I received an email rejecting a request for a speaking venue. The rejection included the writer’s assessment that I was “not a Christian” because of her narrow, Evangelical interpretation of the word. I responded as follows:
As one who, like the Apostle Paul, has stood in the presence of Christ, and likewise been caught up into heaven and been taught unspeakable things, I know from the Lord’s own voice my standing before Him. Whether others regard me as a “Christian,” I know that Christ regards me as His devoted follower and faithful servant.
I likewise comprehend His grace for others, including those who would exclude me from being defined as “Christian,” and therefore exclude me from salvation itself.
Rather than debate, deny, or judge the “Christianity” of others using any criteria, Bible verse, or Protestant hope for salvation, I accept any person’s claim to be “Christian” as welcome news. Whether they lived for the first millennium and a half of Christian history when only the Catholic Church existed, or they divide themselves into groups claiming to hold the exclusive qualifications to be saved today.
I judge no man. I encourage them all to hold fast to the hope of salvation offered by Christ, even if they hold beliefs by which they judge and reject me as a fellow Christian.
This intolerant and anti-Christian view rejects as un-Christian all those who think there is a necessary role for works in addition to faith. (See James 2:20 & 26: “Faith without works is dead”.) They ignore two verses penned by James. They reject three chapters of Christ’s teachings. (Matt. 5 through 7.) They reject Christ’s own submission to the ordinance of baptism “to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matt. 3:15.) These dogmatic and blind guides base their entire false construction on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians which states in passing: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9.) It is a mistake to interpret Paul to be in conflict with Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, and if there is a conflict, we ought to obey Christ.
Paul taught in Ephesus, resided there for a time, and was acquainted with the arguments going on in that community when he wrote his letter to them. The document is literally “reading someone else’s mail” without the benefit of knowing the background of weeks of Paul’s teaching and information related to him from visitors to the city. We cannot now have any confidence that these two verses represent Paul’s understanding or even Paul’s oral teachings.
What we do know for certain, however, is that Christ instructed us to be the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13) and light of the world (Matt. 5:14). It is anti-Christ to deny the obligation to be salt and to provide light. It is anti-Christ to reject Christ’s admonition to let the world “see your good works” if we are to follow Him. (Matt. 5:16.)
Christ warned us to “keep the commandments.” He cursed those who proclaim we are merely saved by grace and have no obligation to obey His commandments. He declared, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:19.)
Christ then elevated the commandment to not kill, by warning Christians to “not be angry” with their brothers. (Matt. 5:21-22.) He explained that His followers would not even engage in Christian giving without first forgiving all those who offended them. (Matt. 5:23-24.)
Christ commanded us to agree with disputants, and not oppose them. We are to give what they demand of us rather than withhold even our cloak. (Matt. 5:25-26; 39-42.)
Christ elevated the commandment against committing adultery by commanding His followers to not entertain “lust in your heart.” (Matt. 5:27-28.)
Christ revoked divorce as an option for His followers, except in the case adultery. (Matt. 5:31-32.)
Christ commanded us to love even our enemies and return good for evil. (Matt. 5:43-47.)
Christ commanded us to “be perfect” as a follower and believer in Him. (Matt. 5:48.)
This is only the first of the three chapters of Christ’s instructions about what following Him requires.
James explained how a Christian is to follow Christ: “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:14-18.)