by D.G Miles McKee
Many times I’ve been asked the simple question, “What is a true believer?” The following is a basic and short summary of the answer to that indispensably important question.
A True Believer is one who having, by faith alone, received Christ as Lord and Saviour embarks on a life of following Jesus, motivated by the gospel, empowered by the enabling of the Holy Spirit and under the authority of the scriptures of the Old and New Testament. The True Believer accepts, among other things, certain fundamental truths such as;
- The Deity and Humanity of the Saviour:
- Our Lord’s Virgin conception and birth
- The Priesthood of all Believers:
- That Christ’s righteousness is freely, graciously, objectively and legally credited to us in virtue of Christ’s sinless, substitutionary life, victorious death and glorious resurrection.
- That Christ Jesus is the sole head and High Priest of the Church; thus the True Believer rejects the authority of any man who sets himself up as a rival Priest and head of the Church as he represents himself to be the visible substitute of Jesus Christ.
Are Protestants True Believers?
Many of those who were first called Protestant (circa AD 1529) were indeed true believers. They were called Protestant because they stood for the truths of scripture and stood against the false teachings of the Roman Communion. The word Protestant came from the word testis, from which we get our English word ‘WITNESS’. The prefix pro means ‘For’ or “in behalf of,” or “on account of.” Therefore, when someone calls himself or herself Protestant they, strictly speaking, are saying that they believe in bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel of salvation in Christ alone; because of Grace alone, received through Faith alone, under the ultimate authority of Scripture alone and attempting by the Holy Spirit to live for glory to God alone.
Unfortunately, many of those who term themselves Protestant nowadays no longer stand for these truths and are, therefore, neither Protestant nor True Believers. Protestantism, for them, is a cultural issue, not a spiritual one.
Let’s take a few moments to look at some more of the distinctives of the True Believer.
Right Relationship With God
True Believers bear witness to the fact that we come into right relationship with God only through the once for all death of Christ who redeemed us with His own blood. Christ Jesus bought and paid for the believer at the cross. For the True Believer, Christ Jesus is the substitute who lived and died in his place. In His doing and dying and rising again, Christ reconciled, redeemed and rescued His people. Christ, the representative of His people, finished and accomplished His work, once for all, at the cross and these accomplishments are received by us by faith alone.
Now that Jesus Christ has reconciled us to the Father by the once for all shedding of His blood, we enter into a deep and meaningful fellowship with the Father through Christ. This fellowship is sustained and helped by the Holy Spirit as we pray and study the Word of God. As we prayerfully study and apply the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit Himself brings us into face-to-face fellowship with our Redeemer and His salvation.
The True Believer holds that Scriptures are not locked up, to be interpreted only by a certain group of the ‘enlightened’ rather, the scriptures are made plain by the gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit and can be read and understood by all followers of Jesus.
This is not to say that we cannot be greatly helped by Bible teachers and preachers. God has many servants whose ministries can assist us on our spiritual journey. However, none of these teachers and preachers hold authority over our conscience: None of them can command us to obey them personally or to obey their conclusions about the Word of God. Our final authority as True Believers is the Word of God and indeed God Himself as He speaks clearly and directly to each of us in the Bible.
For the True Believer, the Bible becomes spiritual food as it is brought alive by the Holy Spirit! The prophet Jeremiah said; “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart:” (Jeremiah 15:16). This is one of the great privileges of the True Believer … to feed on Word and in so doing to meet with his Saviour. This is, of course, a spiritual, not a literal, feeding on the Word. The story is told of how in the 19th Century the creator of modern Ethiopia, Menekil II, began conquering neighbouring kingdoms and declared himself as emperor of the region. A political visionary, he became world famous when, at the Battle of Adowa in 1896, he defeated and thwarted Italy’s attempt to rule Ethiopia. In many ways he was a remarkable man, but apparently he had one major eccentricity in that he believed in literally eating the Word of God. Whenever he was feeling ill, he would eat a few pages of the Bible, insisting that this always restored his health. One day, in December 1913, recovering from a stroke and feeling extremely ill, he had the entire book of Kings torn from an Egyptian edition of the Bible, ate every page of it—and died.
The True Believer, by contrast, feeds spiritually, not physically, on the Word and the Christ of the Word.
The One True Church
True Believers believe in the one true Church of Jesus Christ composed of all those who are directly united by faith to our Saviour. No ceremony, rite or sacrament can savingly join us to Christ. However, union with Christ is obtained by grace alone through faith alone. It is through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus and the effectual calling of the Spirit that we are set apart into the one true catholic church whose headquarters is in Heaven, in Christ, at the right hand of God.
This true catholic church is neither founded on Peter nor any apostle other than Jesus the great apostle. Scholarship through the ages has consistently declared that when Christ said, “Upon this rock I will build my church, He was not referring to Peter. The Greek language clearly distinguishes between Petros- Peter–a pebble, and petra– the bedrock from which the pebble is taken. When Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus turned to him and said, “Thou art a pebble, but upon this bedrock, upon this truth of who I am I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”
That Peter took it in this sense is clear, because in his own epistle, writing of Jesus, he says, “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded” (1 Peter 2:6).
