What is a Christian? There is both a broad definition and a theological definition. The broad definition can be found in Webster’s Dictionary. This definition is “a person professing belief in Jesus as Christ, or in the religion based on the teachings of Jesus.” The term Christian must have been coined by the heathen population of Antioch in derision of the followers of Jesus. “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11) The King James Version will be used exclusively in this paper. The broad definition of Christian includes every religion professing belief in Jesus as Christ or based on His teachings. In this broader definition, this includes every church making such a claim.
After the death of the Apostles, the church broke into many factions, each with their own special set of beliefs. Each, though, based their teachings on those of Jesus. In the early fourth century, Constantine took Rome by the sword–killing his wife, first born son, nephew, and thousands of others. But, Constantine wanted to also stand as the spiritual head of all Rome. He went to the pagan priest, Sopater, seeking forgiveness for his sins; but, was told they were too grievous to be forgiven. By this time the Christian church was severely disorganized and held to many different beliefs; but, were a growing religion. When Constantine went to a Christian Bishop, he was told that he could be baptized and forgiven of his sins. He decided to make Christianity the State Religion; although he was an un-baptized pagan Emperor. He organized the Council of Nicea in 324AD and stood at its head. After months of bickering over the true character of God and Jesus, the council adopted the Creed of Saint Athanasius (pagan Trinity), organized the universal or Catholic Church, and stood as its absolute head. Constantine remained a loyal follower of the sun god until he was on his death bed when the Bishops were finally able to baptize (or sprinkle) him.
A couple statements in this creed stand out. “Which faith, except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.” The Bible tells us that Jesus is the Savior of all men. “10 For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe.” (1 Tim. 4) There are to be two resurrections: one of the righteous and one of the wicked; and there are to be three different glories for man in eternity. “40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption.” (1 Cor. 15)
This creed declares, “The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.” If Jesus is incomprehensive, how can one believe in Jesus as the Christ? Jesus taught, “3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17) Without a correct understanding of God and Jesus no man can have hope of salvation. But, even with these theological defections, Catholics can still lay claim on being Christian through the broad definition of a religion based on Jesus teachings.
When Martin Luther broke away from the Catholic Church and was cut off, the Catholics simply considered his movement as a cult. “Cult” is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a system of religious worship or ritual.” The Protestants in return, when the King James Version of the Bible was printed, capitalized “MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” directed at the Catholic Church. They could make no claim to divine authority; but, by the broad definition they are Christian.
Some ignorant bigots have said that “Mormons” are not Christians; but, a cult. Every religious system is by definition a cult. The statement that “Mormons” are not Christians is a blatant falsehood. Often people with a set agenda that cannot properly deal with things contrary to their beliefs resort to telling falsehoods to cover up their own ignorance and errors. The term “Mormon” is not the proper name of the church; but, over the decades has been used in derision. The proper name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The name is sufficient to inform honest inquirers whether “Mormons” are Christians. Joseph Smith wrote, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” The ignorant bigots that make this claim are themselves, by definition, cults.
The theological definition is far more limiting. Although two opposing doctrines can be false, only one can be true. “5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Eph. 4) The term “Christ” is not a proper name; but, references his ordination or “anointing.” “18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” (Luke 4) “9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed [ordained] thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. 10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands.” (Heb. 1)
“Thy God, hath anointed thee” is significant. Jesus was ordained a Prophet like unto Moses under the hands of God. “15 The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.” (Deut. 18) “22 For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.” (Acts 3) “31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17)
There is a fundamental principle required to be a true minister of Christ. No follower of Jesus could claim to be a minister of His without a proper calling by revelation and an ordination by one holding as high an office. Not even Jesus was exempt from this Law. “4 And no man taketh this honor [of the priesthood] unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.5 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he [the Father] that said unto him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee… 10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.” (Heb. 5) Jesus became the son of God by ordination to the highest office in the order of the Sons of God (Melchisedec Priesthood).
How was Aaron called? He was called by revelation from God (Ex. 28:1); and was ordained by Moses who held a higher office in the Melchisedec Priesthood. Jesus and all who are true ministers of Christ are called by revelation and ordained by one holding as high a priesthood. “22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.” (Acts 1) “14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery .” (1 Tim. 4)
“17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Rev. 12) “10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev. 19)
There only two priesthoods noted in the Bible. The original and highest officers were of the Melchisedec Priesthood. The highest office is that of first degree Apostle and Lawgiver. Adam held this office; as it is evident the law was first given to mortal man through Adam. Who can doubt that Cain violated the law when he killed his brother Able?
There are two orders of the Melchisedec Priesthood noted in the Bible: Apostle and High Priest. The highest is a first degree Apostle and Lawgiver. These stand at the head of dispensations of the gospel and the Church of Christ. The next is a second degree Apostle. In the presence of a Lawgiver their duty is to be Counselors to the Lawgiver. In the absence of a Lawgiver they may stand at the head of the church as an administrator. Both of these offices are Prophets. Jesus was a Lawgiver, Prophet, head of the dispensation, and head of the church. At the death of Jesus, Peter stood at the head of the church. “17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (John 21)
The next is that of third degree Apostle or Ambassador. Peter’s elevation left two absences to the Twelve. “23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.” (Acts 1) Twelve form a quorum of this office. When the dispensation was lost to the Jews (after the martyrdom of Jesus), and moved to the gentiles, the duty of the Twelve was to preach the gospel to the world. “15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16) While Peter addressed his epistles to the whole church, Paul (a third degree Apostle) addressed his to those in his jurisdiction.
