Some speak of Christian families, Christian schools and colleges, “born again Christians” (which is a redundancy since one who has been born again is a Christian), Christian countries, Christian Brother’s Brandy, and in recent years some political conservatives have been labeled a part of the “Christian Right.” In one of Webster’s definitions, a Christian is defined as “a decent, respectable person.” However, I have known some atheists who were “decent, respectable” people, so that obviously doesn’t describe a Christian. Some claim they are Christians, yet never worship nor study the Bible. Is it possible to know who is a Christian?
All who read the New Testament understand that Paul, Peter, Barnabas, Timothy and others were Christians. However, the word “Christian” is found only three times in the Bible – Acts 11:26; 26:28; and I Peter 4:16. Like other Bible words, we should be interested in God’s definition. The balance of this article describes who a Christian is based on those three passages.
Acts 11:26 reads, “and when he (Barnabas) had found him (Paul), he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that even for a whole year they were gathered together with the church, and taught much people; and that the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” From this we may learn a number of lessons:
The Name “Christian” Is A Divinely Given Name. The passage says
“the disciples were called Christians...” Some say the name, “Christian”
was given in derision by the enemies of Christ. However, the background of the
word “called” implies the name was given by God. In every other
instance in the New Testament where the word here translated “called”
is used, it designates a warning, admonition, or a name given by God (see Matt.
2:12,22; Luke 2:26; Acts 10:22; Romans 7:3; Hebrews 8:5; 11:7; 12:25). One instance
of this is in Romans 7:2-3. If a wife is divorced from a husband for a cause
other than fornication, and marries another, the Bible says, “she shall
be called an adulteress.” While most in the world would not call her an
adulteress, God does! Therefore, the only people who are truly Christians are
those described as such in the New Testament. Claiming to be one does not make
one a Christian.
A Christian Is One Who Is A Member Of The Lord’s Church. Christians in Antioch “gathered together with the church.” The Bible knows nothing of one being a Christian yet out of the Lord’s church. The truth is, when one obeys the gospel through belief, repentance, and baptism, he is then saved from past sins, and the Lord adds him to His church (please read Acts 2:36-47). Therefore, salvation and membership in the Lord’s church mean one and the same thing. Most denominations do not teach what the Lord commissioned His apostles to preach that people must do to be saved (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16). Therefore, if people have been taught wrong, they have not been baptized right, and are still in their sins. One who has never been forgiven of sins is not a Christian. Are you in the Lord’s church about which you read in the New Testament? A genuine Christian described in the New Testament is.
A Christian Is One Who Assembles With The Church. Paul, Barnabas and other Christians in Antioch “gathered together with the church.” This means they assembled together, something Christians are commanded not to forsake (Hebrews 10:25). Christians are commanded to do several things in the assembly such as partake of the Lord’s supper on the first day of the week—Sunday (I Cor. 11:23-26; Acts 20:7), contribute as prospered on the first day (I Cor. 16:1-2), sing and pray (I Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19). Therefore, by failing to assemble with the church, a number of other commandments are violated, and sin occurs. Many who claim to be Christians seldom assemble regularly “with the church,” but one whom God calls a Christian does! Do you worship regularly with the Lord’s church? A genuine Christian described in the New Testament does.
A Christian Is A Learner. “...they were gathered together with the church, and taught much people.” Christians are taught people. A Christian is one who takes every opportunity to learn. He will go where the Bible is taught. Jesus said Christians should “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matt. 5:6). Some claim to be Christians, but never even open their Bibles, much less attend Bible classes among Christians. Certainly a Christian and member of the Lord’s church would want to avail himself of every opportunity to learn more of God’s will. Are you striving to learn more of the Word of God? A genuine Christian described in the New Testament does.
A Christian Is A Disciple. “...and that the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” A disciple is one who follows what he has learned. Therefore, a Christian is one who follows the teaching of Christ. Jesus said, “why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say” (Luke 6:46)? One who refuses to obey Christ’s words is not a disciple and therefore not a Christian, regardless of his claims. The words of Christ are to be the Christian’s guide since by these words all will be judged in the last day (John 12:48). Are you following the words of Christ in every relationship? A genuine Christian described in the New Testament does.
A Christian Is One Who Is Fully Persuaded In His Belief. The second time the word “Christian” is found is in Acts 26:28 where Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” Both Paul and Agrippa recognized he was not a Christian. To be “almost” persuaded is still not to be a Christian. After an Ethiopian asked Philip the evangelist if he could be baptized, Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may” (Acts 8:37). Full persuasion that Jesus is God’s Son (John 8:24), a knowledge of what repentance is, and understanding the purpose of baptism is necessary for one to become a Christian. In addition to other reasons, this is one reason why an infant is not a candidate for baptism; he is unable to believe the testimony concerning Christ. Having been sprinkled as an infant and even “confirmed”(?) as an adult is not what the New Testament describes as a Genuine Christian.
A Christian Is One Who Is Not Ashamed To Suffer For His Convictions. The last mention of the word “Christian” is in I Peter 4:16—“but if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name.” A Christian is one who openly confesses his belief in Christ in word and deed before others. Jesus said, “whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33). Therefore, a Christian will not be ashamed to take a firm stand for truth, and against all forms of error and immorality. He will not be ashamed to be different in his/her dress when much that is fashionable is immodest (I Tim. 2:9-10). A Christian will be known to fellow-workers by refusing to use speech characterized by coarse jesting and vulgarity (Eph. 4:29; 5:3-4) and by refusing any part in petty gambling whether it be squares for football games or matching quarters for a coke. This will make him different but he is not ashamed of any consequences which come because he is a Christian. He will be known by his punctuality, honesty in work and word (Col. 3:22-24; Eph. 4:24,28), and regardless of any criticism, he is not ashamed to suffer for being a Christian because he looks to the eternal reward in heaven (I Peter 1:3-5).
We would not want to leave the impression from the above that a person must never make a mistake in order to remain a Christian. Christians stumble and sin. In fact John said if Christians “say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8). The life of a Christian is the life of spiritual growth (I Peter 2:1-2; II Peter 3:18), which means we don’t know or practice everything we should as soon as we become Christians. However, the Bible teaches that Christians can and should become mature or full-grown spiritually (Heb. 5:14-6:3), a part of which means that sin should be the exception and not the rule (Rom. 6:1-2; I John 2:1). There is a sense in which we should still be growing the day we die (Phil. 3:12-14).
However, when a genuine Christian learns of his sin, he will not remain in it but will repent, confess and pray that God will forgive him (Acts 8:22; I John 1:9). Christians are to strive for the Divine standard mentioned above and be thankful for God’s provisions of forgiveness when we stumble.
Are you a Christian?
By Phillip Owens
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