What is your name? Is it meaningful? Perhaps you are named after a family member or a beloved friend. Perhaps your name comes from the Bible (as is the case with my three sons, Jeremiah, Micah, and Noah). Regardless of the origins of your name, it has meaning because it is the name your parents chose for you.
In scripture there are several terms or phrases to describe those who submit to Jesus Christ.
A “disciple” is a learner or follower. This term is used heavily in the gospels by Jesus as well as in the Acts of the Apostles. A disciple is one who is under his teacher, and strives to be like his teacher (Luke 6:40). While we think primarily of disciples as followers of Jesus, John and the Pharisees had disciples (Luke 5:33), and the Pharisees claimed to be disciples of Moses (John 9:28).
“Saints,” “believers,” “brothers and sisters,” “children of God,” followers of “the Way,” and others may be used to refer to those who are walking with Jesus. But one term has been used almost to the exclusion of others in modern society.
The term, “Christian,” is used only three times in the New Testament, once by an inspired apostle (1 Peter 4:16), once by a detractor (Acts 26:28), and once descriptively by the inspired author, Luke (Acts 11:26).
What biblical significance is there to this name? The world calls anyone with a passing fondness for Jesus a Christian. The United States has erroneously been hailed a “Christian Nation,” while universities are referred to as “Christian Colleges.”
Certainly this name has been watered down by the world. But should that influence our legitimate use of the term? Should we cease to use it in place of other biblical terms? It would be helpful to examine the meaning and use of “Christian.”
“Christian” has been defined as “one who is associated with Christ,”/1 and “one who is a believer in and follower of Christ.”/2
How the Bible uses the term is significant. Acts 11:26 states that the disciples were “called” Christians. Who called them that and why? It was in Antioch that Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians first worshiped together in one body. The plan for the two groups to be one found its fulfillment first in Antioch.
Many claim that “Christian” was used in a derogatory sense by those of the world./3 A study of the term “called,” demonstrates that it was not the world, nor yet the disciples themselves, who coined this term, but God himself. The nine times this word is used reveals that it is a Divine calling (see Matthew 2:12, 22; Luke 2:26; Acts 10:22; Romans 7:3; Hebrews 8:5; 11:7; 12:25).
If our heavenly Father, is the one who bestowed the name then we should wear it proudly!
The apostle Peter wrote to those who would undergo “fiery trials” for their faith. He encouraged them, “if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (1 Peter 4:16).
Do not let others’ misuse of “Christian,” nor their abuse of you, cause you to shy away from wearing the name. Rather, glorify God in that name!
1/ William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 1090.
2/ Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 126.
3/ Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990–), 478.