What is the One True Identifying Characteristic
of a Christian?

  Lorraine Day, M.D.

A Christian is, by definition, a follower of Christ.  If a person claims to be a Christian and does not follow Christ, then he is not a Christian, no matter how he views himself or is viewed by others or what he calls himself.

Jesus Christ Himself has defined the term “Christian” in John 3:35.

A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another: as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

By this shall all know that you are my disciples, if you love one  another.  John 3:34,35

Every Christian will agree that Jesus said those words.  Every Christian will agree that a Christian must have love towards others.  This is an absolute identifying characteristic of a true Christian.

But which “others” is Christ talking about?  Which “others” are we supposed to love?  Jesus said,

You have heard that it has been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

For if ye love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?  Matthew 5:43-46

There could be no clearer definition of a Christian.  It comes from the mouth of Christ, Himself.  If we are truly to LOVE our enemies, then how can any individual Christian, any Christian church, any Christian pastor, or any other organization calling themselves “Christian,” endorse or participate in war, the military, any support organization for the military or in any type of self-defense – all of which are designed to harm other people?

There is an immense inconsistency – a better term is “hypocrisy” – in the supposedly “Christian” church.

Christians, their pastors, their churches, and their denominations, ALL support war.  They also support pre-emptive attacks on America’s potential and supposed enemies. 

How could that in any way be “Christian”?

The Ten Commandments

God runs the entire Universe by His Ten Commandments.  Jesus, when asked “Which is the great commandment in the law?” summarized the entire Ten Commandments in the following way:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.”  (This summarized the first FOUR commandments.)

“And the second is like it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  (This summarizes the last SIX commandments.)

“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (the entire Old Testament – the only Scriptures that had been written up to that time.)  Matthew 22:37-40

1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, defines the type of love that God expects us to have (from the Concordant literal translation):

Though I speak with the languages of men and of the messengers and have not love, I have become resounding copper, or as a clanging cymbal.

And if I should have prophecy and should be perceiving all secrets and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so as to move mountains, yet do not have love, I am nothing.

And if I should give away all my possessions to the poor, or if I should be giving up my body to the flames, yet if I do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient
Love is kind
Love is not jealous
Love does not brag
Love is not puffed up
Love is not indecent
Love is not self-seeking
Love is not incensed (angry)
Love keeps no account of evil (done against one)
Love does not rejoice in injustice,
Love rejoices in the truth
Love bears all things
Love believes all things
Love expects all things
Love endures all things.

Love never fails!

(God is love – and love never fails – so God can never fail!)

Prophecies will be discarded and languages will cease and knowledge will be discarded. 

For we now know in part, and we prophesy in part.

But when maturity comes, that which is known only in part shall be done away.  (We shall know fully.)

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away those things that were childish.

For at present we see by means of a mirror, only dimly, yet then we will see face to face.

At present I know only in part, yet then I shall know even as I am fully known.

Yet now remain 1) faith (belief that God will do what He has already promised to do),

2) expectation (which is far greater than “hope” – expectation means that what God has promised will come to pass), and

3) love - - these three. 

But the greatest of these is LOVE. 

Be pursuing love.


Jesus said,

“If you love Me, keep My Commandments…”  (John 14;15)

Yet the “Christian” church teaches that the Commandments were done away with at the cross.

Jesus said,

“The leaders of the Unbelievers (mistranslated “Gentiles”) lord it over the people, but it shall not be that away among you (the Believers).
(Matthew 20:25,26)

Yet the “Christian” church has set up a hierarchy that looks down on the rank and file church member, expects to be treated with great respect and deference, and dictates to the church member what he must believe – or he is thrown out of the church.

Jesus said,

“He that is greatest among you, let him be your servant.”  
(Matthew 20:26)

The word translated “servant” in this text actually means slave.  “To minister” means to be a servant or a slave.  But that has been turned upside down in the “Christian” church of today.  The pastors in large churches are idolized and pampered, and almost worshiped.  Many pastors believe – and will say outright – that their job is ONLY to “preach and pray” and the members of the church have to take care of everything else, including all the “dirty work.”  The pastor considers himself “above” all the drudgery of the every-day running of the church and its business.  It is beneath him.

Because of its prevalence, it appears that this elitist view may well be taught in the seminaries.

Whatever happened to REAL Christianity?

How do we obtain this “love”?  Where do we get it?

The only One who can give this type of true “love” to us is Jesus Christ, and He promises to put HIS type of love for us into our heart so we can love others in the same way.

“I will put My spirit (breath of holiness) in you.”  (Ezekiel 36:27)

“I in the Father and the Father in Me, and I in you.”  (John 17:21;14:23)

“Let this mind be in you which is in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 2:5)

Forgiveness vs. Being Changed

If a sinner is forgiven, he does not necessarily change.  He can, and often will, commit the same sin again.

