A Christian Only
In New Testament days, the word "Christian" had a very special and concise meaning. Peter wrote: "For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evildoer, or as a meddler in other men's matters: but if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed: but let him glorify God in this name" (I Peter 4:15-16). The true disciples of Christ understood what it meant to suffer as a Christian, and they glorified God in this name.
Some mistakenly think that the word Christian was coined by the enemies of Christ as a term of ridicule. However, the Bible teaches that the term is of divine origin. Long before Christ came to earth, Isaiah wrote: "For Zion's sake will I hold my peace and for Jerusalem's sake will I not rest, until her righteousness go forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth. And the nations shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory, and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of Jehovah shall name" (Isa. 62:1-2). Luke recorded the fulfillment of Isa. 62:1-2 and the history of the new name with these words: "And it came to pass, that even for a whole year they were gathered together with the church, and taught much people; and that the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch" (Acts 11: 26). Not many years later, the word Christian was commonly applied to all the disciples of Christ. It was about 61 A. D. when the apostle Paul stood before King Agrippa defending the religion of Christ. After listening intently, the king replied, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian" (Acts 26:28). Thus, the new name was found even on the lips of kings.
Confusion As To Meaning
The word Christian is perhaps one of the most misunderstood, misused, and abused words of our vocabulary. It has suffered a fate similar to other words such as "peace" "liberty," and "love." Unless these words are properly defined and understood alike, they have very little communication value. Unfortunately, many words gradually change in meaning until finally their original or root meaning is lost. The word Christian has gone through this kind of process. Ask people the question, "What is a Christian?" and note how many different and conflicting answers you will receive. You will quickly find that the term is applied to religious persons of all shades and stripes. It is even used to describe good moral people who admittedly have no faith in Jesus Christ. It is sometimes used as an adjective to describe institutions and objects. The United States is referred to by some as a Christian nation, and on occasion, the constitution has been referred to as a Christian document. Some use the word as though it were some kind of magic term which automatically elevates and glorifies everything that it touches.
The word Christian as used by the New Testament writers was applied to a very special person. The term literally means "belonging to Christ," and thus it is descriptive of one who is owned by and dedicated to Christ. The term is a summation of all that n disciple of Christ is and should be. Not having understood this root meaning, many use the term carelessly and loosely.
Who Is A Disciple Of Christ?
Obviously, a Christian is a disciple of Christ; (Acts 11: 26) who is a disciple of Christ? The new Testament writers are quite clear on this point. Jesus said: "Whosoever doth not bear his own cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple . . . So therefore whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27,33). Discipleship involves forsaking self and following Jesus. This eliminates those who halfheartedly follow Christ. They cannot be Christians! This eliminates the man who supposedly lives a good moral life but refuses to acknowledge Jesus. He cannot be a Christian! This eliminates the religious church going man who refuses to submit to the authority of Jesus in doctrine, worship, and service. The disciple must follow Jesus! John wrote: "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoso keepeth his word, in him verily hath the love of God been perfected. Hereby we know that we are in him: he that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to walk even as he walked" (I John 2:4-6). Are you profaning the word Christian by half-hearted commitment, and teaching and practicing as doctrine the commandments of men (Matt. 15:3,6,9; Matt. 22:37, and II John 9)?
How To Become A Disciple Of Christ
Christ said: "For many are called, but few chosen" (Matt. 22:14). The gospel of Christ is God's power to call men and women into glorious fellowship and service (John 6:45; Rom. 1:16; II Thess. 2:14 and James 1:18). God's choosing depends upon our reception of Jesus Christ.
Specifically answering the question of how disciples are made, Jesus said: "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:18-19). Discipleship is connected with salvation. Notice Mark's account of the great commission of Jesus: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16). According to Jesus, a disciple is made by hearing the gospel, believing the gospel, and obeying the gospel by being baptized.
This is the same process by which disciples were made from the beginning of the preaching of Peter on Pentecost until the present time. Peter's answer to the question, "What must we do," was: "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). "They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41). Also, study these other examples of disciples being made: Acts 8:1-13; 8:16-40; 9:1-19; 22:3-21; 26:12-23; 10:24-48; 16:13-15; 16:27-34; 18:8.
A Holy Calling
A Christian belongs to a precious and select community. Paul wrote: "For in one spirit were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit" (I Cor. 12:13). Upon hearing, believing, and obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ, all men can become an "elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession" (I Pet. 2:9). Christians have been created in Jesus Christ for good works (Eph. 2:10). The life of the Christian must be characterized by walking in the light (I John 1:6-7), and those who walk in darkness have no fellowship with God. The works of darkness are clearly pointed out in scripture (Gal. 5:19-24 and Col. 3:5-11). Unless the baptized believer has committed his life to Christ and grows in grace and knowledge, he is blind and will stumble and fall (II Peter 1:5-11). Thus, you see the name Christian has great meaning and embraces a lifelong commitment.
A Christian Only
I am a Christian. This sums up my religious conviction. It is not necessary for me to say that I am this or that kind of a Christian. The Bible recognizes only one kind of a Christian; it is man who is guilty of corrupting God's definition. As a Christian, I am a member of only one church, the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:12-13; Eph. 1:22; Eph. 4:4; Gal. 3:27-29). Within this fellowship of believers, I am subject to only one Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:5, Eph. 1:22 Eph. 5:23). As a Christian, my only faith is the one once for all delivered unto the saints (Eph. 4:5; Jude 3). Since God is one, the Spirit is one, and the revealed message is one, then obviously, the faith and practice must be one. When men preach and practice conflicting doctrines, then they deny that God is the Source (II John 9).
May God help us understand his simple and glorified message, and may we determine to be Christians only.