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What Is A Christian?

The Webster's New Dictionary defines a Christian as "a follower of Christ." I believe this is 100% the correct Biblical definition of what a Christian should be.

The word "Christian" appears thrice in the New Testament:

And when he had found him,
he brought him to Antioch.
So it was that for a whole year
they assembled with the church and
taught a great many people.
And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
Acts 11:26

Then Agrippa said to Paul,
"You almost persuade me to become a Christian."
Acts 26:28

Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian,
let him not be ashamed,
but let him glorify God in this matter.
1 Peter 4:16

The disciples of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch. King Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian." The apostle Peter exhorted, "If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed". In each of the three verses, a Christian is defined as a disciple or follower of Christ. Taking away "Christ" in a "Christian," we are left with "ian," which is an abbreviation for "I am nothing."

Christians were loyal to Christ, just as the Herodians were loyal to Herod (Matthew 22:16; Mark 3:6). Prior to the adoption of this name, the Christians called themselves believers (Acts 5:14), brothers (Acts 6:3), or saints (Acts 9:13). These names are still being used even today.

Originally and interestingly, the term "Christian" was used by the non-Christians to scorn, ridicule and mock the early followers of Christ! It was almost a swear word. The early Christians suffered because of their belief and faith in Christ! They were persecuted, and sometimes killed. Eventually, Christians adapted themselves, and adopted the name as a name of honor, not of shame.

In modern days, the word "Christian" has somewhat lost its true meaning. To many people today, a Christian means little more than a European or an American, or someone who is a churchgoer. These secular definitions of "Christian" somewhat fall short of the glory of God! Living in a "Christian" nation does not make one a Christian. Going to a church doesn't make one a Christian anymore than going to China makes one a Chinese or going to Japan makes one a Japanese.

We become a Christian by birth. Yes, we must be born again of the Spirit:

Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you,
unless one is born of water and the Spirit,
he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh,
and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not marvel that I said to you,
'You must be born again.'
John 3:5-7

Being a good person does not make one a Christian. Being a member of a church, attending services regularly, and giving to the work of the church do not make one a Christian. These are just the doings of a Christian, and not the beings of a Christian! Christians are what we are inside - our beings. From our inner beings will then outflow our doings. Our beings first, and our doings following thereafter, and not the reverse! A monkey climbs trees, but climbing trees does not make one a monkey! A cat climbing a tree is still a cat, not a monkey.

Many believers in Christianity divide themselves by denominations, creeds, teachings, churches and preachers! This same problem was also evident in the early churches.

Now I plead with you, brethren,
by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that you all speak the same thing,
and that there be no divisions among you,
but that you be perfectly joined together
in the same mind and in the same judgment.
For it has been declared to me concerning you,
my brethren, by those of Chloe's household,
that there are contentions among you.
Now I say this, that each of you says,
"I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos,"
or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ."
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?
Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
1 Corinthians 1:10-13

The apostle Paul exhorted the church in Corinth to unity and brotherly love, and reproved them for their divisions. He pleaded with the believers to stop arguing among themselves, letting true unity and love flow so that there would not be any splits in the Body of Christ. He also urged them to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. Why do such arguments and quarrels arise within the believers?

Pride leads to arguments;
be humble, take advice, and become wise.
Proverbs 13:10 (TLB)

Behind all the arguments, quarrels and divisions is unspiritual pride! The Corinthian believers were quarrelling about their favorite ministers, boasting and looking down on others. Paul, Apollos and Cephas (Peter) were all faithful ministers of Jesus Christ, co-labouring together for the sake of the gospel of Christ! However, their followers began to break into divisions and opposition parties, setting their ministers as the dividing lines for disunity and discord within the church of Christ! Some loved Paul's teachings, some loved Apollo's eloquence, and some loved Peter's leadership. And they began fighting over these trivial issues.

Even the best and holy things on earth are being corrupted, not by the will of God but by sinful human nature and pride! Every Word of God is in perfect harmony with one another. But, variance, discord and contention within the believers have brought a great reproach and shame to our faith and religion!