The lowest is that of fourth degree Apostle or Evangelist and their mission is to only one nation. “8 And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.” (Acts 21) Seven form a quorum.
The second order is that of Priest; and of this office there are two degrees: High Priest and Elder. High Priests have even been spoken of under the name of prophets; although they do not hold the Prophetic Office.
After the Melchisedec Priesthood was restored with Jesus, He organized the church with all of the officers of the Melchisedec Priesthood; because only an officer of this priesthood holds authority from God to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel. “11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists [high priests]; and some, pastors [elders] and teachers; 12 FOR the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 TILL we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 4) “19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16)
All of the Twelve, except John, were martyred by 69AD. John was banished to the Isle of Patmos in 97AD and returned to Ephesus shortly after. Some believe he died in 99AD. Jesus allowed John to tarry on the earth. “23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” (John 21) John is somewhere among us today.
The noted ecclesiastic historian Eusebius wrote that the office of high priest (often referred to as evangelist) remained for a couple generations. We do not know how long the office of Elder remained; but, it is evident that it was lost by the time the Bishop of Rome thought to stand as God on earth and head of the entire Catholic Church. This marked the time of the famine for the word of God. “11 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: 12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.” (Amos 8)
This absence of the Melchisedec Priesthood and the gospel of Christ was to last 1,260 years. “6 And the woman [Church of Christ] fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days… 14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.” (Rev. 12) “5 And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months… 7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over ALL kindreds, and tongues, and nations.” (Rev. 13)
As this famine for the word of God was to last 1,260 years, it follows that the Melchisedec Priesthood and the gospel of Christ would be returned to earth by an angel from heaven at the end of that time. “6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” (Rev. 14) Exactly 1,260 years after the first Pope was established, Joseph Smith organized the Church of Christ on April 6, 1830.
When Israel rebelled against God at Mt. Sinai, they were placed under a new temporal law and priesthood: the Aaronic/Levitical Priesthood. The highest office in this priesthood is that of Priest. John the Baptist was a Priest of this priesthood. He held divine authority to baptize with water; but, not with the Spirit. “11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” (Matt.) Only a person holding the higher Melchisedec Priesthood has authority from God to administer all the saving ordinances of the gospel. “5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3) Although Jesus was without sin, He was still bound by this law of God. “16 And Jesus, when he was baptized , went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.” (Matt. 3) Jesus still had to be ordained to the Melchisedec Priesthood before He could preach the gospel. “11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” (Matt. 4) “17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand [within your reach].” (Matt. 4) “53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you .” (John 6)
Only a church that holds a legitimate claim to the Melchisedec Priesthood can be a theological or true Christian. Remember, the term “Christ” means ordained or “anointed.” To be properly anointed, one must be called by the spirit of prophecy and ordained under the hands of one holding as high a priesthood; as was Aaron to the Levitical Priesthood and Joshua to the Melchisedec Priesthood–as was every officer of the kingdom of God throughout the Bible.
Any person claiming to preach the gospel without a proper calling and ordination is simply an anti-Christ. Some have thought that anti-Christ refers to some significant evil person of the latter days. There were anti-Christ’s in the days of the apostles. “18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” (1 John 2)
Look about you. Are there any in your church that claims to hold the Melchisedec Priesthood? If not, none have entered the kingdom of God; and cannot lay claim on being true, theological Christians.
Fortunately, after the 1,260 year famine of the word of God, the Melchisedec Priesthood and original gospel of Christ was restored through Joseph Smith. Before Joseph Smith was murdered, with the help of the government of Illinois, on June 27, 1844, he appointed James J. Strang as his successor about a week earlier in compliance with the law of God. “4. But verily, verily, I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift [as Prophet] except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead. 5. And this shall be a law unto you that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments. 6. And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me. 7. For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before, to teach those revelations which you have received and shall receive through him whom I have appointed.” (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 43) The same hour that Joseph died at Carthage Jail in Illinois, James J. Strang claimed to have been ordained under the hands of angel(s) as required by the law of God; although he was some 400 miles distant. The Letter of Appointment arrived by regular course of mail on July 9th; and is now in Yale University Library. James was the only man to ever claim a proper calling and ordination; although others usurped the authority of God and attempted to stand at the head.
Before James’ martyrdom on July 9, 1856, he ordained L. D. Hickey one of the Twelve (third degree apostles). Apostle Hickey ordained Samuel Martin a high priest, Martin ordained Lloyd Flanders a high priest, and Flanders ordained me (Samuel E. West) to the office of elder in the Melchisedec Priesthood. Although only a remnant remains (as foretold by prophets in the Bible), the gate into the kingdom of heaven is open for those who have been called of God to this great blessing. “4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated [for-ordained] us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” (Eph. 1) “33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6) “13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7)
“16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16) “10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” (John 15) Read 1 Cor. 12 to understand some of the gifts given to all true believers. It is necessary to have a correct understanding of God and Jesus in order to have hope of salvation. “3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17) “22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” (Matt. 10) “7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Rev. 21)
Almost every church that claims to follow the teachings of Jesus are considered Christian by the broad definition. Only those with a correct understanding of Jesus as the Christ–the anointed of God, the Son of David according to the flesh, a prophet like unto Moses, and are confirmed into the kingdom of God by those who are properly called and ordained are true, theological Christians. “15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24)
The simple test of whether you are a true, theological Christian is whether you have been confirmed into the kingdom of God by one having a valid claim to the Melchisedec Priesthood.