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May 20, 2012
Evidently, the world at largedoes not have the slightest clue what “Christian” means in the Biblical sense. Do those professing to be Christians even understand themselves all of the scriptural implications of the word?
The word “Christian” is found only three times in the scriptures: Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1Pet 4:16. In each place it is a noun, never an adjective. It is used of persons, never of things. Such use as a “Christian nation,” “Christian school,” “Christian home,” “Christian church,” etc. are unscriptural because in Scripture, the word is never used in this fashion.
The word “Christian,” [Greek, christianos] defined: it signifies “an adherent of Jesus.” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vine, v.1, p. 191), or “a follower of Christ.” (Greek–English Lexicon, Thayer, p. 672). It is composed of the word “Christ,” plus the suffix “-ian” meaning “of” or “belonging to.” Hence a “Christian” is one who is of Christ or belongs to Christ, and who adheres to and follows Him.
A closer look at the three passages where the word Christian appears and a quick study of the meanings of associated words will enable us to better understand who a Christian is in the true (Scriptural) sense.
“… and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”
A Christian is a disciple of Christ. A “disciple” [Greek, mathetes] is “a learner,” “an adherent.” (Vine, op. cit., p.316). Those who abide in the word of Jesus are His disciples (John 8:31). A Christian, is one who continues in the teaching of Christ (2John 9).
Saul persecuted “the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). These disciples were also called “saints” (Acts 9:13; 26:10). “Saints” [Greek, hagios] means those “set apart for God, to be, as it were, exclusively his” (Thayer, op. cit., p.7). They have been called out of darkness into light (Colossians 1:12,13; 1Peter 2:9). A Christian is one who belongs to Christ (Titus 2:14).
“Disciples” or “saints” are the same as “believers” (Acts 22:19; 2:44; 4:32; 5:14). “Believe” [Greek, pisteuo] is “a conviction, full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah … conjoined with obedience to Christ” (Thayer, op. cit., p.511). Belief is essential to salvation (John 8:24; Acts 16:31; Hebrews 11:6).
A Christian is one who has believed and has been baptized into Christ (Mark 16:16; Galatians 3:26,27).
“Disciples,” “saints,” “believers,” are in “the way” (Acts 9:2; 22:4). “Way” [Greek, hodos] is used metaphorically “of the course followed and characterized by the followers of Christ” (Vine, op. cit., v.4, p.203) Jesus is “the way” to the Father (John 14:6).
A Christian is in “the way that leads to life” (Matthew 7:13,14).
Saul persecuted the “church” (Acts 8:1,3; 1Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6). “Church” [Greek, ekklesia] is the “called out or forth … A company of Christians” (Thayer, op.cit., p.196). It is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22,23). Christians are those who have been added by the Lord to His church (Acts 2:47).
Who were the Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:19-26)? They had heard men “speaking the word” and “preaching the Lord Jesus.” They “that believed turned unto the Lord.” They were “added unto the Lord.” They were saved by “the grace of God” and were “in the church” at Antioch.
“In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.”
King Agrippa said that Paul was trying to make him a Christian. Whether Agrippa was truly persuaded or indifferently brushing Paul aside, Paul’s aim was clear (Acts 26:29). Agrippa knew that Paul and his fellow disciples were called Christians. Paul accepted being called a Christian and would that all might be as he was.
What did Paul do in becoming a Christian? He was told all things that he must do (Acts 9:6; 22:10). He believed (Galatians 2:16; Romans 13:11). He was penitent (Acts 9:9,11; 17:30). He made the good confession (1Timothy 6:12,13; Romans 10:10). He was baptized (Acts 9:18; 22:16).
Paul became the same as those he had persecuted—a disciple of Christ (Acts 9:26; 11:26); a saint (Colossians 1:12,13); a believer (2Timothy 1:12); in the way (Acts 24:14 22; 19:9,23); a member of the church (Acts 11:26; 1Corinthians 12:13,27).
“but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.”
Some were suffering “as a Christian.” They were not to be ashamed of this, but were to glorify God in this name. Who are the ones Peter calls Christians? “The house of God” (1Peter 2:5). “Us” — Peter and all of the elect (1Peter 1:1,2; 2Pet 1:10). “Those who obey … the gospel” (1Peter 1:22). “The righteous” (1Peter 2:24; 3:12,14).
Peter gives a marvelous description of those who are Christians: begotten “Unto a living hope …” (1Peter 1:3‑5,23); “guarded through faith” (1Peter 1:5,7,8,21); “were redeemed … with precious blood” (1Peter 1:18,19); to put away “all wickedness …” and to “long for the spiritual milk …” (1Peter 2:1,2); “a people for God’s own possession” (1Peter 2:9).
A Christian is one who belongs to Christ and follows Him. Before Christ, there were no Christians. Without Christ, there can be no Christians. Only in Christ can there ever be any Christians. Salvation is only in the name of Christ (Acts 4:12). Are you a Christian—one who belongs to Christ being redeemed by His precious blood? If you have taken His name, do you live like the name you profess to wear?