What defines a true Christian? To take Jesus Christ's name—to be a Christian—implies living as He lived, following His example and teachings. But are you? What if today's Christianity has drastically changed from Jesus Christ's intent? What would Jesus do—and not do—as a Christian living in today's world? Watch to find out from the Bible whether you are measuring up to Christ's standard—or if Jesus' example requires something more than "come as you are."
[The text below represents an edited transcript of this Tomorrow’s World program.]
More than two billion people—approximately one-third of all humanity—claim to be Christian, a religion that takes its name from Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ and Son of God, according to the Bible. But here’s a strange question that almost seems silly until you take the time to really think about it: Is Jesus Himself a Christian? Today, we’re going to tackle that question together, and we’ll discover that the answer is far more revealing that you might think. Join us here on Tomorrow’s World as we answer the question “Is Jesus a Christian?”
Greetings, and welcome to Tomorrow’s World, where we help you make sense of your world through the pages of the Bible.
Now I know our title seems unusual today. After all, if anyone can be described as a Christian, surely it is Jesus Christ, the very founder of Christianity! The answer seems obvious! However, I am certain that you will find that that simple question leads to other intriguing questions—and to intriguing answers—that reveal far more about Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity than you might have guessed.
Today, we’re asking the question, “Is Jesus a Christian?” And I hope you don’t think I’m asking the question to either make light of Christianity or Jesus Christ. I’m not. Here at Tomorrow’s World, all of us believe that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, who died for our sins, rose again three days and three nights later, and lives now, guiding His Church from Heaven—the Savior whose return and reign is getting closer day by day.
In fact, it is because we take Jesus Christ and His teachings seriously that we ask this question today: “Is Jesus Christ a Christian?”
Most of us know Christians in our lives—many of us believe we ARE Christians. In fact, as we mentioned at the very beginning of our program today, more than TWO BILLION people claim to be Christians today—literally almost one-third of humanity. The influence of the religion going by the name of “Christianity” touches every continent on the globe, and its principles and precepts have impacted governments, cultures, and traditions all over the world.
Of course, the details about what “Christianity” means vary from place to place, culture to culture—and, in some towns, even street to street, as the church on one block may teach a very different set of doctrines than the church just one block down.
Still, most of us have personal experience that gives us a sense of what the word “Christian” means in real life, based on the beliefs, practices, and lives of those we know—or even own.
So, with that in mind, is Jesus a Christian? That is, if Jesus were walking among us today—as He did in the flesh 2,000 years ago—but you did not know ahead of time that He WAS Jesus Christ, would you conclude that He was a Christian? If you compared HIS beliefs, practices, and life with the beliefs, practices, and lives of those who make up “Christianity” today, what would you conclude? How would Jesus “measure up”? Would you believe He was a Christian, or would you conclude that He belonged to some other faith—a different religion entirely?
We don’t have to guess the answer to this question. Jesus answers it for us! The Bible is, in a very real way, His book! From its first page to its last, He inspired its writing through the Holy Spirit, and His teachings are perfectly recorded within its pages. We can know what He believed and practiced, because the record of His life on earth has been preserved for us faithfully for almost 2,000 years, as have the teachings and practices of His very first disciples—personally trained by Him to represent Him to the world.
For the remainder of today’s program, we will examine the beliefs and practices of Jesus Christ and compare them to the beliefs and practices most common among Christians today—and in answering the question “Is Jesus a Christian?” we will let Jesus speak for Himself.
Since we have the perfect record of His beliefs, teachings, and practices. So let’s ask some questions and compare what Jesus Christ did and thought to what we see in the beliefs and practices of modern Christianity, today.
First, let’s look at holidays.
Christians around the world vary in the days they keep sacred, but there is a large consensus around some days, such as Christmas in the winter and Easter in the Spring. While these days are often described as a celebration of Jesus’ birth and resurrection, respectively, it is also a fact of history that both days derive from and are adorned with pagan practices and traditions—trappings associated with heathen gods and goddesses and pagan cultures, some of which predate Christianity by many centuries.
You don’t need to take my word for it, and even the laziest of Internet searches will dig up any number of resources for you—for instance, showing how Christmas traces itself back to customs such as the Roman worship of the Sun on the day of Sol Invictus, around the time of the winter solstice, and how many of the trappings of Easter trace back to heathen fertility rituals and the worship of gods and goddesses, such as Eostre, from which the English word “Easter” is believed to be derived.
Now, this may be news to some of you, but many Christians KNOW about the pagan origins of their favorite holidays. They simply believe that God doesn’t mind—as if, perhaps, those days have been “baptized” now, and can be celebrated by Christians with new meaning. After all, Christians don’t believe they are worshiping heathen gods on those days—they are trying to worship the God of the Bible.
Now, compare this to Jesus’ own stand.
