What Is A Christian?
As he spake these words, many believed on him. 31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:30-32 KJV
A Christian is generally defined as one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ. But does this include people who irregularly attend church services? Does this include democrats, republicans, conservatives, liberals and progressives, pro-life proponents and pro-choice proponents? What about members of radical hate groups; and, does it include all citizens born in a so-called “Christian” nation?
Seems like everyone and everything can be considered “Christian”—there seems to be as many flavors of a “Christian” as there are flavors of “Baskin-Robbins” Ice Cream. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Cor. 13:5). True believers must examine themselves, based on the authority of the Scriptures, and ask themselves the question: What is a Christian? Am I a Christian according to God’s Word?
You cannot honestly begin a self-examination without admitting that Christianity, according to the Scriptures, is not a religion but a way of life (John 10:9, 10; 14:6); and, that acknowledging that Jesus, God’s Son, was not a Christian; He was a Jew who both kept and fulfilled the Law of Moses. Jesus never promised to build or establish a “Christian”, but rather He promised to build a “Church” (Matt. 16:18). He never said that “I am a Christian. But He did He say that “I am the Light of the world; I am the Way; I am the Door; I am the Gate; I am the Good Shepherd; I am the True Vine; I am the Bread of Life; and, I am the Resurrection and the Life.”
A true Christian is one who believes on Jesus and continues to follow His Word (Text). The Disciples of Christ were called “Christians first at Antioch (Acts 11:26), i.e., they were called “Christ ones” because they followed Christ—not as a compliment, but they were being mocked, derided, and persecuted. It was the world that coined the title “Christian”—not Christ! The Apostle Paul, who wrote 2/3 of the New Testament, referred to believers in his epistles as “saints, the church of God, or brethren.” Apostle Peter used the word “Christian” one time to comfort believers dealing with the suffering of shame that may have been associated with this name (1 Peter 4:16).
So, should it be discouraged for anyone to call a true disciple a Christian? Absolutely not! The take away here is simple: true disciples of Jesus should be the ones defining and framing what it means to be a Christian. We must be concerned about the Lord’s expectations—not the world’s! “Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart . . . Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart” (Lyrics, Negro Folk Song 1907).