Am I Guilty? :: By Grant Phillips

Dr. J. Vernon McGee once asked the question in one of his Bible studies, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

So far, this country does not arrest people for being a Christian. However, in other parts of the world, that is not the case. Christians in some other countries are arrested, imprisoned, tortured, their property taken from them, and many times even their lives. Often their families suffer the same fate.

It isn’t always easy for a Christian to tell if another person who claims to be a Christian is actually a Christian, but the Bible does say, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16a). The thought is continued in the remaining verses of this passage, that we don’t go to a pear tree to pick apples. We go to an apple tree to pick apples, strongly asserting that we know what kind of tree it is by the fruit on the tree.

Then there are those folks who insist they need no works as long as they have faith, and that is true if they mean that works cannot save anyone, but Jesus comes along and says through James, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). So, what is God saying in this passage when He made it crystal clear in Ephesians that only faith saves?

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

To put it simply: God is speaking to non-believers about how to be saved in Ephesians 2:8-9, and He is speaking to believers in Matthew 7:16f and James 2:17f about what He expects after they are saved. In other words, if I am an employer and I hire Mr. X to do a certain job, Mr. X got the job because of what I did and through no credit of his own. However, now that he is hired, I expect to see the ‘fruit’ of my ‘grace’ in his ‘work.’

To be found guilty of being a Christian is all about identification. Mr. X is identified as my employee because of what I did for him. I hired him. I am identified as a Christian because of what God did for me. He saved me. The plum is identified as a plum because of what the plum tree did for the plum. It produced plums.

So the question begs the answer, is there enough evidence (fruit) in me to convict me if I were arrested for being a Christian?

Think about this:

If you had been there when Peter was in the courtyard when Jesus was arrested, would you call him a man of God (Christian)?

If you had witnessed Paul and Barnabas arguing about Mark, would you call Paul a man of God (Christian)?

If you had been there and watched David plot an affair with Bathsheba, would you call him a man of God (Christian)?

The Bible says God’s children produce good fruit and do not produce bad fruit (Matthew 7:18). How can that be, “do not produce bad fruit?” It is possible because our sins are covered by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, whether we lived prior to the cross or afterwards.

Let’s face it. The court of public opinion isn’t always right. Even though the Bible says we should be able to identify our brothers and sisters in Christ, it also says we are not to make ourself a judge (Matthew 7:1).

However, there is one qualified to judge us all, and He says,

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

“Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19, emphasis mine).

If I were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me? Many of us who call ourselves Christians are going to smell like smoke when all that wood, hay and stubble are burned up at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:12).

Obviously, we can’t always tell for certain if someone is a Christian. Even if we were arrested for being a Christian, the court could also be wrong (Matthew 7:21-23).

I think at this point it makes a lot of sense to just take a long hard look inside ME.

“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Grant Phillips


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