Pride will make believers to be in opposition against one another, making themselves rivals and competitors. Many believers today fashion themselves after their pastors, dressing like them, talking and walking like them. They are following after their pastors and not Christ! Some pastors are strong in the Word, and their members will also be strong in the Word. Some pastors are strong in worship, and their members will be worshippers too. Some pastors are strong in prayer, and their members will be strong prayer warriors. Some pastors are strong in personal prophecies, and their members will also do the same. Some pastors are into the prosperity and grace teachings, their members will eventually embrace those teachings. Some pastors are false teachers, and their members, having itching ears, will be led astray! This is the principle of sowing and reaping. We will reap what we sow. The pastors will reap what they sow. Their members are the fruits of their labours!

Preach the word!
Be ready in season and out of season.
Convince, rebuke, exhort,
with all longsuffering and teaching.
For the time will come
when they will not endure sound doctrine,
but according to their own desires,
because they have itching ears,
they will heap up for themselves teachers;
and they will turn their ears away from the truth,
and be turned aside to fables.
But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions,
do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
2 Timothy 4:2-5

I believe that every true church or true Christian is just a part of the Body of Christ! One member without the other members is incomplete! One church without the other churches is incomplete! We should not be divided over pastors and churches! Our pastors are not our saviours. They had not been crucified, buried and resurrected for our sins, salvation and sanctification! Neither were we baptized in their names! But they are ministers instrumental in helping us to become true followers of Christ! Paul exhorted the Corinthians to follow him as he followed Christ:

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1

True Christians are those who have put their faith and trust in the person of Jesus Christ, believing that He died on the cross for our sins, and rose again on the third day, triumphing victoriously over death and giving eternal life to all who believe in Him. True Christians also acknowledge God as their Heavenly Father, and God gives them the rights to become His children, even those who believe in His name. True Christians are indeed the children of God, a part of God's true family, living the new abundant life in Christ. The mark of true Christians is their love for God, others and themselves, and also their obedience to God's Word.

Now by this we know that we know Him,
if we keep His commandments.
He who says, "I know Him,"
and does not keep His commandments, is a liar,
and the truth is not in him.
But whoever keeps His word,
truly the love of God is perfected in him.
By this we know that we are in Him.
He who says he abides in Him
ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
1 John 2:3-6

Again, a Christian is a follower of Christ, becoming more like Him, from glory to glory, transforming into the same image of God daily! Just as Christ obeys God's commandments, we will do the same. Just as Christ loves God and others, we will do the same. Just as Christ walks in the truth and light, we will also walk in the truth and light! Just as Christ is one with the Father, we need to be one with the Body of Christ! Just as Christ is in the world and not of the world, we need to be the same:

I have given them Your word;
and the world has hated them
because they are not of the world,
just as I am not of the world.
I do not pray that
You should take them out of the world,
but that You should keep them from the evil one.
They are not of the world,
just as I am not of the world.

Sanctify them by Your truth.
Your word is truth.
As You sent Me into the world,
I also have sent them into the world.
And for their sakes I sanctify Myself,
that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
I do not pray for these alone,
but also for those
who will believe in Me through their word;
that they all may be one,
as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You;
that they also may be one in Us,
that the world may believe that You sent Me.
And the glory which You gave Me I have given them,
that they may be one just as We are one:
I in them, and You in Me;
that they may be made perfect in one
and that the world may know that You have sent Me,
and have loved them as You have loved Me.
Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me
may be with Me where I am,
that they may behold My glory
which You have given Me;
for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
O righteous Father! The world has not known You,
but I have known You;
and these have known that You sent Me.
And I have declared to them Your name,
and will declare it,
that the love with which You loved Me
may be in them, and I in them.
John 17:14-26

Hopefully, we can regain the true meaning of what a Christian should be by being true Christians ourselves, following Christ as evident in our beings and doings!

Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary

Written on:
14 May 2007