Chad was the kind of guy who thought he was a Christian, but wasn’t really. He had an opinion of who Jesus was and what he expected him to do with his life, but he lived by his own morality, pursued worldly things, and lived a life in the comfort of his own standards.
Then he met a girl.
This girl and Chad started a relationship. It wasn’t long that the two of them began sleeping together. During this time, God was at work in Chad’s life.
He got involved with a local church and was convicted to stop sleeping with his girlfriend. He obeyed God and stopped, but he later found out that she had slept with his best friend.
God used this betrayal to teach him about grace and forgiveness. It all began with Chad feeling prompted by God to bring this woman to church.
Through this experience Chad sensed a clear and strong message from God, “As much as you feel betrayed by this woman, you have done far worse to me.” God revealed to Chad his condition before him and his need for grace and forgiveness.
God changed Chad’s heart, as well as his girlfriend’s. Today, the two of them are happily married with three children and actively involved in the church.
Just as there was for Chad, there’s a danger for us when we assume the gospel and think we’re Christians when we’re really not. Thankfully, we’ve been provided with clear guidance in helping combat this danger in our lives. The Apostle John lays out three tests in 1 John that we can use to examine our faith, and even the faith of others (cf. 2 Cor. 13:5).
1. Belief Test
The belief test is one of Christian orthodoxy. I believe that we can assume that those who have sound doctrine, particularly about Jesus, and confess to be a Christians, are true believers (1 John 4:1–6; 5:1).
2. Behavior Test
This behavior test is one of fruit. With this test, we can assume that if people have a desire to live a new life in Christ, are convicted by and repentant of their sin, and see change in their behavior, they are believers (1 John 3:6–7, 9–10; 5:18).
3. Belonging Test
This belonging test is one of community. We can assume that those who seek community with other believers for mutual edification in the church are sincere believers (1 John 3:11–15).
There is no perfect system to examine our faith and the faith of others. Only God ultimately knows who are or are not his children.
Although this is the case, John tells us that we can discern who the children of God or the children of the devil are based upon these three observations. Though our knowledge of someone’s salvation isn’t exhaustive, these three tests are sufficient to help the church humbly, lovingly, and patiently examine those within her jurisdiction to see if someone is or is not a Christian.
This process should always have an eye for helping someone know whether or not someone has eternal life (1 John 5:13), but not giving some erroneous rubric to score theological points by tearing someone down.
We should give people the benefit of the doubt that they are Christians when they claim Christ as Lord and live a life like Christ’s with the people of Christ.
We should assume someone is a Christian based upon their belief, behavior, and where they belong.