Have you ever searched the for the word Christian in the Bible? If you have, then you know that this word only appears three times.
Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and I Peter 4:16 are the only verses where the word Christian appears.
In two of these three verses, the noun Christian is shown as a label given by those who did not consider themselves as Christian. Read Acts 11:26. This is the first time the disciples of Jesus Christ were call Christian.
You can use a Bible concordance to find the definition of words in their original languages. I recommend the Strong’s concordance or blueletterbible.org which is an online concordance. If you look up the word Christian in a concordance you find G5546 which means a Christian, i.e., a follower of Christ.
Notice, Acts 11:26 doesn’t say that they called themselves Christians. It says they were called Christians. This implies that others were referring to them as Christians. In this same verse, it is said that Barnabas and Saul (Paul) “assembled themselves with the church.” Prior to this time, those in the faith were referred to as the church.
Using a concordance, you will find the word church is G1577 which means a calling out; i.e., a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation. This word is used over 100 times to refer to those in the faith. This is the term that Jesus used to label those who believe what He said (Read Matt. 16:18; Matt. 18:17). I am not mentioning this to denigrate the title Christian; however, we should understand where a title comes from before identifying with it.
Read Acts 26:27-29. By the time Paul was imprisoned, the term Christian may have been more mainstream because we see king Agrippa using it. Paul’s response shows that he accepted the label positively.
The apostle Peter also accepted the label Christian (Read I Peter 4:12-17).
Do These Verses Tell Us What a Christian Is?
The answer to the question is yes. The answers are obvious, but to find them we must take a closer look at the verses to identify them. Reread I Peter 4:12-17.
Notice the difference between verse 15 and 16. From comparing these verses, we can infer that a Christian is not a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a busybody in the affairs of others. (Side note: Evildoer’s concordance number is G2555 which means a bad-doer, specially a criminal. All other definitions are the same as the word.) These things are opposite to a Christian.
Now reread verse 17. Murderers, thieves, evildoers, and busybodies are “them that obey not the gospel of God.” Consequently, a Christian, being the opposite if those things, is someone who obeys the gospel of God! (Keep this is mind because I will expound on this point later)
Reread Acts 26:28-29. Paul declares that he wished all those listening was as he was after Agrippa said he almost persuaded him to be a Christian. This means that Paul identified his way of being as Christian. Remember, a Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ. Paul is declaring himself as a follower of Christ. Notice the following verses: I Cor. 11:1-2; I Cor. 4:14-17
Paul tells the Corinthians that he follows Christ, and they should follow his example. He even sent Timothy to remind them of the ordinances (precepts) he delivered to them. He wanted them to be as he is in Christ, a follower of Christ.
So, then a Christian lives by the teachings of Paul which are consistent with the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. I must mention that this means not using what Paul wrote to ignore what Jesus said. None of Paul’s teachings are contrary to what Jesus taught; however, much of what Paul wrote is not easy to understand (II Peter 3:15-18). Remember, Paul said, “Be followers of me, even as I am of Christ.” If something Paul wrote seems to disagree with Jesus, then a Christian must defer to Jesus not Paul. Additionally, a Christian should be honest enough to acknowledge when he or she does not understand something written and seek God for understanding rather than interpreting the Holy Scriptures to suit one’s personal biases.
Let’s go back to Acts 11:26. The important point to acknowledge is that the disciples were call Christians by those at Antioch. Christians are disciples which means learner i.e., pupil or student.
Read Matt. 11:25-30 with emphasis on 29.
Jesus said this to a crowd of people He was teaching and preaching to (Matt. 11:1). He tells the crowd to learn from Him. Understand that the gospel accounts record Jesus teaching His disciples and preaching the good news. Notice what Jesus says about His students in John 10:27. Remember, Jesus said He would build His church (group of called out ones). This group is also His flock, like sheep, they follow Him.
Jesus also said, “If you continue in my word, you are my disciples indeed,” to those who believed on Him (John 8:31). Christians are disciples (students) of Jesus Christ and those students will continue in His word. According to Jesus Christ Himself, Christians are His students who continue in His teachings.
What many fail to except is that Jesus had lots of disciples when He walked the earth in the flesh. Unfortunately, many of His students did not continue in His teachings. Read John 6:60-69. Note that MANY of His disciples walked away from Him and His teachings because they thought He was saying hard (harsh) things. Read the entire 6th chapter of John to see what Jesus was teaching at that time. The point we should get from this is Christians do not choose which teachings of Jesus are acceptable to them.
The Hard Truth
It is important at this point to address a common teaching that many professing Christians accept without critical consideration. The things Jesus Christ taught before His crucifixion was not for the Jews only or because He had not been sacrificed yet. None of Jesus’ own words suggest such a thing. In addition, ask yourself, why would God in the flesh teach things that would no longer be relevant once He returned to heaven? Why would He tell His disciples to continue in His word if it would not matter after His death? All the things Jesus taught before His crucifixion was for His disciples, the Christians!!! Thinking the opposite is the reason why the religion of Christianity is so weak in world.
