Christians ? - Aren’t We All ?
I have heard this statement many times and I am sure you have too. Is it true? How would you answer this question? Just for a moment, stop reading this article, and in language that a person who is not a Christian would understand, try and answer it. For some, unfortunately many young people in particular, the answer does not come easy.
Well, then, let’s look at the question again. Perhaps a Christian is one who believes in Christ. Well said. But does that convey to someone who is not a Christian a true understanding of the matter? In fact, what does it mean to you?
To the Law and to the Testimony! The word Christian appears three times only in our English version of the New Testament, but the circumstances surrounding the mention of the word on those three occasions are very significant. As a matter of fact, the context is very enlightening.
The first mention of the word Christian is found in Acts chapter 11 and verse 26 where we read, “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” I don’t know whether or not they were called Christians in a derogatory sense, but in any case, this was the name used by the people of that day to describe them. The word simply means “Christ’s ones.” They got the name because they belonged to Christ. The writer is Irish and therefore he is called an Irishman. How did he become an Irishman? … by the simple process of birth. He was born in Ireland. In the very same way we become Christians by means of birth. The Lord Himself spoke about it to Nicodemus in John chapter 3. He said, “Ye must be born again.”
Now it is perfectly clear that He was not speaking of the natural birth about which we are all familiar, because Nicodemus questioned Him on that point and the Lord very quickly responded by saying, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” He was indicating the need for a spiritual birth in order that one may become a member of Christ’s body or become one of Christ’s ones: in simple language, a Christian. So the first thing we learn from the New Testament is that a Christian is one who has been born again.
The next mention of the word Christian is found in Acts 26 and verse 28 where we read the familiar words of Agrippa to Paul, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Again, I am not sure whether he spoke sarcastically or not; nevertheless, the mention of the word Christian in these circumstances indicates that a Christian is one who is a witness. Just previous to this remark by Agrippa, Paul bears testimony to the salvation that is to be found in Christ. A reliable witness is one who has a first-hand knowledge of the matter about which he is witnessing. The implication is, of course, that a Christian must have a first-hand knowledge of the question of his own salvation and his relationship with Christ before he can be an effective witness. Paul would have had every justification to defend himself, because his circumstances were such that he was in a very precarious predicament, but as a Christian, his first responsibility was to witness for his Lord, regardless of his own circumstances, and he availed himself of the opportunity on this occasion.
The third mention of the word Christian in our English Bible is to be found in 1 Peter chapter 4, verse 16, where we read “Yet, if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” Of course, the implication here is very obvious that a Christian is one who will suffer for his testimony.
It does not say, “Yet if any man suffer,” but the important phrase is, “As a Christian.” Some of us suffer because of our own foolishness and indeed there is nothing commendable about this. If you read earlier in the chapter, you will discover that some may suffer for wrongdoing. The thought here is that a Christian is one who will suffer reproach because he is a Christian and is living as a Christian. One of the most remarkable pictures of a Christian is given by David in Psalm 15 when he describes the man of Zion as one who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart.
Take time to read through the passages again where the word Christian is mentioned and you will discover more and more that a Christian is one who belongs to Christ, one who witnesses for Christ and one who will suffer for Christ.