where he says the wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear it’s sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit (John 3:8).  John the Baptist linked this divine initiative to the activity of the risen glorified Jesus when he declared that “he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33b). This is how God’s people will know that God has sent them “a prophet like Moses from their own bothers” (Deuteronomy 18:15) to herald in a new covenant, who speaks as a prophet, leads God’s people into a new promised land, mediates for them as a priest, and performs supernatural acts. In this sense, Moses’ act was simply a prefigurement, and the risen Jesus sending his Spirit into his people is the far superior reality (Hebrews 3:3-6) of the fulfillment of the covenant promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3).

Paul also clarifies the Law and its relationship to God’s people. The law remains the standard of God’s righteousness (Romans 2:13). But he makes it clear that Jewish circumcision (and law-keeping) is useless by itself[32]. A man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code (Romans 2:29a). What Moses predicted God would do in Deuteronomy 30:6 to the hearts of a ‘stiff-necked people[33] to enable them to honour God and keep the covenant, Paul argues is done by the Holy Spirit. In fact, without the Spirit, human beings cannot please God (Romans 8:8:8-9), whether Jew or Gentile. He argues that the “righteous requirements of the law are fully met in us….who live according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4). The regeneration predicted by Ezekiel, and the new creation predicted by Isaiah, become a reality ‘in Christ’. Christ fulfilled the demands and the penalty of the law as he lived and died for us. Therefore, being ‘in Christ’ allows one to uphold the demands of the Law[34]Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). The agent of this internal ‘circumcision’ or ‘recreation’, Paul tells us, is the Holy Spirit.

This ‘regeneration’ by the Spirit is inextricably related to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This agent of change is therefore also called the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11)[35]. Until Jesus was killed, raised and ascended into glory, the Spirit could not be given (John 7:39). Until he left, the Spirit as “paraclete” (or comforter) would not come (John 16:7) to enable the church to bear witness to Jesus to the world (Acts 1:8). Somehow, the righteous requirements of the law fulfilled by Jesus are met in those who are Christians because of the renewing activity of the Holy Spirit of Christ in them. Those who have the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” are “justified” and “heirs” with the “hope of eternal life (Titus 3:5-6). This work of the Holy Spirit is based on the work of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:13-14). Therefore, the cross, the resurrection, the ascension of Jesus to the highest place and the re-creation by the Holy Spirit of a new faithful people of God are intimately related as part of the same salvific process.

It is reasonable to ask the question whether it is possible to be a Christian without receiving the Holy Spirit? Jesus makes it clear that the answer is ‘no’. To Nicodemus (Israel’s teacher) he says no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5). Despite the Samaritans having “accepted” and “believed” the “good news” (“the word of God” preached to them by Phillip) and baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus, this was still inadequate. Peter and John prayed that they might receive the Holy Spirit” and “lay hands on them and this subsequently happened (Acts 8:12-17).

Other biblical terminology echoes these themes. born of God” (1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:4,18; John 1:13), born again by the Word” (1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18), new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15), and “created by God (Ephesians 2:10; 4:24). This instantaneous change from spiritual death to spiritual life, a spiritual resurrection (Ephesians 2:1,5), appears to be a once only event at the beginning of the Christian life, parallel to physical birth. It is a work of God by the Holy Spirit to give new life. Various words or phrases are used to describe this occurrence. “Received” the Holy Spirit is used to describe the common experience of conversion for both Jews and Gentiles (eg. Cornelius: Acts 10:47). “The Holy Spirit “poured outon” the gentiles (Acts 10:45) appears to be used interchangeably with “received”. “Received” and “come upon also appear to be used interchangeably (Samaritans: Acts 8:15,16). Interestingly, it is only after these events in the narrative of Acts that we are told that the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).