We don’t just want to be forgiven.  We want - and need - to be changed! - so we will not want to sin anymore - so we will have no inclination to sin anymore. 

We need the Lord to move in and take over our life, giving us HIS attitude and HIS character, for HIM to make all the decisions in our life.  We must go to our own “funeral” – the funeral of our “old man of sin” and give up our right to ourself, so the Lord can move in and take over our life.  THAT is “eonian life” – the life of Christ in us.

When Jesus Christ is making every decision in our life, we will exhibit His character – the character of 1 Corinthians 13.

But how does that happen?

The Bible tells us that, “by beholding we become changed.”

But we all, with open face beholding as in a looking glass (a mirror) the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, [even] as by the Spirit of the Lord.  2 Corinthians 3:18

By beholding Jesus Christ, by daily fervent Bible study and prayer, by studying His life, by understanding His character, we become changed into the image of Jesus Christ, little by little (glory to glory).  We will exhibit Christ’s character, His attitudes, His holiness - His “breath of holiness” – mistranslated as “Holy Spirit.”  This is “eonian life” – the life of Christ in us, being exhibited through us.

God is Love

“The love of God is not created - - it is His nature.  When we receive the life of Christ through God’s spirit (breath) of holiness that He places in us, He unites us with God so that His love is demonstrated in us. 

“The goal of the indwelling spirit (breath) of God’s holiness is not just to unite us with God, but to do it in such a way that we will be one with the Father in exactly the same way Jesus was.”  Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, March 3.

Trials and Tribulations

Only when we recognize our need for God do we have an interest in learning who He really is.  And it requires trials and tribulations for us to recognize our need, for us to seek Him with all our heart.  And then we will find Him.

You will seek Me and you will find Me, (but ONLY) when you search for Me with ALL your heart!  Jeremiah 29:13

When everything is going well in our life, we don’t need God.  We believe we can run our own life just fine.

Only when we realize that we are incapable of running our own life will we be wiling to give every part of our life over to God, for Him to make all our decisions.  We will then make Him the center of our life and desire to know all there is about Him.

The Bible will become intensely interesting to us and we will delight in studying it and learning about the character of God.  It will become as necessary for our spiritual life as food, water, and air are for our physical life. 

It is this process of looking at Jesus through earnest daily Bible study and prayer, of contemplating on His Word, of understanding His character of love for everyone of His children, that results in a change in our character.  We will slowly become like Him.

God loves everyone He has ever created, even those who don’t love Him.  And He has the power to save everyone – to save to the uttermost.

Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.  Hebrews 7:25

And nothing can separate us from the love of God – not even the dark power of Satan.  

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come.  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature (including Satan), shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38,39

We must learn to love our enemies as Christ loved His enemies when He was on earth.  When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, to subsequently mock Him, to cruelly whip Him until His back was bleeding profusely, to nail Him to the cross for a slow, torturous death, Peter took out his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, one of those arresting soldiers.

But Jesus did not order a “pre-emptive strike” on the band of soldiers approaching Him, He didn’t order His followers to go to war against the enemy, He didn’t try to defend Himself – because Christ did not – and does not – believe in self-defense.  Instead, He reached out and healed the severed ear of Malchus, a soldier who was coming to arrest Jesus and participate in His excruciatingly painful and humiliating execution.

A Christian can call himself a Christian ONLY if he loves his enemies as Christ loved those who came to kill Him. 

There is NO organized church that teaches that kind of love!

How can heaven be heaven?

The only way heaven can truly be heaven is if everyone there has the heart of Christ, if they love with a Jesus kind of love.  That kind of love only comes from Jesus Christ.  Only He can fill us with His kind of love, the type of love that everyone must have in order to be able to live forever.

But that kind of love will have to be learned here on earth.  It will not be given to us by Jesus’ waving of a magic wand.  It only comes through getting to know Jesus in a close, personal relationship, one-on-one.  It does not come through a pastor or through a church, it only comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

God is love - and Jesus is God in human form.  Jesus has promised to put His “spirit,” His eonian life, His breath of holiness, in us.  (Ezekiel 36:27)  Jesus’ living IN us - IS eonian life, a term that is consistently mistranslated in the Bible as eternal life.

There is no such term as “eternal life” in the Bible.  The original Greek term is eonian life.  It does not refer to living forever, it refers to Christ living in us and giving us His character.

Because the Bible translators did not understand spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14), because they did not understand the principles of Bible interpretation (John, Chapter 3 and 1 Corinthians 15:44-49) they translated a “spiritual” term – eonian life – in a “physical way” – as “eternal” life.

They translated a “spiritual” term (eonian life) that means “Christ living IN you and manifesting His character THROUGH you” by their sense-knowledge  (according to their five senses) into a “physical” term – living forever.

Eonian life should never be translated as “eternal life.”

However, there is a place in the Bible that tells us that once we have eonian life (the perfect life of Christ in us), then we will be able to live forever.

