The world tosses the term “Christian” around freely. It seems that anyone who believes in Jesus is a Christian. In fact, even those people who merely say that He existed, though they make not the slightest effort to serve Him in any way, are referred to often as Christians. It makes one wonder if there is anyone in danger of the judgment to come.
It does not matter what the world thinks makes a Christian. It does not matter what I think makes a Christian. Since God is the one who gave us His word in this regard, it is only He who can tell us what makes a Christian. We all must agree on this concept, that God determines what He wants of those who would follow Him. It is not up to me to determine the conditions upon which I might be saved, Jeremiah 10:23.
So, what qualifies a person to be called a Christian. Well, anyone can become a Christian. God does not prohibit anyone, but in fact, desires all men to be saved, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9. If God wants all men to be saved, then He either predestined every single person to be saved or He allows anyone who will to become obedient to Him. One may choose to believe that God picked him to be saved or lost before the world began, or one may believe that he may choose to respond to God’s call. The Bible teaches that faith comes by hearing the word, Romans 10:17.
It seems that each of us can respond in faith. To what do we respond? The preaching of the word, Romans 10:14. Many have a problem deciding what happens at this point. Do we merely “ask Jesus into our heart”? Do we simply recite “The Sinner’s Prayer”? Or is there more? God has always requested obedience as a response to what He says. (See “Immersion and Works” on this site). The Bible clearly teaches we must repent of our sins; but though we repent of our sins, we are still in our sins. We cannot be right with God without forgiveness/remission of those sins.
How do we receive remission of sins? Immersion washes away those sins. (See “The Importance of Baptism”). Acts 2:38 and 22:16 show that after baptism, we have the remission of sins and the washing away of sins. It is at that point and only at that point that one can be called a Christian. Think about those three thousand who heard, repented, then were baptized on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. We are told there in Acts 2:41 that those three thousand were added. To what were they added and by whom? They were added, in verse 47, by the Lord to the number of the disciples.
The Bible tells us that a Christian is a particular person. He has heard the gospel and believed it. It convicts him of his sin, and so he repents of that sin. Repentance is the turning away from sin to God. He then shows his obedient faith in the simple act of immersion in water which washes away his sins. It is God who adds Him to the rolls of the faithful. So, as harsh as it may sound: the one who merely acknowledges, the one who believes without effort, the one who has not repented, or the one who has not been baptized/immersed is not a Christian and should not be called such.