Look at what Jesus taught His students in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount. Matt. 5:17-20.
How could this teaching only be relevant for the Jews? Read Matt. 5:1-2 which says He was teaching His students, the Christians. Near the end of this teaching, He said “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:21-23) Jesus declares that everyone professing His name does not belong to Him. He says they work iniquity which means illegality, i.e., violation of law.
Matthew chapter 5 through 7 shows us that Jesus taught His students to keep the law. Anyone teaching that the law is only for the Jews but claims to be Christian is not following the teachings of Jesus. Anyone teaching that certain laws do not apply to Christians is ignoring Matt. 5:19.
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matt. 28:18-20)
After His resurrection, Jesus Christ told His students to teach the nations to observe ALL the things He commanded before His crucifixion. Comb through the gospel accounts. What did Jesus command His students to do? If you are ignoring things that Jesus commanded because they are “hard sayings” you are proving you are not His student. There is not one verse in the Bible that says the followers of Jesus Christ can pick and choose which teaching they would like to keep.
“…The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
The good news is not what most people teach. The good news is what Jesus preached!!! Jesus said we must believe the good news. What is the good news? Jesus said the kingdom of God is at hand (coming). Too many teach a different gospel rather than accepting what Jesus said the good news is. Jesus did not focus on Himself when preaching; He focused on the Father and the coming kingdom. Notice verse 14 reads, “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, “ that is the good news of the God’s kingdom.
Recall I Peter 4:14-17. From Peter, we learn that a Christian will obey the gospel of God. Matt 4:17 reads, “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus said repent because the kingdom of God is coming. Repent is G3340 in the Strong’s concordance meaning to think differently or afterwards, i.e., consider. The implication of the word repent is to think differently which results in acting differently.
“And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)
Again, Jesus taught that His students must change their way of thinking and acting. John the Baptist preached the same message in Luke 3:1-3. John did not teach mere remorse for sin. He taught the multitude how to change. Be sure to read verses 10-14 and notice how it compares to the laws recorded by Moses. Also read Luke 3:4. John prepared the way for the Lord by preaching repentance for the remission of sins. In Matt. 3:2, we see John using the exact same words as Jesus. John was truly preparing the way for the gospel message Jesus would preach. Read the following verses carefully:
“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:” (Matt. 3:7-8)
John told the Pharisees and the Sadducees to bring forth fruits meet for repentance. The word meet (G514 in Strong’s concordance) means deserving, being of worth, comparable or suitable. John admonished them to act in a way that proves they have changed their way of thinking. This is obeying the gospel of God. As it is written in dozens of verses, those who remain in their sinful ways will not enter into God’s kingdom. To obey the gospel of God is to change from sin unto obedience.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt 7:15-20)
The principles in these verses apply to all those who claim to be Christian. If you do not have fruits meet for repentance, you are not obeying the gospel of God. The good news of God is if you change (or turn away from sin), He will forgive your sins so that you may enter into His kingdom. If your fruits (actions) are not consistent with a change in thinking, Jesus will declare to you He never knew you. (Matt 7:23)
Read Luke 13:1-9 two consecutive times. Out of Jesus’ own mouth, we can see that repentance is more than feeling shame or guilt for sinful living. Jesus requires His students (Christians) to bring forth fruit. He will even be patient with us and fertilize us to stimulate growth, but if there is no fruit consistent with repentance, then He will cut us down.
So, A Christian Is…
A Christian is a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. A disciple is a student, therefore a Christian is a student of Jesus Christ. A Christian is a student of Jesus Christ who continues in ALL of His teachings, including the “hard sayings.” A Christian obeys the good news of God which requires the Christian to change (repent) in thinking. This change in thinking will stimulate the Christian into behavior that is consistent with the change (bring forth fruit meet for repentance). A Christian is someone who follows others who follow Jesus Christ and does not use their teaching to invalidate what Jesus taught. Consequently, a Christian is someone who studies what Jesus taught continuously and dedicates his/her life to living by those teachings as more understanding is gained. (II Pet. 3:18 )
“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” (Matt. 7:24-27)
Please understand that being a Christian is more than just a confession of faith. A Christian must hear Jesus’ sayings and do them!!! James 2:17 tells us that faith without works (fruits meet for repentance) is dead. Unfortunately, many claim the label Christian have a dead faith and therefore are not Christians. “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them,” is what Jesus said (Matt. 7:20).
Recognize Jesus Christ as your Lord, Savior, and Teacher!!! He taught things that you must live by to be considered as a Christian. His teachings are radically different from what is commonly accepted as the Christian religion. When put into practice, the teachings of Jesus will turn the world upside.
So… Are You a Christian?