What is a Christian?

I visit some what controversial blogs and websites that address areas of conflict within Christianity using different approaches. Needless to say, there will always be someone who claims that someone else is not a true Christian and then the back and forth rebuttals that follow. Sometimes they can be amusing, but almost always it is disheartening. Who are we to claim who is and is not a Christian? That is the usual response.

So if I claim to be a Christian and you claim to be a Christian, we can have different views on the same topics. It does not mean that both views are correct, but that we both claim we are Christians. So to be able to accurately claim someone is not a Christian, doesn’t there have to be a standard of what a Christian is and is not? Maybe that is the problem.

The word Christian is not in the Bible. It is a fact. Like the word homosexual, Christian is a term that developed after scripture was written in its native language so in the original texts, Christian, which is an English word, is not mentioned. The Greek term for it is mention and you can see that usage in 1 Peter 4:16.

So the term Christian refers to the followers of Christ or followers of the anointed one. We get the Greek word for Christ from the Hebrew word for messiah. So basically, we should all be able to agree on this, a Christian is one who follows Jesus as he is the anointed one / Christ / messiah. If you do not agree with this, then the rest of this will probably be lost on you.

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. (1Pe 4:1-2)

So here, we can kind of see that since Jesus lived not in the flesh that we as followers should do the same. We are to cease from sin and to live for the will of God.

Acts 2 has a wonderful dissertation from Peter as to the life of Jesus and what was said about Him and the times by God.

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Act 2:36-39)

Repent of your ways and be baptized in to Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. So we repent by a complete changing of our thoughts and we are placed into Jesus, spiritually, so we can be forgiven of our sins. Similar to 1 Peter in that we are to no longer sin and begin living for God.

Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” (Act 3:22-26)

So by being a follower of Jesus, we are to turn from wickedness.

let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead–by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Act 4:10-12)

There is only salvation in Christ and no one else.

but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. (Act 13:37-39)

Forgiveness of sins comes through Jesus by believing or having faith in Him alone

how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. (Act 10:38-45)

Followers of Christ are made up of both Jew and Gentile

After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, “‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’ Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. (Act 15:13-20)

Gentile followers of Christ are not subject to the Law as stated above it fails to make one holy or righteous. That being said, not everything is permissible.

I could throw many more versus up here but you can see the patterns. To be a Christian, you must believe in Jesus as the only method of salvation. You must turn from wickedness and repent of evil ways. You can follow the Law, but you must know it will not save you. You are to live a sinless life and instead live for the will of God.

There are differences in doctrines among Christians, but that alone does not make a person not a Christian. When those who claim to be a Christian fail to live up to the basic tenets of the faith, then you can pretty much guess that they are not living fully according to the will of God. I would not go as far as to proclaim that they are not a Christian, but rather I would correct areas that I see as a violation of the faith. If they refuse to acknowledged then walk away. I know you might be upset that they are spreading what could be considered a false gospel or a polluted message, but we are to be peacemakers. Pray for them and let them go on their way.


Filed under Bible, Christianity, Misc, Relationships, Religion

4 responses to “What is a Christian?

  1. Great post with lots of insight. One question. Acts 11:26 reads, “they were first called Christians at Antioch.” Am I missing something? Thanks

  2. It would have been the greek for christ followers instead of the english word christian, but you are correct. There are several uses of the word through out scripture, but we do not see it in writtings until after 60 A.D. which shows that Jesus was not starting a new religion, but rather completing what He had already started.

  3. I see… thanks for responding

  4. I have been going through a new chronology of the New Testament and it has 1 Peter listed prior to Acts. Peter has been rather interesting to me lately, so I used it as the reference for the word.

    It gets me as to how many people take offense to limiting the scope of what a Christian is and is not. I often see that if people want to identify with Christ without the commitment, then they are defensive when you point out areas that do not seem to line up. On the flip side we have those Christians who are so rigid in their understanding of what a Christian is, that they push away others who have a different point of view without being willing to talk and make sure both sides are fully understood.

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