What is it that marks a genuine Christian?

by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. (1 Peter 2:1-3 NASB)

When the Manhattan Declaration controversy came about back in 2009, it was truly amazing how God used that to clarify the dividing line between true Christianity born from above and that which is a manmade facsimile, which is, of course, not genuine. That dividing line was very precise. On one side were those who took a stand against signing the declaration because it stated that all who signed it were in agreement based on a fellowship of common beliefs. It inferred that within those common beliefs was that all practiced the sharing of the Gospel. The refusal to sign the document was because they would have by signing it, in essence, been showing an agreement with some who call themselves Christians, but who do not hold to the same concept of what the Gospel is in accordance to that held by Orthodox Evangelicals. In other words, this declaration was a means to make the Gospel an unimportant side issue.

I have been dealing with this on a different plane or level lately. When I compare and contrast true Christianity with what has been shown to be false such as that which claims to be “missional,” its defenders have made comments to me along the lines of, “Surely the gospel is defined in such sufficiently broad terms that we would be considered fellow Christians too, right?” This is the issue my brethren. The pressure being brought to bear on us as we stand firm in the middle of God’s Truth will be for us to compromise on what the Gospel is and what true Christianity looks like, et cetera. This confusion is the fruit of many years of deterioration through compromises in the Truth War. We are now at the stage where most professing Christians are biblically ignorant and view doctrine and theology as man-made mumbo jumbo or the realm of the legalistic. If those concepts are true then I suppose the Apostle Paul would be accused right along with us as would the writers of the Gospels and the Lord Jesus Himself.

In our day, the concept of what genuine Christianity looks like is nothing but a mass of confusion. However, the Word of God does succinctly define it for us. Those who are truly in Christ are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) and have been delivered from being slaves of unrighteousness to slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:15-23). In this post, we will look at this deliverance, which is the mark of all genuine Christians.

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:15-18 NASB)

15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. (Romans 6:15-18 KJV)

15 What then? shall we sinne, because we are not vnder the Law, but vnder grace? God forbid. 16 Knowe ye not, that to whomsoeuer yee giue your selues as seruats to obey, his seruants ye are to whom ye obey, whether it be of sinne vnto death, or of obedience vnto righteousnesse? 17 But God be thanked, that ye haue beene the seruants of sinne, but yee haue obeyed from the heart vnto the forme of the doctrine, wherunto ye were deliuered. 18 Being then made free from sinne, yee are made the seruants of righteousnesse. (Romans 6:15-18 Geneva)

15 Τί οὖν; ἁμαρτήσωμεν, ὅτι οὐκ ἐσμὲν ὑπὸ νόμον ἀλλʼ ὑπὸ χάριν; μὴ γένοιτο. 16 οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ᾧ παριστάνετε ἑαυτοὺς δούλους εἰς ὑπακοήν, δοῦλοί ἐστε ᾧ ὑπακούετε, ἤτοι ἁμαρτίας εἰς θάνατον ἢ ὑπακοῆς εἰς δικαιοσύνην; 17 χάρις δὲ τῷ θεῷ ὅτι ἦτε δοῦλοι τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὑπηκούσατε δὲ ἐκ καρδίας εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε τύπον διδαχῆς, 18 ἐλευθερωθέντες δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας ἐδουλώθητε τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ. (Romans 6:15-18 NA28)

In v15 we see Paul’s answer to those Christians who shrug off their sin, saying that they are forgiven and are under grace so it doesn’t matter. Sorry, but μὴ γένοιτο! This is Paul saying, “May it never be!” This is a strong exclamation to make the point that this sort of walk is not the mark of true Christianity. In v16 Paul shows us clearly that those whose lives are marked by slavery to sin are slaves of unrighteousness, i.e. not saved. On the other hand, if they lives are marked by obedience to God then this is proof of them being slaves of righteousness, i.e. regenerate. Now, here is vv17-18 in a word-for-word translation from the Greek.

Grace (χάρις) but (δὲ) to the (τῷ) God (θεῷ) because (ὅτι) you were (ἦτε) slaves (δοῦλοι) of the (τῆς) sin (ἁμαρτίας) you obeyed (ὑπηκούσατε) but (δὲ) from (ἐκ) heart (καρδίας) into (εἰς) what (ὃν) you were (παρεδόθητε) example (τύπον) of teaching (διδαχῆς), having been freed (ἐλευθερωθέντες) but (δὲ) from (ἀπὸ) the (τῆς) sin (ἁμαρτίας) you were slaved (ἐδουλώθητε) to the (τῇ) rightness (δικαιοσύνῃ).

Here is this translation with an “English word order”: But grace to God, for you were slaves of sin, but you obeyed from the heart in which example of teaching you were delivered by, and having been set free from sin, you were enslaved to righteousness. Do you see the transition point of true salvation? The genuine Christian, like all people born into this world, was a slave of sin. However, he or she“obeyed from the heart the model or example of teaching he or she  was delivered by. This deliverance freed him or her from sin and enslaved them unto righteousness. These have been delivered and are new creations.

16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:16-17 NASB)

Yes, our justification is by faith and in it God declared us righteous by imputing Christ’s righteousness to our account, but He also sanctified us. This is what Paul is describing in Romans 6. This sanctification is a real deliverance. We are new creations who have been delivered from slavery to unrighteousness unto righteousness. This does not mean we will be perfect in this life. This does not mean that we will never sin. What it means is that we will be growing unto Christlikeness from this moment of deliverance until God takes us home to be with our Lord forever.

What is our part? Our part is to learn how to mortify our sins. My brethren, it is tragic that these truths and this understanding is so rarely taught or heard of in today’s version of Christianity. Yes, if we proclaim it we will be ridiculed and attacked, et cetera, but it sure didn’t stop the Apostle Paul from proclaiming this boldly in his epistles! Therefore, we should not conceal it either.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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