By Michael Garrison
The word “Christian” occurs but three times in the New Testament. Its significance is “a follower of Christ,” according to Strong’s Greek Dictionary. By studying each occurrence of the term, we can learn much about being a Christian.
“And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” Not just anyone was called by this name, but the disciples of Jesus the Christ were called Christians. A disciple is “a learner, i.e. pupil” (Ibid.). Jesus told those Jews who believed on him, “If you continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed. . . ” (Jn. 8:31). So, one is a disciple, or Christian, who continues in Christ’s word.
It is thought by some that the name Christian was given to followers of Christ by their enemies as a derogatory name. Such is not the case at all. Strong’s Dictionary says the Greek word translated “called” here means “to utter an oracle, i.e. divinely intimate.” The word is also used in Romans 7:3, “. . . if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress. . . ” Who called her an adulteress? God did! Who called the disciples “Christians”? According to the definition, God did, not the enemies of the Truth.
The above facts correspond with the prophecy in Isaiah 62:2: “And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name.” The new name is Christian!
After hearing Paul’s defense of the faith, King Agrippa said, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Paul answered, “I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.” Paul did not think the term “Christian” to be a derogatory one, but one of honor.
When the truth is presented and people believe and obey that truth, they become just Christians. The Bible only, makes Christians only. It takes the creeds, traditions, catechisms, etc., of men to become a member of some denomination and to be called something other than a Christian. We should be content to wear the God-approved, God-given name, Christian, with no additions, subtractions, or substitutions!
1 Peter 4:16
“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” Peter tells us that followers of Christ should not “suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil doer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” Such things are not according to the righteousness of Christ. In verse 14, Peter mentions being “reproached for the name of Christ. . .” which is equivalent to verse 16, “if any man suffer as a Christian.”
From the above, the student of truth can see that the term “Christian” is a term that was given by God to his faithful ones and was not a derogatory name applied by those fighting against God. Nor was the name made up by the disciples of Christ themselves.
Who Is A Christian?
In answering this question, let us ask: “Who is an American?” We realize that an alien must do certain things to become an American. It is not enough for one to just call himself an American. Neither is it enough for other people to call him an American. Rather, an alien must do certain things required by the law to become an American.
So, in answering, “Who is a Christian?” we must turn to the New Testament (the law of God, the “constitution of the kingdom” if you will) and learn what an alien must do to become a Christian. It is not enough for one to call himself one, or for others to call him a Christian. Rather, he must do what is required by the law (New Testament) to become a Christian.
The plain teaching of the Scriptures says that sinners are saved by:
Faith. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” But, what is faith? According to J.H. Thayer’s lexicon, it is “used especially of the faith by which a man embraces Jesus, i.e. a conviction, full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah – the divinely appointed author of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God, conjoined with obedience to Christ” (emphasis mine, m1g). So, without obedience, there is no genuine saving faith!
Repentance. Luke 13:5 says, “. . except ye repent, ye shall likewise perish.” Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words says, “repent” “signifies to change one’s mind or purpose, always, in the N.T., involving a change for the better, . . . and always, except in Luke 17:3,4, of repentance from sin.”
Confession. Matthew 10:32 records, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father which is in heaven.” The word “confess” means “to declare openly by way of speaking out freely, such confession being the effect of deep conviction of facts” (Vine’s).
Baptism. Mark 16:16 teaches us, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” I emphasized the word and because many don’t seem to see that word! Jesus gave the terms of salvation: I can only teach what he said. Mr. Vine tells us, “baptism, consist(s) of the processes of immersion, submersion and emergence.” There is no truth that baptism can be sprinkling or a pouring of water on someone. Let us believe and follow the Head of the church!
Then, once one has become a Christian, he is added by the Lord to his church. One does not go out to seek some “church” to join (see Acts 2:47, KJV)- Also, a Christian must continue to walk in the right way to remain faithful unto God. We learn from 1 John 1:6-7, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
Mr. Vine goes into some detail with the word “walk,” but I think what he says bears learning. He says the term is used “. . . figuratively, signifying the whole round of the activities of the individual life. . . It is applied to the observance of religious ordinances, Acts 21:21; Heb. 13:9 . . . as well as moral conduct. The Christian is to walk in newness of life, Rom. 6:4, after the spirit of life, Rom. 6:4, after the spirit, 8:4; in honesty, 13:13; by faith, 2 Cor. 5:7; in good works, Eph. 2:10; in love, 5:2; in wisdom, Col. 4:5; in truth, 2 Jn. 4; after the commandments of the Lord, v. 6. And, negatively, not after the flesh, Rom. 8:4; not after the manner of men, 1 Cor. 3:3; not in craftiness, 2 Cor. 4:2; not by sight, 5:7; not in the vanity of mind, Eph. 4:17; not disorderly, 2 Thess. 3:6.”
If you are not a Christian, what hinders your obedience to the Lord? “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5: 10). Why not do the good thing and obey the Lord before it is too late?
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 17, pp. 525-526
September 6, 1990