Many years ago, John Blanchard wrote a book called … “What is the World is a Christian?” He used just about every name a Christian could be called and expounded that word from a Scriptural perspective. (Examples, A Christian is a Sheep, A Saint, etc.) But to be specific, a Christian maybe called many names, but he or she is one who has place faith and trust in Jesus Christ’s redemptive work on the Cross and His Resurrection for eternal salvation. Then follows behavior … a Christian seeks to mirror or resemble Jesus in personality, character and behavior in all of life.
1) The followers of Jesus were called Christians in Antioch before any other place?
Ac 11:26 The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
(1) Before this, they were known as disciples, brothers, saints or followers of the way and the Nazarene Sect. Generally this is how the Jews saw those who followed Jesus Christ. We may be certain that the Jews would never have labelled Christians as Christian or as followers of Christ (Messiah).
(2) It seems as though Christians were called Christian by the “outside” world … meaning the pagan world. Take as an example, King Agrippa’s words to Paul (Saul) in:
Ac 26:28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
Paul was persuading Agrippa and as soon as he realized this he accused Paul of trying to make him believe that Jesus is the Christ. Hence his response to Paul … “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” He as a pagan saw followers of Jesus as Christians. This was most likely because the rest of the pagan world were calling followers of Jesus, Christian.
(3) Christians however must have thought this name suited them who followed Jesus because He was the Christ and to be part of Him, Christian sounded good. Many years later, Peter could write under inspiration
1 Peter 4:16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
This implies they accepted this name and were called to be proud of it because the name meant they associated themselves with God and His Messiah … Jesus Christ. So … to first be called Christians here was largely due to the pagans calling the followers of Jesus Christian. They proudly accepted this name.
(a) We live in a world where society sees the Church or hears us calling ourselves Christian and looks at us with skepticism! The reason for this is because too many in the visible Church are not true Christians. They are nominal. They are not born again. They are not spiritual. They do not follow Jesus Christ as Lord. Sadly, far too many are baptized in the Church, go to Sunday School, get Confirmed and eventually become Members without any credible spiritual qualifications. They are not born again. They are not part of the Invisible Church of the Lord Jesus. They are not in the Kingdom because they don’t qualify to be in the Kingdom. The outworking of this is a Church Membership that might well be largely nominal Christian. They are spiritually dead even though some might live good lives and practice good morals and ethics … and there are those, from this number, who are Sunday Christians. They live as pagans throughout the week. Their language is questionable, as are their morals and general behavior. Many of these are adulterers, drunkards, fraudsters, gossips, etc. Society looks and sees them and then sees the Church they attend, thinking that is what all Christians are like. I have experienced this. I know a man personally who refuses to attend a Church because one of his friends attends Church, and according to him, does not live the Christian life. He is wrong. He is going to lose his soul because of his approach because salvation is a personal matter and all Churches have both the saved and the unsaved in them. Jesus called it the wheat and the weeds. Yet the problem remains … the world looks at people who label themselves Christian and do disgusting things and then bracket the whole Church … and even all of Christendom as the same.
(b) Having said that, there are two matters we as Christians need to work our way through.
(i) We need to be proud we are not only called Christian but are Christian. We who are saved by grace need to rejoice that we may be counted worthy of being associated with the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We may call ourselves believers, followers of Jesus or saints, and that we are … but we are Christian and as Christian we identify with our Christ … who is Jesus, God the Son.
(ii) At the same time, we need to display our love for Jesus Christ as Christians by walking the way He walked. This means, He lived by the Word of God and we need to as well. We sin and will sin but we need to return daily to repentance producing fruits of repentance as John the Baptist called for. To do this, we need to spend time each day in God’s Word, not just reading a text flirtingly but digging into it … and if we have a Study Bible or a Commentary on the Bible or perhaps commentaries on the Books of the Bible, to use them. Most of all, we need to take what we learn and through intentional prayer, apply it to our souls. What is the use of head knowledge without heart knowledge? What is the natural without the spiritual?
(iii) Coupled to deep usage of the Bible and Prayer, we need to add expositional preaching. Find a Church that does not charm your heart and make you feel good once you leave the premises. You need to hear the Bible taught properly … and when it is you will leave the Church after hearing the message with concerns upon your heart. You will leave to go and pray through issues God spoke to you about. You will need to go and put right the things in your life that are wrong.
(iv) Make certain you associate with true Christians. Developing more intimate relationships as Christians means finding people who are, like you, struggling to know Jesus better, ridding themselves of repetitive and petty sins and seeking to model their lives against that of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let me remind you that the Christian life is hard work. You are fighting your sin and you are fighting the devil who is your enemy.
Lord, strengthen me to boldly prove I am truly Yours. Amen.