If you have been a reader of this blog for any amount of time you have most likely heard me use the term professing Christian. Maybe you have heard your pastor, or some other leader or teacher in church, or some other Christian use it. When I first heard the term I had no idea what it meant. I wondered why the people using it didn’t just simply say “Christian.” What is a “professing” Christian? Why do some people use that term when referring to Christians instead of simply saying Christian?
Simply put, not everyone who claims to be a Christian is truly a Christian. The term Christian has become more of a religious designation in society and the church than it has a biblical term. Someone can be part of the religious establishment known as Christianity; religiously self-designate/identify as a Christian; and fit the outward descriptive of a Christian; and still not be a Christian according to the Bible. One can profess to be a Christian but not be a Christian. Therefore, I prefer to use the term “professing Christian” when referring to the general self-identified Christian populace because I don’t want to assume that all who claim to be Christian (and fit the outward descriptive) are truly saved.
What’s the Big Deal?
The big deal is that those who profess to be saved, but aren’t, sincerely believed they are. Look at this verse:
21 “(R)Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 (S)Many will say to Me on (T)that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [n]miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; (U)depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ (Matt. 7:21-23)
These people stand before Jesus on judgment day shocked that they are not entering the kingdom. Why? The only logical answer is that they genuinely thought they were saved. For more on this read 10 Warnings About False Conversion.
To some it may seem like a trivial thing. But it is a mistake to assume that everyone who professes to be a Christian is truly saved. Even the apostle Paul wrote a strong warning about this:
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-unless indeed you fail the test? – 2 Corinthians 13:5 NASB
He wrote this to a church. To people who had professed Jesus as Lord and Savior. Not to people outside the church who openly denied Jesus. We negate this call to test and examine ourselves when we assume that everyone in the general Christian populace who professes to be Christian is truly “in the faith.” By negating this call to self examination we could be creating the kind of false converts the Bible warns about.
That is why some pastors and teachers prefer to use the term professing Christians, and not just Christian, when referring to a broader range of people who may claim to believe in Jesus and still not be saved. It is like a reminder for all of us to continually test ourselves to see if we really are in the faith. See 14 Proofs Your Salvation is Genuine for more.