Is there such a thing as a Christian in name only? That is someone who professes to be a Christian, but has a considerable lack of knowledge about the basic tenets of their professed faith. This includes ignorance of the contents of the Bible in general, and holding on to beliefs contrary to what Jesus did and taught. In short, a Christian in name only professes to be a Christian but chooses to conform to the pattern of this world and not be transformed by the renewing of the mind (cf. Romans 12:2).
In the final part of the farewell discourse (John 17:1-26) Jesus prays for his followers and the coming Church. This is the longest prayer of Jesus in any of the gospels, and is known as the Farewell Prayer or the High Priestly Prayer.
In verses 11-19 Jesus prayed for the preservation and sanctification of his disciples in the world: “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (John 17:11-16)
Christ does not pray that his disciples might be rich and great in the world, but that they might be kept from sin, strengthened for their duty, and brought safe to heaven. The prosperity of the soul is the best prosperity. He pleaded with his Holy Father, that he would keep them by his power and for his glory, that they might be united in affection and labours, even according to the union of the Father and the Son. He did not pray that his disciples should be removed out of the world, that they might escape the rage of men, for they had a great work to do for the glory of God, and the benefit of mankind. But he prayed that the Father would keep them from the evil, from being corrupted by the world, the remains of sin in their hearts, and from the power and craft of Satan. So that they might pass through the world as through an enemy’s country, as he had done. They are not left here to pursue the same objects as the men around them, but to glorify God, and to serve their generation. The Spirit of God in true Christians is opposed to the spirit of the world.
“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17:17-19)
Christ next prayed for the disciples, that they might not only be kept from evil, but made good. It is the prayer of Jesus for all that are his, that they may be made holy. Even disciples must pray for sanctifying grace. The means of giving this grace is, “by the truth; your word is truth”. Sanctify them, set them apart for yourself and your service. Own them in the office; let your hand go with them. Jesus entirely devoted himself to his undertaking, and all the parts of it, especially the offering up himself without spot unto God, by the eternal Spirit. The real holiness of all true Christians is the fruit of Christ’s death, by which the gift of the Holy Spirit was purchased; he gave himself for his church, to sanctify it. If our views have not this effect on us, they are not Divine truth, or we do not receive them by a living and a working faith, but as mere notions.
Jesus next prayed for the unity of all believers: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
Our Lord especially prayed, that all believers might be as one body under one head, animated by one soul, by their union with Christ and the Father in him, through the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. The more they dispute about lesser things, the more they throw doubts upon Christianity. Let us endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, praying that all believers may be more and more united in one mind and one judgment. Thus shall we convince the world of the truth and excellence of our religion, and find more sweet communion with God and his saints.
When the Pharisees accused Jesus of using the power of the prince of demons (Beelzebul) to heal a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, he replied: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:25-30)
A soul under Satan’s power, and led captive by him, is blind in the things of God, and dumb at the throne of grace; sees nothing, and says nothing to the purpose. Satan blinds the eyes by unbelief, and seals up the lips from prayer. The more people magnified Christ, the more desirous the Pharisees were to vilify him. It was evident that if Satan aided Jesus in casting out devils, the kingdom of hell was divided against itself; how then could it stand! And if they said that Jesus cast out devils by the prince of the devils, they could not prove that their children cast them out by any other power. There are two great interests in the world; and when unclean spirits are cast out by the Holy Spirit, in the conversion of sinners to a life of faith and obedience, the kingdom of God is come unto us. All who do not aid or rejoice in such a change are against Christ.
The words in verse 30 seem at first at variance with the answer to the sons of Zebedee, when they reported that they had seen one casting out devils in the name of Christ, and had forbidden him “because he followed not” with them. Then they heard,” Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us” (Luke 9:50); and those words have naturally been the watchword of those who rejoice when Christ is preached every way, and by whatever organisation. In reality, however, the two formulæ do but present the opposite poles of the same truth. In the great struggle between light and darkness, good and evil, God and the enemy of God, there is no neutrality. The man of whom the two disciples complained was fighting against the devil in the name of Christ, and was therefore with Him. On the other hand, the Pharisees were hindering and slandering that work, confusing the people in the process, and therefore were on the side of Satan. They were not gathering in God’s harvest of souls, and therefore they were scattering and wasting.
I hope the above scripture passages have convinced you that there is no such thing as a neutral and non-aligned Christian (i.e. Christian in name only). “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” (Matthew 12:25) We are either for or against Christ and his kingdom, there is no neutrality. The Apostle Paul highlights the importance of being rooted in Christ in his letter to the Colossians: “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” (Col 2:6-7) Paul also gives us his own definition of the Christian life in Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Let us ask God to unite His people with the song “Gather Your People”: