The word “christian” has come to be used in the religious realm as an attachment to any and every thing that is desired of a person as their justification for that particular religious activity. Today, we read of ‘christian’ ministries, ‘christian’ fellowship, ‘christian’ schools, ‘christian’ weight-loss centers, etc. Even the media’s use of the word ‘christian’ evidences this. Any activity or endeavor that is religious in nature is identified as such by calling it a ‘christian’ _______.
Is every ministry pleasing to God simply by calling it a ‘christian’ ministry? Is every association made acceptable just by calling it a ‘christian’ fellowship’? Is a school ‘christian’ simply by having some bible courses included in the curriculum or because it is sponsored by one or more churches? Is a weight-loss center that is operated by church-going people or that uses only employees who are church members, make it Christ-like? Is this what the word ‘christian’ means? Is this how the word is to be used?
I submit that the use of the word in the manner illustrated above is not only INCORRECT, it is a reproach to Jesus to do so! The reason for my objection rests upon the very definition of the term. Secondly, its usage in the Bible shows that these modern-day concepts are in error and reflect the attitude that prevails in religion – great zeal for God, but void of Bible knowledge (Romans 10:1-3).
What does the name CHRISTIAN mean? How is it used in the Bible? It is found 3 times in our Bible and all in the New Testament:
Acts 11:26 – “And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”
Acts 26:28 – “Agrippa said to Paul, ‘In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian’?"
1 Peter 4:16 – “If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”
What do these passages reveal about a Christian? Simply put, it means “Christ-like”. The root word is ‘Christ’ and the suffix, ‘ian’ means ‘like’ or ‘pertaining to’. Thus the “ian” attached to the root word Christ simply means “like” or “pertaining to” Christ.
It is a name that is not to be used in a trivial way. It was a name that was prophesied as the ‘new’ name by which God’s people would one day be called. The prophet Isaiah wrote of this in his book, (Isa. 62:2). It helps to see why that those who were converted to Jesus in Acts 2 were NOT called Christians, for this name was connected with the Gentiles by Isaiah. Thus, until Gentiles saw the righteousness, no disciple was called a Christian. In Acts 11, AFTER Cornelius and his household had been converted, THEN disciples were called Christians first. The term reflects that they have obeyed things peculiar to Jesus.
Jesus’ commands were unique in that He gave commands NEVER before bound upon any man. Faith, repentance, confession and baptism are such unique commands.
While faith in God and in His word was commanded of man prior to Jesus; the faith that is associated with the new birth (John 3:3-5), pertains to something that is to be believed uniquely about Jesus. Specifically, we are to have faith in the power of His blood. His blood was shed for the purpose of atonement. Atonement for all humanity’s sins! The blood of animal sacrifices was never understood to be for the remission of sins (Heb. 10:1-10).
Repentance – Acts 17:30-31 – Repentance was demanded of God’s covenant people Israel in the Old Testament era, but now the purpose for repentance is linked to Jesus. God now commands ALL men (Jew & Gentile) to repent in order to enter a covenant relationship with Him. We read that God, “…hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness BY THAT MAN WHOM HE HATH ORDAINED (JESUS); whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raise HIM from the dead.”
Confession – Acts 2:36; Phil. 2:9-11 – While acknowledgment of God has always been man’s duty; NOW, acknowledgment that God hath made Jesus “…both Lord and Christ” is to be confessed; not only by the “house of Israel”, but by “every tongue”. The reason—God has “…highly exalted HIM (JESUS), and given HIM (JESUS) a name which is above every name…”. Today, Jesus is to be confessed by “every tongue” (Jew & Gentile) as “Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Baptism – Rom. 6:3-5; 17-18 – We are baptized into Jesus by being immersed into His DEATH. “…all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.” We were buried…with him through baptism unto death…if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection…whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered; and being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness. It is AFTER this obedience to this FORM OF DOCTRINE that freedom from sin occurs.
This is in harmony with Jesus’ commands to His chosen apostles, recorded at the end of the four gospels.
Matt. 28:18-20 – Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations (Jew & Gentile), baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:
Mk. 16:15-16 – Go ye into all the world (Jew & Gentile), and preach the gospel to every creature (all nations). He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
Lk. 24:46-47 – And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations (Jew & Gentile), beginning at Jerusalem (as was done in Acts 2, but to “the Jew first”).
Jo. 17:18, 20-21 – As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world… Neither pray I for these alone (the apostles), but for them also which shall believe on me (Jew & Gentile) through their word; That they all (Jew & Gentile) may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
Thus we read in passages such as 1 Cor. 12:12-13, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
The term is NOT to be used to justify what we desire to offer to God, but properly it defines for us ONLY the things that Christ exemplified in His life. By this, we then can know what activities are acceptable for us to follow. A Christian truly is Christ-like; in all aspects of his life.
Individually and collectively, being Christ-like is uniform in that we are obedient to Him as He was obedient to His heavenly Father. His Father gave Him commands to keep, which He did. He gave those commands to the apostles to be proclaimed to ALL, and to be submitted to by ALL.
It is in the keeping of those commands that it can truthfully be known whether or not one is a ‘Christian’, born anew, from above.
Thus, the matter is determined by God; not man.