5 Things You Have to Believe to be a Christian

Dear Roger,

My husband and I were discussing how much you had to believe to be a real Christian? So that’s my question.

Sincerely, Lanette

Dear Lanette,

Christianity is a faith-based religion. Good works, behaviors, and trying to live a good life have absolutely nothing to do with being a Christian. Being a Christian is a matter of faith and belief.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Paul’s definition of the gospel is simple and succinct: “Faith plus nothing equals salvation.” If we put anything in place of nothing then we have twisted and perverted the gospel into something it can never be.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! (Galatians 1:8-9)

The Five Essentials 

If you believe the following five things to be true, you can trust that you’re a Christian.

1. Jesus is 100 percent God and 100 percent man. 

“Hydrostatic union” is the word used to describe this fact. The hypostatic union is inscrutable which means that no one can understand it. We must believe it by faith.

As God, Jesus rules the universe. As man, he died on the cross for our sin.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

2. Jesus was virgin-born. 

The virgin birth proclaims that Jesus was born with no male intervention. 

Must we believe in the virgin birth to be a Christian? When I became a Christian at the age of seven, I didn’t know what a virgin was.

On the other hand, it is not possible for one who’s old enough to know what a virgin is, to reject this doctrine, and be a Christian.

“… and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, out of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Messiah” (Matthew 1:16).

3. The substitutionary atonement declares that Jesus died in our place on the cross. 

We deserve to die for our sin. Fortunately, Jesus was our substitute who took our punishment upon himself to pay the price to forgive our sin.

“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

“For the wages of sin is; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ his son” (Romans 6:23).

“Then he took a cup… ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26:27-28).

4. The resurrection is our proof that Jesus cheated death, and if we believe in him, we can cheat death, too. 

Jesus did not raise himself from the dead. The Bible is very clear that the resurrection was engineered by both God the father and the Holy Spirit.

Had Jesus faltered at any place, he would’ve been left in the tomb.

“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay’” (Matthew 28:5-6).

5. We must make a conscious decision to surrender our lives to Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. 

No one is born a Christian. Following Christ is a personal decision of the will. Forgiveness of sin is a free gift, but it doesn’t come automatically. The gift is received by accepting Christ personally.

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

We must stop fighting over the nonessentials. 

“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but… As mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).

Pastor Craig down the street told his congregation not to go to our church on Sunday nights because we didn’t believe in speaking in tongues. Several weeks later he and I met on the sidewalk taking our children to school (a divine encounter?).

With a friendly manner, I told him that I’d heard what he told his people. He blushed.

So I said, “One day you and I may stand before a firing squad because we follow Jesus. Neither one of us is going to care about who speaks in tongues and who doesn’t.”

Several weeks later he invited me to preach in his church.

Again, there are the five essentials. If we get these right, we will be fit for earth and ready for heaven.

Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese.His latest work isGot Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answerfrom Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.