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It’s Possible To Be A Good Or A Bad Christian

For some, the title of this post may seem odd. After all, the word “Christian” is a positive word. It’s how we identify followers of Christ. It follows that a Christian’s behavior will be Christ-like. Therefore if you’re Christian you must be good. That’s why we get halos, isn’t it?

good or bad christian with halo

No, that isn’t necessarily the case. One does not become a Christian by adhering to godly rules of behavior. The word Christian was first used in a church to describe those who were followers of Christ Acts 11:26. A person is not a follower of Jesus because he or she chooses to emulate Jesus’ behavior. No one is good enough to successfully do that Ephesians 2:8-9. Rather, a Christian is one who believes in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection as the payment for one’s personal sins 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

It’s true that becoming a Christian changes you.

  • Your sins are forgiven Colossians 1:14.
  • You are a new creation 2 Corinthians 5:17.
  • You have the Spirit of God Romans 8:9 and Jesus Colossians 1:27 living within you.

There are many more things that could be added to this list. Your faith in Jesus has had an impact on you.

On the other hand becoming a Christian doesn’t guarantee that you will live a morally pure life. You may still be a good or bad Christian. Anyone who is a Christian already knows this by experience. Here are some verses that support this.

  • Anyone who says he doesn’t have an inclination to sin is deceiving himself 1 John 1:8.
  • Anyone who says he doesn’t sin makes God a liar 1 John 1:10.
  • God has told us what to do to be forgiven when we sin 1 John 1:9.
  • Jesus is our advocate, defending us before the Father when we sin 1 John 2:1-2

So Christians sin. Since it’s understood and even assumed that Christians still sin, what then is a “bad Christian?” It’s not simply someone who sins.

[Tweet “A bad Christian is one who consistently disregards the biblical standards for Christ-followers.”]

It’s one who knows what is right to do in God’s eyes but intentionally and consistently rejects it. It’s possible to be a Christian and blatantly not show it in your behavior. Here’s what Paul told the church at Corinth to do about people like that.

“But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother [is a Christian] if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” 1 Corinthians 5:11

The terms above, sexual immorality, greed, etc., are broad and can include just about any sin.

Is there an area of your life where you aren’t acting like Christ and you know it but you refuse to confess it or seek God’s help to stop? Then you’re a bad Christian.

The good news is that to go from bad Christian to good Christian takes but a moment. Humble yourself, confess your sin. God will forgive you, smile upon you. You’re back on track! Don’t give up. God hasn’t given up on you.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you below.

  • I think, that there is no “bad Christian” in One Body of Christ. If someone is “named as brother, it does’n mean that he or she really is a Christian. I Cor. 5:11 should be compared to 1 Cor 6:9,10, which means that if someone still is committing those sins, will not “inherit the kingdom of God”. Saved are only those, that are washed, sanctified and justifies “in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God”. I think, that in Body of Christ there are some “carnal” Christians, but they must repent and confess their sins. How long God is willing to wait for their repentance, only He knows.

    In Hebrews we read, that if someone “sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins” (Heb. 10:26).

    John gives us an explanation that those, that may have been named as Christians, they were not – “for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1 J. 2:19).

    • This post is not about whether a person is a Christian or not. Please set that aside completely. We can have a separate discussion about that some other time. 🙂

      The question is whether the statement that a person “is a Christian” is a statement of morality. I suggest it is not. It is a statement of what a person is and what they believe. It is a person who follows Jesus and who agrees to be identified as one who follows that teaching. It is not a statement of morality

      Let me give an example. My mother, who is a Christian and I believe with the Lord, was physically abusive to all six of her children on an almost daily basis. Is she a good Christian? I believe she is with the Lord. Even though she had faith in Jesus and identified as a Christ follower she was often morally a bad Christian. I assume that she prayed for forgiveness and was given it.

      The verse you quote from Hebrews 10:26 does not apply here. It is about a very different topic, Henryk. That discussion pertains to 1st century Christians who said they believed in Jesus and were still going to the Temple to offer sacrifices for their sins. When that person rejected the sacrifice of Christ on their behalf, foolishly trusting in sacrifices of animals that pointed to Jesus, there was in reality no real sacrifice left for them.

      The question is not do Christians ever sin. Of course we do.

      The question is not are we viewed as holy and righteous in God’s eyes. Of course we are.

      The question is “Does being a Christian make you a morally good person in your actions?”

      I would think Henryk from your personal experience that we’ve talked about that you would agree there a “bad Christians”. Christians who lie and deceive and yes, they are Christians. For this discussion we are assuming it is a real Christian.

      Yes, I completely agree that the Bible describes a bad Christian as carnal. On the other hand we can be carnal for an hour or two or a day and repent. That does not make us “bad” because we aren’t living with that sin in our lives. Even a “bad Christian” can immediately repent and seek God and become a morally good Christian.

      Thank you for your comments, I always appreciate them!

      • Thank you, Ward, for your respond.

        I do understand that your post is about Christians, but I do not agree with the idea, that someone can believe in Christ, and live “constantly disregarding biblical standards”.

        Let me present my point of view on “bad Christians”

        Since we are saved by grace and through a new birth as God’s act in us is, we “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). John explains – “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 Jn. 3:9). “Practice of sinning” means “constant sinning”. Of course, every believer can commit a sinful act being tempted by sinful nature of his flesh, but his first reaction would be to repent and confess to God, Who “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).

