Ephesians 1:3-15. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… 15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
What is a Christian?
Obviously this is a really important question, one that we all need to be able to answer. Fortunately for us Paul has made it easy to answer by giving us a two-point outline of what a Christian is in Ephesians 1:15.
- A Christian has faith in the Lord Jesus.
- A Christian has love toward all the saints (the Church).
This is not a new revelation from Paul. Jesus taught us this two-part definition of a Christian also. It is especially highlighted in John’s gospel account. Just before dying on the cross Jesus told his disciples to believe in him (faith).
John 14:1. Believe in God; believe also in me.
And right before this he told them to love one another.
John 13:34. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
In fact in John’s gospel we could say that these two things (faith and love) are what constitute obeying Jesus’ commandments. Which Jesus also directly connected to the coming of the Holy Spirit.
John 14:15-16. 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper [the Holy Spirit], to be with you forever,
Of course the first question that comes to mind when you read this is “what are Jesus’ commandments?” But as we just pointed out he has already answered (although admittedly a bit cryptically) that his commands are to believe in him and love one another. But just to make sure we don’t miss it, John’s first epistle makes it perfectly clear:
1 John 3:23-24. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
So what is a Christian? Someone who has faith in the Son and love for others. And these two things are the commandment of Christ that we must obey. Trust Jesus. Love one another. Pretty simple huh?
And yet it can feel so profound and so difficult. If we’re honest we will admit that we rarely seem to be trusting and loving as we are commanded.
But here’s what we must remember – every Christian IS doing these two things: trusting and loving. How? Because every Christian has the Holy Spirit. Every Christian is united to Christ.
- We are IN Christ. We are forever loved. God will always be faithful to us. The sin nature has been removed causing us to trust Jesus forever.
- Christ is IN US. His love and faithfulness live in us. They are the spiritual blessings that the Spirit pours into our hearts. He is trusting and loving through us.
Because of our union with Christ by the Spirit we share his own faith and love. What this means is that the two-fold commandment to believe and to love has already been obeyed by him and the power to continue obeying has supernaturally been granted to us through him.
And so the question isn’t do you perfectly trust Jesus and love others each day. We all know the answer to that. The question is do you WANT to? Not have all your behaviors changed, but has your heart changed? Do you desire at all to trust Jesus and love other Christians? If you want to then you are. Not perfectly yet. But you are. Trust me.
It’s rare that my Christian life feels like Jack and Rose. But a little faith mixed with a little love can go a long way.
Beyond this it is also crucial for us to understand that this two-fold definition of a Christian is also the definition of what it means to be Spirit filled. Spirit led. Spirit controlled.
The Holy Spirit isn’t taking any of us beyond these two things: believe in Jesus for salvation and love others as Jesus does.
This is why Paul is so excited and giving thanks for them, because of these two simple facts: they have faith in Jesus and they have love toward the Church. He’s not excited about all the miracles they’re doing, or all the buildings they’re building, or all the service projects they’re accomplishing, or all the money they’re raising. He’s excited because he sees in them the two true marks of the Holy Spirit – faith and love.
“To live is Christ” (and our love for Jesus) is marked by these two things – we trust Jesus and love his Church. If you’re trying to graduate past these you’re headed in a wrong direction. Yes it is this simple. Yes it is this profound. Yes it has been done for you by Christ. Yes you are also doing it as Christ. His faith and love are in you because Christ is in you. His Spirit is in you. His life is in you. What grace!