The Apostle Peter links the death of Jesus, the “sanctifying work of the Spirit[36], with choice and election by God (1 Peter 1:1-12). He goes on to link God’s grace, new birth, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and a faith actively “shielded” by God’s “power” (1 Peter 1:4-5). This is reminiscent of Paul where he describes the Holy Spirit as a “seal” (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30), or a guarantee of our eternal security in Christ. It is also a mark of the ownership by God of a Christian. This “shield” or “seal” operates in Christian experience by the witness of the Holy Spirit within the believer so that  the Christian can be assured[37], both objectively[38] and subjectively, of right standing before God because the work of Christ is true, effective and applies to him or herself (Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:6; 1 John 3:24; 4:13; 5:10). ‘Where OT saints experienced the Spirit of promise, NT saints experience the Spirit of fulfilment’[39].

Peter argues that our rebirth inevitably leads to “growth” (1 Peter 1:23-2:2).  This growth allows us to serve God in a sacrificial and acceptable way as a “holy priesthood, living stones in a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). This fulfils God’s purpose for his people revealed to Moses (Exodus 19:5-6). God dwells among his people, not in a temple of stone or cedar built by man (2 Samuel 2:5), but within his people in a temple built by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16). It also leads to mission. At this time of ‘re-creation’ in a new age, God’s people will go out with the gospel[40] and tell the nations of God’s glory (fulfilling God’s missionary role for his people pictured in Isaiah 66:19), and Christ will be with them (Matthew 28:20).

This in-dwelling and sanctification occurs through the activity of the Holy Spirit, not simply by human choice. A Christian must “live” their life in accordance with the Spirit (Romans 8:5; Galatians 5:16). ‘If we come into a right relationship with God by the work of the Spirit, we should also continue to be guided by the Spirit’[41]. Having been united with God’s Son, the Holy Spirit helps bring more and more of Christ’s triumph to realisation in the life of a Christian. Christians are ‘in him’ and he is in them by faith’ because of the work by his Spirit (Ephesians 3: 16,17)[42]. The Holy Spirit is active and indispensable grace from God from the moment of rebirth to the end when Christ will share his glory his people (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). Until then, the presence of the Holy Spirit will allow the expression of the “fruits” of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and “love” (John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:11-18; 1 Corinthians 13:13). It is the practical expression of ‘bearing fruit’ through ‘persevering dependence on the “vine”, driven by [spirit-given] faith and embracing all of the believer’s life and the product of his witness’[43](John 15:1-8).

In his prologue, John says “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husbands will, but born of God (John 1:12-13). Here, receiving Christ, faith, and rebirth by God[44] (by the Holy Spirit from 3:5-8) are all on view together. Ultimately, this excludes a Biblical definition for a Christian based on sacramental baptismal regeneration, upon simple confessional definitions, and ethnicity-cultural based definitions. We are told that this is how we know Christ lives in us: we know it by the spirit he gave us (1 John 3:24). The context of this verse however, makes it clear that this is not simply subjective – the Spirit manifests himself objectively by inspiring true confession of Jesus, enabling obedience and love (1 John 3:23)[45]. This is a Spirit mediated, initiated[46] and sustained regenerated life, with external expressions of faith, hope, obedience, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13). At the very least, it is these external expressions of inner transformation over time that need to be present for a Christian to be recognisable.

What difference does it make to have received the Holy Spirit? Ultimately, it is the difference between ‘being’ transformed and ‘appearing’ to be transformed. The former is the work of God, the fulfilment of receiving ‘every spiritual blessing in Christ’ (Ephesians 1:3), or, effectively being in Him. These blessings ‘infinitely exceed the material’[47] and include not just forgiveness for sin but also eternal security in God’s Kingdom as his obedient children sealed by his Holy Spirit’ (Ephesians 1:13-14). The latter is not the work of God but an imitation that may even be convincing. The Old Testament understands that the human ‘heart is deceitful above all things’ (Jeremiah 17:9). This is no different of those who have not received the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. They too are not inheritors of the promises of God’s kingdom in Christ.  However, they may believe that their confession, sacramentalism, ecclesiastical allegiance, ethnic participation, religious works, or doctrinal excellence equates to being a Christian. Yet God cannot be fooled. He knows the ‘secrets of every heart’ (Psalm 44:21). It is probably this very point of genuine inner transformation generating outer activity versus simple external activity that is being made by Jesus in his parable of the sheep and thegoats’ (Matthew 25:31-46).

