What must a person do to become a Christian?
To become a follower of Jesus Christ, one must first respond to God’s calling and this Q&A will deal with the aspect of God’s calling.
While people by the countless millions have appropriated the Christian mantle, the vast majority have never been called to true Christianity.
Jesus made this statement regarding how people are called: “‘No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day’” (John 6:44). There were many “followers” of Jesus who were really not called by God. Read the context of chapter 6 of John, and you will see that most neither understood nor did they believe what He taught. Jesus once again addressed them saying: “‘Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father’” (John 6:65).
Not everyone is being called at this time (However, all people will be given the chance to respond to God’s calling, but that will take place in the future—in a time following the calling of the “firstfruits” of salvation (compare 1 Corinthians 15:20-24: Revelation 20:4-6). Those who are called now to become Christians are specially selected by God—for His purpose and for His reason:
“‘At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him’” (Matthew 11:25-27).
The apostle Paul understood this and wrote:
“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God–and righteousness and sanctification and redemption–that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).
How, then, are people called?
God, who is Spirit (John 4:24), does the calling. Note: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). God’s purpose is to call people into the Church of God, and we find that on the Day of Pentecost (also named the Feast of Firstfruits, compare Exodus 23:16; 34:22 and Numbers 28:26), it was God who led people to repentance in order to become a part of the Church:
“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call’” (Acts 2:38-39).
Those who are called are “called to be saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Basically, the word saint means “setting apart”—as from the world (Colossians 1:13-14). God calls people to come out of this world and into the spiritual life of the Church of God. People are being called into the Church of God, over which Jesus Christ rules as its Head (Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:18).
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, “‘I will build my Church.’” The Bible reveals how this is being accomplished:
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Again, then, how are people being called?
It is through the Work of the Church of God. Jesus commissioned His Church to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God—the gospel (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 1:8; Matthew 24:14).
Jesus Christ has established His ministry with the specific responsibility to preach:
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16; Also, 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Romans 10:8-17).
The ministers of God’s Church are those whom God chooses. A person can no more choose to become a minister of Christ on his own than anyone can call themselves into the Church of God. In fact, note this warning: “And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was” (Hebrews 5:4).
But many do take this honor onto themselves, and Christians are warned about false ministers. This is especially critical for those first experiencing God’s calling. Note:
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
In the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:2-20), Jesus warns that Satan will attack those whom God calls or who think that they were called. In verses 14 and 15, Jesus explains, “‘The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.’”
Satan is a real spirit being, and he is a fallen Archangel who has totally rejected the way of obedience to God: He is called a liar (John 8:44); He is called “‘the ruler of this world’” (John 12:31); He is “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4); He has deceived “the whole world” (Revelation 12:9); and, he has “the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14).
Christians, and this includes the newly called and those who continuously live God’s Way as members of the Church of God, are instructed:
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Peter 5:6-9).
“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:7-10).
There are deceived individuals who falsely think that God has called them and that they are doing God’s Will—even fulfilling ministerial roles claiming to be representatives of Christ. Consider this response from Jesus:
“‘Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
In these words of Christ we find a key to success for those whom God is truly calling. It is to be obedient to God and to not refuse to keep His laws! It is far too easy to compromise, but if one is to answer God’s calling, he or she must turn to God with all their heart and be willing to fully submit to His guidance.
Ask God for His help and really mean it! Personal prayer, study and meditation combined with the guidance from God’s true ministers will help in answering God’s calling. But this is only the first step, for God’s calling leads to repentance from sin! It also leads to an unyielding and uncompromising commitment to seek and obey God’s Will—to enter His eternal Kingdom as Sons and Daughters in the Family of God.
Our booklet, “How to Find the True Church of God,” offers much more information about what a person must do to become a true Christian and how to answer the calling of God.
Lead Writer: Dave Harris