What Does “Christian” Mean?

“It was in Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.” (Acts 11:26b NLT)

Over the next few days, I’d like to look more closely at some of the words that are used by those of us affiliated with the church, primarily in the U.S., because that’s my frame of reference.

People tend to use the words “Christian” and ”Christians” with the assumption that everyone who hears them knows what they mean, yet, it has become increasingly clear through the years, that that’s not always the case. It’s a little bit like asking someone: “Do you love Mac N Cheese!” There are dozens of ways to make it, so asking that question can raise a lot of different responses in people’s minds. They’re all hearing the same terms, but “Mac N Cheese,” can be made in many different ways.

The terms “Christian” and “Christians, are only used three times in the King James Version of the Bible, but more than thirty times in other translations. Originally, the word was used derogatorily in reference to those who professed faith in Jesus, the Christ. It was used much like people today use terms to ridicule or demean those of another race or ethnicity. It was not complimentary.

Because we see “Jesus Christ” used in the Bible or hear so many people refer to Him in that manner, there are those who assume “Christ” must be Jesus’ last name; however, “Christ” is a title that identifies Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. Thus, for those who knew and followed Jesus it was a title of honor and reverence, thus to be referred to as a “Christian” was a privilege, one for which many sacrificed their lives.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

So, how does that translate into 21st century America? If you do a Google search of the word “Christian” you’ll get more than 5½ billion “hits,” many of which draw you in directions that have nothing to do with Jesus. One thing you’ll find is a very generic definition of who Christians are: “Christians are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The words Christ and Christian derive from the Koine Greek title Christós (Χριστός), a translation of the Biblical Hebrew term mashiach (מָשִׁיחַ).” (Wikipedia)

The frightening piece of this, and the reason I felt compelled to write about it, is many who believe they are Christian, may in fact not be. How can I make such a statement? Because being born in America, which was once referred to as a “Christian” nation, does not make anyone a “Christian.” Because growing up in a “Christian” home or environment, attending church faithfully, being involved in “Christian” activities/organizations/causes does not make someone a “Christian,” based on what the Bible teaches.

The ONLY reason anyone is a “Christian” is because they yield their life and allegiance to Jesus; they choose to trade their life for His; to receive forgiveness and new life in and through Him alone, by faith alone.

Jesus said in Matthew 16:24-25: “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it.” Couple that with Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

Does that mean being a Jesus follower makes us perfect? Certainly not in this life, but it does make us whole, fulfilled, complete, filled with purpose, and citizens of heaven. Being a “Christian” in the Biblical sense isn’t simply a title, it’s intended to be a description of someone who is fully committed to Jesus and who orders their life after His will and desires. If you have any question as to whether you’ve committed your life completely to Jesus, please click on the link below.


Blessings, Ed

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