Without this perfect eonian life of Jesus manifested in every part of our body, mind and heart, it will be IMPOSSIBLE for us to live forever.  Because the remaining sin in us would eventually lead to our death.

In 1 Corinthians 15 we are told that death will be abolished, so everyone will be alive, and then God will be ALL in ALL.  But we can only live forever if we first have been given eonian life – Christ’s life in us.  We are told in 1 Corinthians 15:22-28:

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall (the same) all be made alive.

This word “alive” in the Greek is the same word as eonian life.

The last enemy that shall be abolished is death. . . that God may be ALL in ALL.  1 Cor 15:26,28

Adam sinned and passed death (not sin) to the whole human race.  But Christ died for the sins of the world, and his death gave Him the authority to give eonian life (His life) to ALL who received the sting of death because of Adam’s sin.

When Adam sinned and passed death to the whole human race, we became separated from God.  We sin because we are dying.  We are dying because we have been separated from the (eonian) life of God.

But when Jesus comes into our life and fills us with His character, with His love, with His life – eonian life – then we are no longer separated from God.  And it is this eonian life that will allow us eventually to live forever.

Eonian Life


That whosoever believeth in him should not perish (be lost), but have eonian (mistranslated as eternal) life.  John 3:15

True belief in Jesus, accompanied by diligent Bible study, prayer, and giving up our right to ourself to Him, will give us eonian life.


You search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eonian (mistranslated as eternal) life: and they (these Old Testament Scriptures) are they which testify of Me (Jesus).  John 5:39

The Pharisees were trying to become “holy” by sense knowledge, an erudite, “scientific” analysis of the Old Testament Scriptures that they interpreted without any spiritual discernment – because of their wickedness. 

There seems to be no end of the worldly wise who, with great fanfare, write books showing us that the Bible does not make sense when interpreted using the most “advanced” “scientific” standards.  But the Bible cannot be interpreted accurately unless one knows Jesus Christ personally, and has had his or her mind opened by Christ, to be able to understand truth.

Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eonian (mistranslated as eternal) life; and I will raise him up at the last day.  John 6:54

Jesus described Himself as the Bread of Life – the Bread that came down from heaven – illustrated in a sense knowledge way by the Manna that fell in the wilderness – the “bread from heaven.”

Jesus is also described as the “Word” of God, in John 1:14, the “Word that became flesh and dwelt among us.”

When we devour the Word of God, it will give us spiritual sustenance, just as we receive physical sustenance from physical food.  Physical food sustains physical life (psuche in the Greek).  Spiritual “food” is necessary to sustain spiritual life (zoe in the Greek).

Our physical life requires physical breath to bring oxygen to every cell in our body to keep us alive physically.  Our spiritual life requires spiritual breath – God’s breath of holiness (which is always mistranslated as “Holy Spirit”) – to bring spiritual “oxygen” to every “spiritual” cell in our body – to keep us alive spiritually.

And I give unto them eonian (mistranslated as eternal) life; and they shall never perish (apollumi = be lost), neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand.  John 10:28

Only when we have eonian life – the life of Christ living in us – are we ready to be saved.

And this is life eonian (mistranslated as eternal), that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.  John 17:3

Eonian life is ONLY obtained by knowing Jesus Christ in a close, personal way.  The most intimate physical relationship between a man and a woman is described in the Bible as  - - “knowing.” 

“And Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived and bare Cain.”
(Genesis 4:1)

Jesus describes His spiritual relationship with us as “knowing” us.  We must be that close to Jesus in a spiritual way, to spiritually know Him in the most intimate way, in order to have eonian life.

Jesus said,

“Not everyone that says unto Me, Lord, Lord, (those who identify themselves as “Christians), shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; But he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven. 

“Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name: And in Your name we have cast out demons? And in Your name done many miracles?

And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity (lawlessness).”  Matthew 7:21-23

Eonian life is the gift of God that comes through knowing Jesus Christ.

For the wages (result) of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eonian (mistranslated as eternal life) through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

We cannot “buy” eonian life, or earn it by our good behavior.  The only way to get eonian life is by a gift from Jesus Christ, by His putting His life in us.

In hope (more properly translated as “expectation”) of life eonian (mistranslated as eternal life), which God, who does not lie, promised before the world began (more properly translated “before times eonian);  Titus 1:2

God has promised eonian life to everyone on earth.  That was His plan BEFORE He created the world and the eonian times (the eons we are now living in.  See “Does Forever really mean “forever”? on www.goodnewsaboutgod.com).

And this is the testimony, that God hath given to us eonian (mistranslated as eternal) life, and this (eonian) life is in his Son (Jesus Christ). 1 John 5:11

The ONLY way to have eonian life is to LOVE with a Jesus kind of LOVE – to have Christ living in us!

© Lorraine Day, M.D. 2006. All Rights Reserved.
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