There is in our world what I call “Christian Confusion.” If you read the papers and magazines or watch news outlets you get the idea that there are a variety of definitions or ideas concerning what or who is a Christian. Many in our world equate being a “Westerner”, esp. U.S. citizen, with being a Christian. If you are from the Western Hemisphere or if you are a U.S. citizen to much of the world you are a Christian. I have an issue with that definition simply because it is not true. There are many people in our part of the world who are not Christians. I have acquaintances and friends who are Atheists, Agnostics, Unitarians, Muslim, etc. This definition of Westerner = Christian will not work.
Others consider any good moral person to be a Christian. While I hope and would think that all who claim to be Christians are good moral people, not all good moral people are Christians. Some of my Atheistic and Muslim friends are morally good, and regretfully some are more moral than a few who claim to be Christians. We can scratch that definition.
An adherent to a “church” is another common definition of a Christian. I first began to understand this concept when I was visiting the United Kingdom in the mid 1980’s. I met a man and we began talking about my accent and where I was from in the “Colonies” as he put it. The conversation turned to my being over there to assist in a Christian Mission effort. He said, I am an R.C. (around here that’s a type of “Coke;” I learned that in the UK an RC is a Roman Catholic). I asked about Mass and he informed me he had not attended in years, but was still a Christian because of his adherence to the Catholic Church. I have since come in contact with adherents to many denominations and non-denominational groups that have the same idea. But simply adhering in this since is not enough. That would be like someone saying they were an avid fisherman, but does not own a pole or hasn’t fished in years.
Some claim a Christian is a believer in Jesus. This is partially true. Christians are believers (we’ll discuss this later), but there is more to being a Christian that simply stating mental acceptance. I believe that Gandhi was a good man and a leader of his people, but I am not a follower of Gandhi. One can believe that Jesus was real and even that he was Christ, but if he/she does not allow Christ’s teaching to change his/her life are they really a Christian?
What I want us to discover is this:
How does the Bible define a Christian?
Acts 11:26, “At Antioch the disciples were first called disciples.” – A Christian is first a Disciple. By definition a disciple is: 1) A learner, 2) A follower, and 3) An Adherent. Specifically a Christian is a disciple of Christ (cf. 1Jo 2:3-6). A Christian is to follow Christ’s teaching, learn from His doctrine, and adhere to what he learns from Christ. A Christian follows in Christ’s footsteps, learns from His way of life, and adheres to the example He left for us.
In Acts 26:27-29 Paul tells Agrippa that he knows the king believes, the king responds telling Paul in so many words, that he is close to making a Christian out of the king. Agrippa understood our next observation: A Christian is a Believer. This belief is not simply acceptance but it is saving faith. A faith that is like the faith of those in Hebrews 11 that acts with confidence. Of each of these characters one might easily assign to them the statement assigned to Abraham in Jas 2:23, that “he believed God and it was imputed (accounted, credited) to him for righteousness.” James’ point and the Hebrew writer’s point are the same. Faith that does not obey in action is not faith. Belief that is only a verbal statement is not belief. To be a real faith, belief must be reverent, obedient, and trusting.
A Christian is one who obeys the Gospel. Rom 1:16 says the Gospel is God’s power to save. 1 Cor 15:1-4 teaches that the Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul tells the Thessalonians in 2Th 1:7-9 that the Lord will take vengeance on those who do not obey the Gospel. When one obeys the doctrine of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus he is set free from the slavery of sin (Rom 6:17-18) and becomes a servant of righteousness. One obeys the death, burial, and resurrection when they follow Christ in a death, burial, and resurrection like his (see Rom 6:3-6). For reference sake take a look at theses conversions to Christ in the book of Acts (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 8:36; 10:47-48; 16:14-15; 33)
When one obeys the Gospel becoming a Child of God (Gal 3:26-27), God then adds that person to the number of His own people –Acts 2:47. A Christian is the a member of the household of God (1Ti 3:15), he is a citizen not of this earth but of heaven (Phi 3:20). She becomes a living stone in a living temple (1 Pet 2:4-5) and is set apart for God’s noble use (2Ti 2:20-21).
Peter in 1Pe 4:14-16 describes the Christian as a patient sufferer. Paul says that all who follow Christ will suffer (2Ti 3:12). How we suffer and what we learn from suffering is what James discusses early in the book of James.
According to our quick look at the Bible; A Christian is:
- A Disciple and
- Believer who
- Obeyed from the heart the Gospel that set him
- free from sin, adding him to
- Christ’s Church, and enduring through
- Suffering awaiting the reward of the faithful.
Now for the ultimate question; Will you be one? Read Acts 22:16.