        There are many people they call themselves Christians because they were taught to think they are. They can say that they accepted Jesus, they can be baptized in His name, but if they are not showing a fruit of the Spirit in their lives, nothing has happened. We see an example in Acts 8, when Peter has come to Samaria to see new converts. One of them, “Simon himself believed, and after being baptized” (v. 13), but Peter has said: “You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you” (v. 20,21). The baptism is not a sacrament, as Catholics believe, they believe are saved by it.

        The basic scripture concerning our salvation by the grace of God is Eph.2: 8,9. But those verses should be taken together with v. 10 – “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”. Only God can regenerate us
        that we will be able to do “good works” by the Holy Spirit that is dwelling in our
        hearts – if we let Him to lead us. We can’t separate our believes from the way
        we act morally

        It’s possible, that there are” carnal Christians”. They are those, that are “dull of hearing” and don’t grow toward maturity. As I’ve told before, only God knows how long He will wait for their repentance, which is necessary to get remission of sins.

        As you know, I do not agree with an idea of “eternal security”. I believe, that since we are saved by grace, we have to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Php. 2:12). God, in His grace, has “reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel” (Col. 1:22,23).

        But if someone, being reconciled by God is not “continuing in the faith … and is shifting from the hope”? Can he or she be called “a bad Christian” being secure of salvation?

        • It would seem that if we were to say that those who profess to be Christians are not when they consistently disregard biblical truth, perhaps you would say loose their salvation, that many people are loosing and gaining their salvation many times in their lives.

          May I ask what kind of Christian does the Matthew 18 principle of discipline apply to? A good Christian? The situation described is clearly one of a person disregarding biblical principles. If after all the attempts to see them change their behavior fail, they are taken before the church. As Paul demonstrated in 1 Corinthians with the man who lived with his step mom, such as one is to put out of the church. He was put out of the church. Was he no longer a Christian during the time of living in sin? When he returned to the fellowship did he become a Christian again?

          I would agree with what you said above that he was carnal. That is exactly my point. According the Romans 8 the carnal mind is hostile to God. I believe Romans 8 is talking about a carnal Christian. If he was carnal for an extended period of time (as allowed by God’s grace) he was during that time a “bad” Christian.

          The issue of security of salvation is another very important topic that would muddy the waters too much if we got into it here. If you think that such a person, who is carnal for an extended period of time looses his salvation, then I understand your point.

          • I do not understand that someone can loose salvation, gain it again, loose and gain it many times. For God counts only when we will make faithful to the end. Of course, we are saved by grace but we have to hold fast to His word, unless we believe in vain. It’s why if we sin we have chance to confess and be washed by the blood of Jesus. It’s a grace that we can experience through all our live.

            To have a better view of our salvation, we have to remember that in the Bible there are three tenses of salvation – Past – “we are saved”, Present -“we are being saved” and Future – “we will be saved”.

            Crucial verse concerning our present salvation is 1 Cor. 15:1,2. Not all English translation are correct in second verse. Good one is ESV – (v. 2) “by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”

            Let me quote what somebody has said about American evangelicals: “The old doctrine that saints must diligently make a personal effort to persevere in faith has been overshadowed by the new doctrine that saints can live just like anyone else in the world and as long as they once assented to gospel truths they are most certainly bound for heaven”. Jesus said: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Math. 24:13).

            I agree, that it is a very important topic, and as wide as an ocean between Europe and US. I’m not going to discus all letters making beautiful Dutch flower. The reason for me to “drop a line” (in fact many lines), is to say, that we as God’s children are called to live holy life.

            I love to read your posts

  • I agree with Henryk that a person willfully sins and does not car and is not repentant, there is a question as to whether he or she is a Christian. But there are many Christians who struggle with habitual sins or “besetting” sins who do not want that sin in their lives and are repentant and trying to do something about them. I believe the grace of God certainly applies to them. Even the Apostle Paul admits to struggling with sin. See Romans 7:18-25.

    • Hi Tim,

      I wrote a reply to Henryk and want to reply to you. This post is only talking about Christians. The question of whether a person is a Christian or not is not my focus. I am saying, as Paul said, there are “bad Christians.” The man at Corinth who took his step mother as his wife was a bad Christian. He was a brother. He was judged, discipline and ultimately repented. I think we both know of Christians who are dishonest. Christians who have bad tempers and have a bad reputation at their jobs because of it. If a person has a habitual sin and never grows out of it, never get victory over it and is characterized as a liar or hothead or drunk, no matter how much they pray about it (remember I am only talking about Christians) would have to called a bad Christian.

      I am bringing this up because there are many people who don’t make the distinction between what you believe and how you act. In God’s eyes we are holy and righteous and His children. We can always go to Him in prayer and when we need comfort and for forgiveness. But there are still Christians who allow their morals to be bad and live like the world and not children of God.

      Thanks for your comment Tim!

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    Ward Cushman

    My journey of faith started when I was nine years old when I realized that Jesus died and rose again to pay for my sins. At the age of thirteen I felt the call of God on my life for ministry.

    I have been fortunate to work in the marketplace for over ten years and in full-time Christian ministry for over thirty years.

    My passion is to teach God's Word in such a way that it is easy to understand and so that God uses it to bring about life change in those who hear it.

    It is my greatest joy to see God work through me to produce fruit for His glory!