Just as it is beyond dispute that these days and many of their traditions originate in paganism, it is also beyond dispute that, in the Bible, God commands us NOT to keep days with such origins. For instance, consider Deuteronomy chapter 12 and verse 31, where God speaks to ancient Israel of the pagan practices of other cultures and commands very clearly: “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way.” Now notice, He does NOT just say, “Don’t worship those gods.” God plainly says not to worship HIM in THOSE WAYS. We could read of other places, as well, where God’s command is clear—for instance, in Jeremiah 10, where God describes the pagan worship practices of the Gentiles and says with absolute clarity…
“DO NOT learn the way of the Gentiles…” (Jeremiah 10:2).
Of course, these commands are given in the OLD TESTAMENT, yet, what was Jesus’ position on the traditions of men when they conflicted with the commands of God? Jesus Himself tells us in Mark chapter 7, where He is accusing the Jewish leaders of His day of IGNORING God’s clear commands so that they could keep their own traditions, instead:
“He answered and said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men”… All too well you REJECT the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition’” (Mark 7:6–7, 9).
It seems like Jesus’ position is pretty clear, and it is NOT in favor of keeping ANY days of pagan origin or tradition.
Still, this does not mean that Jesus observed no holy days or festivals at all, In fact, quite the opposite! While He refused to compromise and accept the traditions of men when they conflicted with God’s own commands, He DID keep the Holy Days listed in the Bible—specifically, those listed in Leviticus 23—Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, The Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day.
For instance, in John chapter 7, we see Jesus keeping the Feast of Tabernacles, which is listed in Leviticus 23:33–43.
Of course, some will say, “Well, that’s different—Jesus HAD to keep them, because He was Jewish! All those days were done away with when He died!”
Except they’d be wrong. The New Testament describes the followers He trained keeping those very same days. For instance, Acts 20:16 mentions Paul’s intention to keep the Day of Pentecost, and in 1 Corinthians chapter 5—written decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection—the Apostle clearly instructs not just Jews but non-Jewish GENTILE Christians to keep the seven-day long Feast of Unleavened Bread.
God’s word makes it plain that Jesus not only condemned elements found in today’s modern Christian holidays, but it also makes plain that He AND HIS DISCIPLES would have observed Holy Days completely foreign to those who call themselves Christian today.
We see a similar discrepancy when we look at the weekly day of worship Jesus kept.
While the vast majority of those today who consider themselves Christian keep Sunday, the first day of the week, as their weekly day of worship, Jesus plainly kept the SEVENTH DAY holy, as the Sabbath. Luke 4 and verse 16 plainly says that it was Jesus’ custom to observe the seventh-day Sabbath.
Now again, some might protest that this was before Jesus’ death and resurrection—that Jesus, as a Jew, HAD to keep the Sabbath, but that after His resurrection, Christians began keeping Sunday because it was the day of the week He was resurrected.
Well, the confusion of the day of the week Jesus was resurrected will be a topic for another program. But, again, we must highlight that the BIBLE shows Jesus’ own followers disagreeing with modern Christianity and keeping the VERY SAME DAY JESUS DID, even when they were Gentiles and not Jews, at all.
For instance, in Acts 13 we read of Paul preaching to both Jews and Gentiles on the seventh-day Sabbath. The non-Jewish Gentiles among them were so excited by what they heard that they begged for more. As we read in Acts 13 and verse 42:
“So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath” (Acts 13:42).
Now, did Paul say to them, “Well, hey, Gentiles, you guys aren’t Jews. Let’s just meet tomorrow on Sunday when my fellow Christians and I are going to have services”? NO, HE DID NOT! Verse 44 says,
“On the next SABBATH almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God” (Acts 13:44).
He did not invite them to meet for a Christian service on Sunday because there WAS NONE! The Apostle Paul continued, even among the GENTILES, to follow the practice and teaching of Jesus Christ and set apart the seventh-day Sabbath as God’s day for instruction and worship! Even many modern, Sunday-keeping Christian scholars agree on this point: The Bible endorses the seventh-day Sabbath as the day of worship, including the record of Jesus’ teachings and practice and those of His personally trained disciples.
So, what have we seen so far? We’ve seen that, if Jesus were alive among us today IN THE FLESH, as He was 2,000 years ago, He’d find that people who call themselves His followers, all over the world, go to their worship services on completely different days than He does and keep traditions that violate God’s commands in exactly the ways He taught them not to do.
It seems that, concerning the question “Is Jesus a Christian?,” we are beginning to see a very interesting answer ahead.
Now, let’s continue our exploration of the question “Is Jesus a Christian?” by looking at His teachings and attitudes about the law of God and the Ten Commandments.
For most modern Christians, if they are familiar with the law of God and the Ten Commandments at all, there is a sense that the law has been effectively done away by Christ’s sacrifice—the idea that He kept God’s laws perfectly so that we don’t HAVE to keep them. Many modern Christian churches teach that Christ removed the “burden” of God’s laws from us so that we aren’t “weighed down” by such concerns.
