Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 12, 1951
NUMBER 10, PAGE 10,11b

Are We Christians?

Thomas Allen Robertson, Mclean, Texas

Notice that the title of this article does not ask, "Are you a Christian?' but rather, "Are we Christians:' Of course this includes you. Paul said, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves." (2 COR. 13:5) In any such examination, the first point of investigation should be to find out exactly what it was that constituted one a Christian in New Testament times. Who was a Christian, or what was a Christian then?

We find that "the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.' (Acts 11:26) In the same book (Acts 26:29) Paul admitted that he himself was a Christian, and pleaded that all who heard him might become such as he was "except these bonds.' Then Peter said, "If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this behalf.' (1 Peter 4:16) Three questions we need to answer: (1) who were those called "Christians?'; (2) why were they Christians?; and (3) what, if anything, had they done to make them Christians? When we answer these three questions we will know what a Christian is, and can judge whether or not we are Christians.

Who They Were

Those who were given the name "Christian" were disciples. We are told exactly how they became disciples. Christ said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Matt: 28:18-20) This shows clearly that people were made disciples by (1) being taught, and (2) being baptized. To see how this was done we have but to turn to Acts 2. where this great commission is put into operation. There the order is: Peter preached; the people were pricked in their heart, and asked, "what shall we do?"; Peter told them to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins; and they that gladly received his words were baptized. After this obedience, they "continued steadfastly" in the apostles' doctrine. This is a clear example, and a specific pattern. They who obeyed were disciples.

What They Did

Christ said that in order for a man to be saved he must (1) be taught (John 6:44-45); (2) believe (John 8:24); (3) repent (Luke 13:3); (4) confess him before men (Matt. 10:32, 33); and (5) be baptized (Mark 16: 15, 16) The events of Acts 2 show that these people followed that pattern without deviation. They did exactly according to the teaching.

In passing, let us notice some false doctrines that are refuted by this passage. Men teach that baptism is not necessary to salvation; but Peter taught that it was "for the remission of sins." (Acts 2:38) In a parallel teaching he warned the Jews to "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." (Acts 3:19) Thus Acts 2 and Acts 3 are parallel and teach the same truth: repentance, baptism, and remission of sins (in Acts 2), and repentance, conversion, and "sins be blotted out:" (Acts 3) The "converted" of the latter passage is identical with the "be baptized" of the first. This is in full harmony with what the same Peter wrote later, "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us.' (1 Peter 3:21) Baptism is essential to salvation, for without it a man cannot get into Christ; (Gal: 3:27) and all salvation is in Christ: (Eph: 1:3-7)

The Example Of Saul

The story of Saul's conversion, recorded in Acts 9, 22, and 26, is familiar to all Bible students. When Saul replied to the heavenly voice with the question, "What shall I do, Lord?" (Acts 22:10), he was obviously not a disciple, not a Christian; for he wanted to know what to do: Of course any preacher of the Calvinist persuasion would have told Saul there was nothing he could do—that according to God's eternal election, he was saved already! But the answer the Lord gave him was, "Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do:" (Acts 22:10) And what was it that Saul MUST do? Ananias, a man guided by the Holy Spirit, told him, "And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16) In his later reference to this event, Paul said, "Whereupon, 0 King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision:" (Acts 26:19) Thus we see that Paul regarded the words of Ananias as a command; and he obeyed it. He had heard the gospel, he believed it, and he obeyed it.

If Saul were actually saved on the Damascus road (as denominational preachers erroneously teach), then he was saved before he knew it, for he asked Christ "what wilt thou have me to do?" to be saved; he was saved before Christ knew it, because Christ gave him the answer to his question; he was saved before the Holy Spirit knew it, for the Spirit sent Ananias to him in Damascus to give him instruction as to how to be saved! Again. if saved on the Damascus road, Saul was saved before his sins had been washed away, for Ananias three days later told him to "arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins." If saved on the road, he was the most miserable "saved man" in the world's history for he went three days without food or water or sleep, engaging in prayer. No, Saul was not saved on the Damascus road; he was not saved until he had completed his obedience to the commands given him; he was not a Christian until he had been "baptized into Christ."

The Examples In Acts

The Book of Acts is filled with examples showing how men became disciples, Christians. There are no exceptions to the simple pattern that had been laid down: Not only in the Acts of Apostles, but throughout the epistles, references are repeatedly made to the various members, showing how they had become servants of God, Christians. Why men will ignore these plain examples and these simple statements can not be answered easily. But take notice of some of the examples:

Philip preached Christ unto the Samaritans. (Acts 8:5-13) The Samaritans (1) heard (2) believed, and (3) were baptized. This same Philip preached Jesus unto the Ethiopian eunuch. (Acts 8:26-40) The eunuch (1) believed- (2) confessed his faith, and (3) was baptized: Peter preached to Cornelius and his household: (Acts 10:1-47) Those who heard (1) believed, (2) repented (Acts 11:18) and (3) were baptized. Paul preached to the Corinthians.

They (1) heard, (2) believed, and (3) were baptized. (Acts 18:8)

The force of such Bible teaching cannot be ignored. If we have not become Christians in exactly the same way these people became Christians, then we are not Christians at all! God's pattern is specific and simple:

Are We Christians?