“Is this narcissist even a Christian?” is a question frequently asked about an obvious narcissist who claims to be a Christian. The narcissist’s claims may stand in stark contrast to how they treat you and others in private. The answer to this question impacts our understanding of how God will deal with the narcissist, and how we should deal with them.
Jesus alluded to the inconsistency between insolent pride and genuine faith when he asked the narcissists of his day,
How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?
The “belief” Jesus referred to must certainly have been deeper than surface-level, since Satan and the demons also believe that God, Jesus, and the Spirit exist (God is One)
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
They know of His power and their ultimate judgement at His hands – the reason for their shuddering – but, in their rebellion against God have rejected His right to rule over them. True faith is more than lip-service:
“Not everyone who says to Me [Jesus], ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
On the other hand, the fact that the Bible admonishes believers to give up their pride and walk in a humble manner indicates that genuine Christians can still have remnants of insolent pride in their lives:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
The Importance of Genuine Fruit
The key questions are “what is the definition of a “Christian?”, and “what is genuine belief”? There are many types of people that carry the label “Christian” based on cultural, denominational or other factors. But for our purposes we define a true Christian as a genuine follower of Jesus.
The primary way to discern if your narcissist is a true Christian is whether they show any genuine “fruit”. Fruit is a demonstration of whether there has been an actual regeneration of the heart which comes from true faith in Jesus.
The wicked man desires the booty of evil men, But the root of the righteous yields fruit.
But when he [John the Baptist] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore, bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore, every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
James said the same thing, using the term “works” instead of “fruit”.
What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?…..
Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” ….
For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
Paul also discussed this when he contrasted the “deeds of the flesh” with the “fruit of the Spirit”. The fact that he admonishes believers to switch from walking by the “flesh” to walking by the “Spirit”, indicates that followers of Jesus are still not perfect.
…But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires…
If there is absolutely no evidence of any “fruit” in their lives, then we might assume the narcissist does not genuinely know Jesus. Of course, only God knows for sure. But if there is evidence of fruit while still exhibiting elements of pride, we might be able to assume that we are dealing with a genuine follower of Jesus who has not fully taken advantage of the radical life transformation to which God calls him.
Jesus’ Matthew 7 Statement
Does this somehow contradict Jesus’ statement that people can even call Him “Lord”, and do “works” for Him – but still not enter the kingdom of heaven?
“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. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
You can imagine prideful, unrepentant narcissists arguing with Jesus on “that day” (Judgment Day), trying to convince Him that they deserve to enter Heaven. (This is reminiscent of the Pharisee and the Publican.) On the surface, these people fulfilled the two requirements for entering heaven discussed above – acknowledging Jesus as Lord (“Lord, Lord……”), and the corroborating evidence of “works” (“did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles….”). However, Jesus replied “I never knew you, depart from Me” – indicating that these absolutely will not enter Heaven.
The answer comes in two parts:
First, consider the timing of when these people are calling Jesus “Lord”. Prior to Jesus’ return to judge the world, only sincere Christians will truly call Jesus Lord. Paul said:
…..if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
But Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7 refers to a time when everyone will call Jesus “Lord”, after He has returned to earth as The Boss:
so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Unrepentant narcissists who are not Christians, and who will not enter Heaven, will in the end acknowledge Jesus’ Lordship, but only after it is too late. Jesus will say to them “I never knew you”. However, the prideful, unrepentant narcissist will still, unsuccessfully, try to talk his way around it.
Second, consider the fact that the good works they will claim as their justification to get into heaven may not be “good” at all. If they were done out of pride and for self-exaltation (like the Pharisees’ good works) and not love – they would not be truly good.
If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
I Corinthians 13:2-3
If you want to confirm your personal relationship with God, please see “Step’s to Peace with God”[i], or “Would You Like to Know God Personally”.