If you look up the word “Christian” in a dictionary, you will find that the common use of that word today in our nation is “a person who believes in Jesus Christ” or “a person who exemplifies in his or her life the teachings of Christ.” As you consider those definitions, do they match what you think a Christian is? If we did a survey of what is the common idea of what a “Christian” is today, would you consider that to be an accurate definition? Or, would you suppose that the only acceptable understanding (and trustworthy source) of a “Christian” is one that comes from the New Testament, having been given by God Himself? Let’s look at what God tells us.
The word “Christian” is only found three times in the New Testament, and each passage is so instructive. In Acts 26:28, we learn that being a Christian requires a choice—it requires persuasion (involving a conveyance of information) and subsequent action (involving steps that move one from a state of non-Christian to “become” a Christian). In First Peter 4:16, we learn that one who is a “Christian” will live a holy life that may receive negative attention from some individuals, and to which a true “Christian” must respond by glorifying God and not feeling ashamed.
The third passage in which we find the word is Acts 11:26, which states, “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” The word “called” in this passage is the same Greek word used elsewhere in the New Testament of a Divine action (Matt. 2:11, 22; Luke 2:26; Acts 10:22; Heb. 8:5; 11:7). So, the disciples were identified by God and “called Christians” by God. Since the only one who can rightly identify and call someone a Christian is God, how does God say that one “becomes” or is made to be a Christian? Notice that Acts 11:26 reveals that those who are disciples of Christ are given the name of Christ—i.e., “Christian.” How does one “become” a disciple? Let God answer.
While God was on this earth in a human body, He gave this instruction: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19). Well, how is one “made” a disciple? Jesus continued by answering that question with these essentials: “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (28:19-20). One is made to be a disciple of Christ, and thus made to be a Christian, by being baptized according to the teaching of the New Testament.
While man may have certain ideas of what a Christian is, it is imperative that we go to the Bible and let God teach us. A “Christian” is one who has made the choice to be baptized and to live a holy life in unashamed service to the Lord.