That might explain why many Evangelical, Protestant, and Catholic Christians are beginning to live together, or cohabit, before marriage—after all, if God’s prohibitions against fornication are essentially done away with in Christ, then why not?
As Christianity Today reported in March of 2021, “Evangelicals, especially those under 40, increasingly see cohabitation as morally acceptable. Most young evangelicals have engaged in it or expect to” (“The Cohabitation Dilemma Comes for America’s Pastors,” March 16, 2021).
As I’ve said before on Tomorrow’s World, modern Christianity considers the Ten Commandments to be the Seven, Eight, or Nine Good but Not Necessary Suggestions.
But what is JESUS’ take on the Ten Commandments and the Law of God?
Not only does He reaffirm the Ten Commandments, He explains that those who follow Him should consider them even MORE binding. For instance, Jesus taught that you violate the Sixth Commandment against murder, even if you only hate someone in your heart—and if you lust after someone, then He says you are breaking the Seventh Commandment against adultery. Far from “doing away” with the Law of God, Jesus taught OBEDIENCE to them, even telling a young man in Matthew 19:17,
“[I]f you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
Again, this was NOT just because He had not been crucified yet. In fact, John, the Apostle who wrote more about love than any other biblical author, explains in his first epistle, speaking of Jesus Christ:
“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3–4).
So, clearly Jesus and His disciples don’t exactly “line up” behind modern Christianity’s attitudes and beliefs about God’s Laws. But what about this: What is the MESSAGE of Jesus Christ? What is the actual GOSPEL MESSAGE that He came to preach?
Most modern Christians, if they’ve thought about it at all or have listened in Church, might believe that the Gospel Jesus brought was about His life, death, and resurrection, and that through believing in Him, your sins can be forgiven through His death.
Now, I am not here to disagree that forgiveness of sins comes through repenting and believing in Jesus Christ—I am grateful for that fact! But is THAT the message Jesus came to preach? Is that the Gospel? Do Jesus and most modern Christians agree on this?
No, they don’t. Passage after passage after passage after passage in the Bible makes plain that Jesus Christ came to preach about the coming Kingdom of God! Yes, salvation through Him is a part of that message—without that, we could become no part of that Kingdom! Yet, when one actually looks at the accounts of His teachings and of His disciples’ teachings, the idea that the message was merely one about His life, death, and resurrection begins to be seen as nonsense.
For instance, at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, what do we see? Mark chapter 1 and verses 14 and 15 make it plain;
“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”
But the more carefully you look, it becomes even clearer. For instance, in Luke chapter 9 we read that during His ministry Jesus called His disciples together to instruct them on teaching others. Verse 2 plainly says,
“He sent them to preach the kingdom of God [there it is again] and to heal the sick.”
But ask yourself: If the Gospel is centered on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then how did the disciples preach those things when none of those things had happened, yet? In fact, events LATER in the gospels show that they didn’t even understand yet that Jesus would DIE, let alone be RESURRECTED! And they sure didn’t understand forgiveness of sins through His shed blood! No, they preached about the coming Kingdom of God, in which the Messiah would reign over the world. THAT was their message, just as it was Jesus’ message.
We see this time and again in the biblical account. In fact, many times when Jesus heals someone in the accounts, He instructs them NOT to tell others who He is—the exact opposite of what you would expect if the very center of Christ’s message was about His person.
Finally, more than a month after His resurrection, just as Jesus is about to ascend to heaven where He would reside until His Second Coming, what does the Bible say He emphasized to His disciples in preparation for their commission to the world? Look at it in Acts chapter 1 and verse 3, where the resurrected Jesus’ instruction to His disciples is described, saying that
“He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”
Yet, again, if we compare Jesus to modern Christians and their beliefs and practices and teachings, we see a stark and important difference.
We are coming to the point where our question “Is Jesus a Christian?” is pressing us to draw an important conclusion.
We’ll come to that conclusion in a moment.
But regardless of what anyone else may think, the only definition of “Christian” that makes any sense is “someone who truly follows the teachings of Jesus Christ.” So if the beliefs and practices of modern Christians are out of step with Jesus Christ, it isn’t Jesus who needs to change.
Faced with these facts, those who truly long to be followers of Jesus Christ are the ones who have some thinking to do.
Thanks so much for watching! If you want the free literature that we offer on today’s program, there’s a link in the description. And people often ask us, “How do you do this for free? Why do you do this for free?” Honestly, because Jesus commands us to do it for free; “Freely you’ve received, freely give,” so as always, everything that we offer is absolutely free, and this is no different. We work hard at producing these programs; we put one out every week here at Tomorrow’s World, where we work hard to explain to you your world through the pages of the Bible. We hope that you will join us again. We hope that if it’s been interesting at all, you’ll click on the subscribe button, and if you want to be notified when we do put another one up, just click on that bell. Thanks again!
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