 

CONCLUSION

Human beings were created to know God in a heartfelt and personal, rather than a distant, way. The Bible reveals a deep desire by God for intimate relationship with each human being based on mutual commitment and love. It is clear in the Old Testament that Israel required radical transformation in order to be God’s faithful people and thereby enjoy the blessings of his Lordship. Placing this necessity in the fore-front of their lives is one of the great achievements of the Mosaic Law. The Law and the Prophets anticipated this transformation in a new age of the Spirit. This age is contingent on the appearance and ministry of the Spirit-endowed Messiah who will inaugurate and mediate the anticipated everlasting kingdom of God. This Christ is the risen Lord Jesus. He transforms by the Holy Spirit by recreating each individual. This rebirth by God’s Spirit is foundational for receiving Christ by faith and living in obedience, hope and love. This paper argues that the Bible reveals that this rebirth is possible only by the foundational regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. If this is valid, then from a Biblical perspective a Christian is a person who has received the Holy Spirit. Additional accoutrements or substitutes to defining a Christian such as doctrinal confession, sacramental regeneration, ethnicity, religious works and ecclesiastical allegiance appear to miss the fundamental, and relatively simple, ‘spiritual’ distinction that God uses to define his own people and exclude those who are not truly his people.

About the Author
James Fratzia

James Fratzia

He's not the Messiah - he's just a very naughty boy!

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  27. McGrath A Justification, the New Ecumenical Debate (Themelios, 1988:145)
  28. Motyer JA The Prophecy of Isaiah (Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press, 1993)
  29. Liefeld WL Ephesians, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press, 1997)
  30. Carson DA The Gospel According to John (Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press, 1991)
  31. Barrett CK The Gospel According to St John (Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1978)
  32. Smalley SS 1,2,3 John. Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas, Word Publishing, 1984)
  33. Cranfield CEB Romans. A Shorter Commentary (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992)

NON-SPECIFICALLY REFERENCED

  1. The Holy Bible, New International Version (New York:New York International Bible Society,1978)
  2. New American Standard Bible World Bible Publishers, Inc. (Iowa Falls, 1977)
  3. Marshall A The Interlinear NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek (Grand Rapids, Zondervan Publishing House, 1993)
  4. Morrish G A Concordance of the Septuagint (Grand Rapids, Regency Reference Library, 1976)
  5. Winter R The Word Study New Testament (Wheaton, Tyndale House Publishers, 1978)
  6. Elwell W.A., Encyclopaedia of the Bible, Volumes 1 & 2 Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, Michigan 1989)
  7. Elwell WA Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House,1992)
  8. Goodrick EW & Kohlenberger JR III The NIV Concordance (Grand Rapids, Zondervan Publishing House, 1982)
  9. Wallace DB The Holy Spirit and Hermaneutics (Dallas Theological Seminary, Biblical Studies Press,1997)
  10. Watson F The Triune Divine Identity: Reflections on Pauline God Language, in Disagreement with J.D.G. Dunn Journal for Study of the New Testament No. 80 (December 2000):99:124
  11. Grindheim S The Law Kills but the Gospel Gives Life: The Letter-Spirit Dualism: 2 Corinthians 3:5-18 Journal for Study of the New Testament Vol 24 No.2 (December 2001):85-94
  12. Gathercole S A Law unto Themselves: The Gentiles in Romans 2:14-15 Revisited Journal for Study of the New Testament Vol 24 No.3 (March 2002): 27-49

Useful Websites in preparing this paper

www.BibleGateway.com Searching the Bible

www.bible.org Biblical Studies Foundation, including links to Journals

home.bluemarble.net/~ecosens/rcrp/ Reformed Christian Resource Homepage

www.biblestudytools.net Aids for Biblical Research

www.gty.org/~phil/creeds.htm Creeds, Confessions and Catechisms

www.shef-ac-press.co.uk Journal for the Study of the New Testament


[1] Davies G quoting Murray I, cf Kaseman (p9) in Faith and Obedience in Romans, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, p23