Jesus, The Prophet
The True Believer holds that Christ Jesus is the true, perfect and all-sufficient prophet of the Church. Christ Jesus, as the prophet, is the revealer of the Father, the declarer of the name of God, the true and faithful witness, the beloved Son whom we are to hear.
As prophet, Christ not only taught on earth, but continues to teach by His Spirit through His Word. It is written, “Never man spake like this man.” No Prophet of His equal has arisen before or since Christ. In His death, as our Prophet, He showed the character of God declaring His love, grace, mercy, holiness, wrath, justice and hatred of sin. As the great prophet, He gave validity to the Hebrew prophets who had foretold His death and sufferings. The testimony of Moses and the prophets, summarized by the statement, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission from sin” was validated and given reality by the great prophet, Christ Jesus, at the cross.
It is little wonder then that Hebrews 1 tells us that Christ is the final word of God to men. As prophet, Jesus gave us the full and final revelation of God (Hebrews 1:1-3). God’s FINAL speech to us is in Christ. Thus the True Believer rejects Mohamed, Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Mormons, and all others who bring supposed ‘further revelations’ from God. God has spoken in His Son and has nothing more to tell us about Himself than that which He has declared in the true prophet of the Church, the Lord Jesus.
Jesus, The Priest
The True Believer holds that Christ Jesus is the true, perfect and all-sufficient priest of the Church. True Believers bear witness to the fact that we need no mediator between ourselves and the Mighty God other than our God appointed and anointed priest—the Lord Jesus!
The felt need for someone to speak on our behalf to God is very widespread. We see in Judges 17:13 how Micah invited a priest to come to his home, and said, “Now God will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.” Man, it seems, has always felt the desire for some holy man to stand as the priest between him and the Almighty God. What a huge business opportunity this has created for those unscrupulous enough to trade upon this necessity.
The True Believer, however, gives no ground to any man claiming to have special powers to mediate the blessings of God through their services. The True Believer looks to Christ alone as his priest.
This is not to say the True Believer rejects the God appointed ministries of pastors as they comfort, counsel and pray for the needy, but the True Believers sees only Christ Jesus as his Priest.
- It is Christ our High Priest who can be touched by the feelings of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15).
- It is Christ our priest who understands us perfectly.
- It is Christ alone who restores and sustains our relationship with the Father.
The True Believer depends on the ministry of no man to open heaven to him; he sees that Christ alone can bring him to the Father: he sees that Christ alone is his mediator. The True Believer accepts that, in and by Christ, the way to the Throne of Grace is already open and has been so since the Saviour’s once for all sacrifice at Calvary (Hebrews 4:16).
The True Believer holds that at the cross, Jesus the High Priest became the Altar, the Sacrifice, the Sin-offering and the Burn-Offering thus fulfilling all the types and shadows of the Levitical sacrifices. Having obtained eternal redemption for us (Hebrews 9:12) and having by Himself purged our sins (Hebrews 1:3), by virtue of His shed blood He entered into Heaven for us and now appears before God as our righteousness (Hebrews 9:24). By His once for all work at Calvary, Christ has abolished the Old Testament priesthood and has demolished the need for any other sacrificing priesthood.
Furthermore, since Christ Jesus is our priest, the True Believer rejects the role of other supposed mediators and shuns all prayers to the saints and the Virgin Mary. The True Believer sees neither mathematical difficulty nor ambiguity in the scripture that declares boldly that there is but ‘one’ mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ (1Timothy 2:5).
The True Believer is confident that The Lord Jesus, the High Priest, “is able … to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them:” and that Christ is the “ high priest, who is seated on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,” who has “offered one sacrifice for sins forever, and has sat down on the right hand of God:” the True Believer can, therefore, say with confidence;
No other priest in Heaven I need
No other priest on earth to plead
His wounded feet and hands and side
Exclude all need of priests beside
Jesus, The King
The True Believer holds that Christ Jesus is the true, perfect and all-sufficient King of the Church. The True Believer is tamed, ruled by and subject to the King, the Lord Jesus. Jesus is the King. He was born a King, died a King, rose again as a King and He is coming back again as the King of Kings.
Although Jesus was born a King, there was no royalty attached to the feeding trough in which He lay; the stable wasn’t regal; there were no imperial chargers among the animals, the shepherds were anything but stately, nonetheless, it was a royal birth for the infinitely regal God had become one of us. In Christ, the eternal God assumed human nature; God the absolutely eternal holy one became human!
