When people speak of “nominal Christians,” what do they mean?
Suggested Daily Reading: Matthew 13:24-30.
“Nominal” means “existing in name only.” When someone refers to “nominal Christians” they mean people who are Christian in name but not in reality. Many may view or speak of themselves as “Christians,” but may not be true Christians as God defines them in His Word.
Jesus taught, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:13) and that the summary of His commandments (the moral law) is to love God above all and your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-40). If a person calls himself a Christian, but he does not strive to live according to God’s commandments to honor God, this person is a nominal Christian.
Consider this example. A young man thinks and tells others that he really loves a young woman. But he is not interested in saying or doing things that would please her, but only that which pleases himself. He is not concerned when he says or does things that upset or grieve her, but he only cares about matters that he does not like. Do you think that this young man’s love is real or only nominal? Yes, nominal. Why? Because his love only focuses on himself and his desires and not on hers. So, with Jesus Christ. Only those who love Jesus above all, and pray, and strive to live lives pleasing to Christ, are true Christians. Those who still love living for themselves, and do not love living for Jesus, are not. If they call themselves Christian, they are only nominal.
When we view the Christian church, we can see “Christians” gathering for a Sunday morning service in a church building to worship God. We call this the “Church Visible” – the church that you and I can see. But God sees the hearts of people. He knows who truly love Him above all and others as themselves. We refer to these true Christians as the “Church Invisible.” Invisible to us but known to God. Nominal Christians are those who are members in the Church Visible but not in the Church Invisible.
In the suggested reading, Matthew 13:24-30, the true Christians are the wheat, and the tares (weeds) are the nominal Christians. They both grew up in the same field (the visible church), but some are real wheat and others not.
Are you a Christian? If so, are you a nominal or a true Christian? How can you determine this? Read Matthew 13:24-30 and 21: 33-41, why is it important for us, and all Christians, to know if we are nominal or true? How does the book of James teach us to distinguish the true Christian from the nominal?