When I was in middle school, it was considered one of the biggest offenses to be told that you were a “poser.” This would imply that you’re trying to be someone you weren’t in an effort to impress others. For example—if a guy claimed he was a jock and even dressed one, but he had zero athletic skills, then he was a poser. Perhaps he wanted the attention from girls that being a jock could attract. Sadly, “posers” aren’t just found in middle school; there are some who have crept into today’s church, pretending to be a Christian. So what exactly are fake Christians, and how do we know when we see one?
What Is a Fake Christian?
The term “fake Christian” may bring to your mind an image of someone who is a hypocrite. Although there are plenty of hypocritical Christians, we need to break this term down in order to accurately define what it means.
We know that the word fake suggests inauthenticity. Counterfeits.
A Christian is someone who has accepted Jesus Christ as his or her Lord and Savior. This person is considered saved, or “born again,” because they have applied the principle found in Romans 10:9: “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The underlying factor that differentiates believers from nonbelievers is the Holy Spirit that abides within us, according to Ephesians 1:13: “And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago.”
With these two definitions in mind, we can define a fake Christian as being one who has not genuinely been born again, and yet they put on the persona as though they have.
Perhaps this person chose to wear the Christian title so they could profit off that reputation (similar to those jock posers back in middle school). All of us have likely, at one time or another, attempted to fit in with a certain crowd. If an unbeliever discovered they could gain a certain kind of acceptance through “fitting in” with a church crowd or Christian industry, they may have preferred to wear a church mask rather than actually accepting Christ into their heart.
But if someone wanted the acceptance, or the benefits, that come from being a Christian, why wouldn’t they—you know, actually become a Christian? One reason is that they may not believe in the message of the cross. 1 Corinthians 1:18 reminds us that “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.”
Another reason is that, while they may relish in their false Christian appearance, they are ultimately not willing to dedicate their hearts and lives to God. Being a true Christian would involve sacrificing their ungodly lifestyle—or else they’d continue that lifestyle and live with the guilt. The enemy is a deceiver, and he attempts to make Christianity look like bondage to unbelievers so they will choose to remain “free” to live for him instead.
To summarize, fake Christians are those who have chosen a saved appearance rather than a saved heart. They care more about their status through the eyes of the church, their family, or a Christian industry rather than their status through the eyes of God.
What Is an Authentic Christian?
An authentic Christian, on the other hand, is one who has accepted Christ as his or her Savior. The light of the Holy Spirit abides within this person. Matthew 7:20 provides an indication of how we can identify an authentic Christian: “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”
The speech and actions of these authentic Christians overflow with fruit of the Spirit, because Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
In addition, those whose hearts are abandoned to God have a concern for matters that concern Him and a hatred toward evil. James 1:27 tells us that “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”
This doesn’t mean that these authentic Christians do not commit sin; after all, Jesus is the only sinless human who walked the earth (1 Peter 2:22, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 John 3:5, Hebrews 4:15). Rather, when true believers commit sin, they are convicted by the Holy Spirit (see John 16:8) and live a life of repentance. They are set free from living in bondage to sin and have been purified by the blood of the Lamb.
Because believers know that we will someday give an account for the way we lived our lives (2 Corinthians 5:10), authentic Christians strive to serve God and obey His Word. They understand that God’s opinion carries more weight than man’s because Galatians 1:10 reminds us, “If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”
What Is the Difference between a Fake Christian and a Wayward Christian?
Thankfully, our salvation is not determined by works but by faith (Galatians 2:21). Otherwise, no one would be worthy enough to stand before God in eternity!
With this in mind, let’s be careful not to assume someone is a “fake Christian” because of their struggle with sin. As humans, we tend to “look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (see 1 Samuel 16:7). God is the One who will ultimately determine a person’s eternal fate. James 4:12 reminds us, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?”
There are those within the church who have genuinely accepted Christ as their Savior and once committed their lives to Him but have since strayed from following His Word. Perhaps this Christian goes to church weekly, prays occasionally, and even loves God—but their love for Him is not reflected in the way they live, speak, or make daily decisions.