[2] “not that every conceivable sequence of linguistic data is without error, but that no errant assertion occurs” Carson DA  Hermaneutics, Authority and Canon, p31

[3] Berkhof L  The History of Christian Doctrines, p91

[4] Morris L  The Cross of Jesus, pp 5-9

[5] Woodhouse J   The Spirit in the Book of Ezekiel, Spirit of the Living God, Part 1, p2

[6] Milne B   Know the Truth, p176

[7] Bauer WA Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, p674

[8] Snaith NH  The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament, p179

[9] Milne  B Know the Truth, p176

[10] Dumbrell WJ sees the establishment of God’s ‘covenantal’ commitment to his purposes for creation with these words Covenant and Creation, pp11 & 33

[11] Goldsworthy G According to Plan, p13

[12] Goldsworthy G   Gospel and Wisdom, p142

[13] Thompson  J.A.  The Book of Jeremiah: The New International Commentary on the OT, p581

[14] this ‘refrain’ found throughout Old and New Testaments is ‘kingdom’ and ‘covenant’ language

[15] Kidner D The Message of Jeremiah: BST, p111

[16] Dumbrell  W.J.  The Spirit in John’s Gospel, The Spirit of the Living God Part 1, p93

[17] Dumbrell W.J  Covenant and Creation, p190

[18] Dumbrell W.J  Covenant and Creation, p190

[19] divine favour bestowed as equipment for service, Kutsch E, New Bible Dictionary, p50

[20] see Webb B   The Message of Isaiah: BST, pp169-170

[21] Goldsworthy G, According to Plan, pp279-280

[22] Bolt P,  The Spirit in the Synoptic Gospels: The Equipment of the Servant, The Spirit of the Living God, Part 2, p73

[23] Ryle JC  Mark : The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p6

[24] Barnett P,  Apocalypse Now and Then. Reading Revelation today, p159

[25] Milne B, Know the Truth, p182

[26] Davies G, Faith and Obedience in Romans, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, p29

[27] Stott J, The Message of Romans, BST, p283

[28] Dunn JDG,  Romans 9-16: Word Biblical Commentary, p616

[29] Jensen P,  The Spirit of Revelation, The Spirit of the Living God, Part 2, p6

[30] Berkhof L,   Systematic Theology, p494

[31] Erickson M J    Christian Theology, p941

[32] Goldingay J,  Journal for the Study of the Old Testament argues that circumcision is a ‘sign of spiritual and mental unfitness to belong to the people of promise’ pp3-18

[33] Paul alludes to this in Romans 2:5

[34] Goldsworthy G,  Gospel and Kingdom, p97

[35] Blum EA & Barker GW,  1,2 Peter / 1,2,3 John / Jude: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p16

[36] “the life-long transformation of a Christian into more of Christ’s image”, Milne Know the Truth

[37] “faith implies certainty” John Calvin Institutes of The Christian Religion, 3:2:15

[38] McGrath A “Justification, the New Ecumenical Debate,” Themelios, p145

[39] Davies G. The Spirit of Regeneration in the Old Testament, Spirit of the Living God, Part 2, p37

[40] Motyer JA  The Prophecy of Isaiah, Intervarsity Press, p541

[41] Hill  M   The Spirit and Ethics in the Pauline Epistles, Spirit of the Living God, Part 2, p130

[42] Liefeld WL  Ephesians,  The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, p89

[43] Carson DA The Gospel According to John, p517

[44] Barrett CK The Gospel According to St John, p164

[45] Smalley SS  1,2,3 John, Word Biblical Commentary, p212

[46] see relationship of Holy Spirit to love, hope and justification in subsequent verses, Cranfield CEB Romans A Shorter Commentary, p106

[47] Liefeld WL  Ephesians,  The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, p32


 

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