This is our fourth biblical answer to religious questions proposed by a catechistic compendium. It asks how “Christians” should be regarded who do not belong to their particular group or denomination.
It is common for those involved in religious groups of which the Bible knows nothing to speak of hyphenated Christians, that is, Christians who belong to a denomination or group with its own system of beliefs, government, polity, and worship. People identify their “brand” of Christianity by the name of their denomination. The New Testament, however, is clear: one is a Christian, nothing more and nothing less, or one is not a Christian.
No line is clearer in all of Scripture than that which God draws between his people and those who do not belong to him. In the New Testament, the Greek word ethne is often used of non-Christians, meaning, “nations, Gentiles, pagans.” God has but one people, one nation, which is the church of Jesus Christ. All others are considered as outside of Christ. Such are “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Both Jew and Gentile showed themselves to be lost (Romans 1-2). Even those who tried to live sincerely by their conscience rejected what the created world revealed about God and thus made themselves repugnant to him (Romans 1:18-32; 2:14-16).
One must understand, first of all, who is a Christian before one can consider one’s relationship to the non-Christian. The Christian is one who has heard (welcomed) the message of Christ (Luke 8:21; 11:28; John 5:24; Acts 10:14; Romans 10:1-2,10,17; Ephesians 1:13-14), put one’s faith in him (Mark 16:16; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 2:8; Hebrews 11:6), repented of one’s sin to serve God (Luke 13:3,5; 24:47; Acts 26:20; 2 Corinthians 7:10), confessed the name of Christ (Romans 10:9-10), and been immersed in water in order that one’s sins might be forgiven (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21).
It is popular thought to affirm that “we are all God’s children.” By creation, it is true that we all trace our “lineage” back to Adam (see Luke 3:38). But the Fall and the entrance of sin into humanity has all but obliterated God’s creational paternity. The common human condition is sin and its eternal consequences (Romans 3:23). Therefore, without Christ, there is no salvation.
This means that Christians should regard all non-Christians, religious or not, knowledgeable or not, as objects of God’s love who may be saved through the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, they will be punished eternally in “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
Many mouth the name of Jesus, but do not obey his will (Matthew 7:21). Many belong to religious groups and organizations, whose rules, regulations, traditions, and creeds contradict each other and, worse, cancel out the word of God (Matthew 15:1-20). By their allegiance to human teachings and systems, they forfeit any place in the Kingdom of God. These, too, God would call out of their religious “towers of Babel” in order to be saved by the blood of Christ, joined to Christ, and added to the one body, the church of the living Lord.