When we spot these Christians, let’s refrain from passing judgment and instead extend godly love toward them, praying that the Holy Spirit will convict them. We can also pray about how we can play a role in leading that person back to the truth. James 5:19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.”
Does Scripture Address the Idea of Fake Christians?
Scripture makes it clear that there are those who will call themselves Christians on earth, but when they reach eternity, their hearts and true intentions will be revealed.
Matthew 7:21-23 says, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”
We also know that God despises a kind of Christianity in which a person is not committed to a godly lifestyle. “Straddling the fence” should never be an option for the true believer. Revelation 3:15-16 says, “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”
Remember Judas Iscariot? He was once considered an apostle of Jesus, but his true motives were soon revealed. When he betrayed Jesus, it was proven that he was more interested in what he could gain from Jesus rather than how he could serve him. It is believed that Judas had a financial intention behind betraying Jesus (see Matthew 26:14-15).
Sadly, there are still many Judas Iscariots within the church today—people who perform like a Christ-follower and may even be well-versed in “Christianese,” and yet their motives are purely for fleshly gain rather than spiritual gain.
How to Spot a Fake Christian
Let’s ask the following scriptural questions:
Does this person love this world and the things it offers them?
1 John 2:25 says, “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.”
Does this person love other believers?
1 John 3:14 says, “If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead.”
Healthy fruits are an indication that a person is attached to the vine (John 15:5).
Do they express works of the flesh as addressed in Galatians 5:19-21 (such as drunkenness, sexual immorality, divisions, etc.)? We are told, in this passage, that “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” In addition, Jesus says in Mark 7:20-23, “’What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’”
Does this person possess a genuine fear of God?
Proverbs 14:2 says, “He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises Him.”
Does this person teach a false gospel?
By false gospel I mean one that is “a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:3-5)?
Lastly, does this person overflow with the love of God as addressed in 1 Corinthians 13:2? And is this a worldly kind of love that tolerates sin, or is it the godly type of love that extends compassion on everyone but holds righteous anger toward sin?
Again, let’s be slow to judge and refrain from tossing accusations toward someone who claims to be a believer. After all, godly love is the kind that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:6-7).
We can, however, use wisdom and discernment to take heed of red flags when we see them. But this does not give us the right to gossip about someone within a congregation. Instead, we can find reassurance in the truth laid out in, Ecclesiastes 12:14, which says, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”
This isn’t to say we are not held accountable to speak up about obvious sin within the church (see 1 Corinthians 5:12). Let’s do this from a place of godly love rather than a “holier-than-thou” attitude like the Pharisee did in the parable found in Luke 18:9-13:
“The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector!”
After all, the one whom you may deem as fake could be someone whose struggle with sin is merely more obvious than yours. So rather than pointing fingers, let’s invest most of our energy into our own faith journey, determined that we will be known as a passionate follower of Christ.
The godly love we extend toward believers and non-believers alike speaks volumes louder than our Christian title. In fact, the loyalty and devotion we express toward God and others could be the very thing that leads those “fake Christians” to Christ.
Tessa Emily Hall is an award-winning author who wrote her debut novel when she was sixteen. She is now a multi-published author of both fiction and non-fiction inspirational yet authentic books for teens, including her latest release, LOVE YOUR SELFIE (October 2020, Ellie Claire). Tessa’s passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as a Literary Agent at Cyle Young Literary Elite, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PursueMagazine.net. She is guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren’t flying 128 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, teaching at writing conferences, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is to connect with readers is on her mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website: www.tessaemilyhall.com.
This article is part of our larger resource library of Christian practices and disciplines important to the Christian faith. From speaking in tongues to tithing & baptism, we want to provide easy to read and understand articles that answer your questions about Christian living.
10 Things to Know about Speaking in Tongues
The Fruit of the Spirit – What Are They?
What Is the Tithe?
What Is the Sabbath and Is it Still Important?
Baptism – What Does it Mean and Why Is it Important?