The True Christian
Ryle reduces the character of saving faith to one fundamental question: Do you love Christ?
A true Christian . . . is not a person who only goes, as a matter of form, to a church or chapel on Sundays and lives all the rest of the week as if there was no God. Formality is not Christianity. Ignorant lipworship is not true religion. The Scripture speaketh expressly: ‘They are not all Israel which are of Israel’ (Rom. 4:6). The practical lesson of those words is clear and plain. All are not true Christians who are members of the visible Church of Christ.
The true Christian is one whose religion is in his heart and life. It is felt by himself in his heart. It is seen by others in his conduct and life. He feels his sinfulness, guilt and badness, and repents. He sees Jesus Christ to be that Divine Saviour whom his soul needs, and commits himself to Him. He puts off the old man with his corrupt and carnal habits and puts on the new man. He lives a new and holy life, fighting habitually against the world, the flesh and the devil. Christ Himself is the corner-stone of his Christianity. Ask him in what he trusts for the forgiveness of his many sins, and he will tell you in the death of Christ.—Ask him in what righteousness he hopes to stand innocent at the judgment day, and he will tell you it is the righteousness of Christ.—Ask him by what pattern he tries to frame his life, and he will tell you that it is the example of Christ.
But, beside all this, there is one thing in a true Christian which is eminently peculiar to him. That thing is love to Christ. Knowledge, faith, hope, reverence, obedience, are all marked features in a true Christian’s character. But his picture would be very imperfect if you omitted his ‘love’ to his Divine Master. He not only knows, trusts, and obeys. He goes further than this—he loves.
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Hear what St. Paul says to the Corinthians: ‘If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema . . .’ (1 Cor. 16:22). . . .
Hear what St. Paul says to the Ephesians, ‘Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity’ (Eph. 6:24). The Apostle is here sending his good wishes, and declaring his good will to all true Christians. Many of them, no doubt, he had never seen. Many of them in the early Churches, we may be very sure, were weak in faith, and knowledge, and self-denial. How, then, shall he describe them in sending his message? What words can he use which will not discourage the weaker brethren? He chooses a sweeping expression which exactly describes all true Christians under one common name. All had not attained to the same degree, whether in doctrine or practice. But all loved Christ in sincerity.
Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ Himself says to the Jews, ‘If God were your Father, ye would love Me’ (John 8:42). . . . He lays down the broad principle that no man is a child of God who does not love God’s only begotten Son. No man has a right to call God ‘Father’ who does not love Christ. . . .
Hear once more what our Lord Jesus Christ said to the Apostle Peter after He rose from the dead. Three times He asked him the question, ‘Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me’ (John 21:15–17). . . . He might have said:—‘Believest thou? Art thou converted? Are thou ready to confess Me? Wilt thou obey Me?’ He uses none of these expressions. He simply says, ‘lovest thou Me?’ This is the point, He would have us know, on which a man’s Christianity hinges.
—J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 322–324.
What It Means to Be a Christian
What I Believe