The wise men came seeking for Him and stopped in Jerusalem asking, “Where is He who is born King?” And when they found Him they gave Him gifts fit for a King. They knew He was a King and bowed before Him and worshiped Him. In those days, a true King, as you know, had a sovereign right to rule. The King was the final court of appeal. He held in his hand the power of life, the power of death and the right to make every and all decisions. In the days when all-powerful Kings ruled on earth, if one wanted grace, one bowed before the king and pleaded for grace—-and so it is with King Jesus. The True Believer holds that to receive mercy and forgiveness we must go by faith to King Jesus…for He has the power of life and death. He is the only King to whom sinners can go for forgiveness, and favour.
Christ displayed His Kingship at the cross where as King He conquered both Sin and Satan. As King He granted eternal life to one thief and passed by the other. God in human flesh appearing took on man’s guilt, bore the sinner’s grief and on the cross and paid the price for all our sin. It is from the cross that our King sways the hearts of men as He brings them into loyal obedience to Himself. As King He is subduing all his enemies and as King He will physically and visibly return again to this earth!
Jesus Christ was born a King—-the supreme ruler of his people. He is reigning today as the King and, as the King it is He alone who has the right to grant eternal life and to rule His subjects. Jesus the King of Kings is the source of all grace and mercy. The True Believer holds these truths dear.
“Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven;
To His feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Evermore His praises sing:
Praise the everlasting King.
Praise Him for His grace and favor
To our fathers in distress.
Praise Him still the same as ever,
Slow to chide, and swift to bless.
Glorious in His faithfulness.
For the True Believer, Jesus Christ is Prophet, Priest and King. No man can take His place and no religious leader may rival Him. He is the great Prophet, the High Priest and King of Kings, heaven’s praise and the joy of our hearts!
Justification By Grace Through Path
The True Believer bears witness to the fact that salvation is by grace alone, found in Christ alone and received by faith alone. These truths are contained in the great biblical doctrine of Justification by Faith. The Reformers were perfectly correct when they said that the crucial acid test of the true Church was based on this doctrine. Today, as then, the central battleground between the True Believer and the religious is summarized in the truth that, “The just shall live by faith.”
Regarding salvation, the True Believer puts no stock in emotional experiences which substitute for salvation, but rather believes that under Gospel preaching there arises a conviction of sin, an awakening to the holiness and purity of God and a tearing away of all dependence on anything other than the Lord Jesus and His finished work. The True Believer holds that Jesus, the Lamb of God, was slain from before the foundation of the world and in the realm of time was crucified on the cross of Calvary: thus, the True Believer holds that in one saving act, Christ Jesus purchased and redeemed all His people. This act cannot be recreated or continued as it is entirely finished.
The True Believer holds that we are saved, not by our works, but by faith accepting the extraordinary free mercy and grace of God as revealed in Christ Jesus. The True Believer accepts that through Christ alone God’s people are declared not guilty and accounted as righteous and that this verdict of acquittal by grace is received by faith alone apart from all and every religious ceremony.
Because of love for his Saviour and because he is accepted, the True believer will of course perform good works but these works are performed, not to gain acceptance with God, but performed because he knows that he is already accepted and forgiven. As one old time preacher said, believers work down from the Cross – they do no not work up to it.
Christ Crucified And Risen
The True Believer has been commissioned by his Master to spread the good news that Christ has died and has risen again. We are to give testimony by word and deed that the Saviour by His precious death and powerful resurrection has put away sin forever. We are to testify that Christ not only died for sins, but that He also paid for them. True Believers testify that this same Christ who rose from the dead is the One who now lives and is alive for evermore. He is death’s conqueror and Heaven’s Champion!
Since redemption has already been accomplished by Christ alone, True Believers do not promote the awful teaching that Christ can be offered again for sins by a bloodless sacrifice. True Believers affirm that Christ is off the cross, out of the grave and alive for evermore! The True Believer, therefore, does not surround himself with images of a dead Christ, he does not bow down to man-made statues, but by faith walks with and proclaims a risen saviour who has reserved his righteousness in Heaven.
The Lord’s Table
When the True Believer comes to the Table of our Lord, he is doing three things.
First, he is remembering the death of his Saviour whose body was broken and whose blood was shed at the cross!
Second, the True Believer remembers that the risen Lord is there in the midst of His people and that in a very real sense He is serving the communion to His people just as He did at the Last Supper. The True Believer, however, shuns the idea that anyone has the power, mandate or authority to call Christ off His throne and re-create him in the elements of the Communion. Nonetheless, Christ can be enjoyed in a very real way as, at the table we worship him with thankfulness for all that He is and all that He has accomplished at Calvary.
Third, the True Believer, at the Table, looks forward to the return of the Lord, to the time when He will consummate all that He inaugurated at Calvary!
This is but an overview of some of the truths held by the True Believer. I accept in theory that there could be True Believers involved with churches who do not maintain these truths and who in some cases actually teach against these truths. My question then is, why do they continue in those churches that deny their Saviour and attack His finished work? Have they not read the scripture, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:17-18). My advice, therefore to all such, is to remove yourselves from anti-gospel churches and join with likeminded people in an assembly of True Believers.
Miles McKee, Minister of the Gospel