The reader is possibly one among many who has never really given this question serious thought. The reasoning of many people is, “Of course I’m a Christian! You don’t think I’m a heathen do you?” But such reasoning does not settle the matter at all. The fact is, the world is not divided up into those who are Christian and those who are heathen. In fact, a person may be of an exemplary character, morally upright, respectable, religious and even God-fearing, and still not be a Christian! This statement may surprise some, but please read on and you will see for yourself how important it is to have a proper understanding of what a Christian really is.
What is a Christian?
A Christian, according to the dictionary is a follower of Christ. But to understand the true significance of this we must turn to the Bible, from whence the name Christian originally came.
The First Christians
The first time the name Christian was applied to persons is recorded in Acts 11:26, where we read, “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch”.
The people were first known as believers (Acts 5:14). This was because of there faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. They had heard the gospel and learned they were sinners in the sight of God (Romans 3:23) that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and that “after this the judgement” (Hebrews 9:27). But they also learned that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15), and that “God commendeth His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). They heard the glorious truth of the resurrection of Christ, and welcomed the precious promise of God that “whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). Repenting of their sins they trusted in Christ, believing on Him for the salvation of their souls. Hence they became known as believers. They were not ashamed to be known as such, because they fully believed that the atoning work of Christ upon the cross of Calvary was absolutely sufficent for their redemption. Also, “The Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed” (Romans 10:11).
Having trusted Christ as Saviour, they began to learn of Him (Matthew 11:29), and to live in subjection to His Lordship over them. They were the followers of Christ, and became known as His “disciples” (Acts 6:1). The term is suggestive of their faithfulness and loyalty towards the One in whom they has believed.
Finally we find in Acts 11:26 that the “disciples” were called “Christians”. The very name of Christ was called upon them! This was because of their faith in Him (as believers) and their faithfulness to Him (as disciples).
Christ in the Christian
From the name Christ comes the name Christian. The word takes its meaning from its source. If there were no Christ there would never have been a Christian. Even the word itself would not be a proper word if it did not have Christ in it. So too, with the person who claims to be a Christian, He must have CHRIST IN HIM in order to be a Christian. It is CHRIST who makes a person a CHRISTIAN. “Christ in you, the hope of Glory” (Colossians 1:27).
The Christian in Christ
Just as a peron must have Christ in him to be a Christian, so must a person be in Christ in order to be a Christian. “If any man bein Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). So then a Christian is IN Christ, and Christ is IN the Christian; and that person will sincerely confess, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
Not Born a Christian
No one was ever born a Christian! Indeed, every true Christian will confess he was born “a sinner”. To become a Christian, a person “must be born again” (John 3:7); and this is “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God“(John 1:13).
Newness of Life
No person can claim he was “always a Christian”. Quite to the contrary, for before a person knows Christ as their Saviour their condition is one of “enmity against God” (Romans 8:7). “At that time” the true Christian will confess, he was without Christ … having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). But a time came in his soul’s experience when he realised the course he was pursuing was but a “broad way that leadeth to destruction” (Matthew 7:13). Repenting toward God he trusted Christ as his Saviour (Acts 20:21), receiving the “Gift of God” which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). A genuine Christian is one who can tell you that such has been his or her experience, and it will be plainly evident in that they now “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
The original conception of what a Christian is has been greatly distorted by modern theology. Today it seems almost anyone can be looked on as a Christian providing he or she is living a reasonably good life, and doesn’t do any harm. It matters not about personal relationship to Christ. Many take it for granted that because they live in a (so-called) “Christian country” they are therfore Christians! How contrasted such reasoning is with what the Bible says!
Australians … Herodians
If Australia is your native country, you are called an Australian, just as those who lived in Galatia were called Galatians (Galatians 3:1). To parallel with our study on the word Christian, it is interesting to note that there was a Jewish political party in Jerusalem which favoured Greek customs. Accordingly they supported the government of Herod over the Jewish people. Because of their identification with Herod, they were known as “Herodians” (Matthew 22:16). So too, with regard to the Christian. He is called such because of his identification with Christ and submission to Him.
Are you a Christian?
Reader, in view of the foregoing facts, how would you now answer the question, “Are you a Christian?”. Have you come before God as a guilty sinner and received His pardon? Do you belong to Christ?
The difference between a person who is a Christian and one who is not, is this: the one is a sinner saved by grace, safely “IN CHRIST” (Romans 8:1); the other is a unsaved sinner “WITHOUT CHRIST” (Ephesians 2:12). The one is a believer and the other is an unbeliever. One is on the way to heaven, the other is on the way to hell. Reader, where do you stand? Are you a Christian?
How to become a Christian?
If after reading this you find that you are not really a Christian at all, then do heed the voice of God to your neady soul. Youcan become a Christian by taking God at His Word and trusting in Christ alone for your salvation. A king by the name of Aggrippa was confronted with this opportunity many years ago, and he said “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:18). We do not read that he ever became a Christian. He is now in eternity, but where? Almost is not enough. You must be fully persuaded, because of the realities facing you in this momentous issue. You cannot afford to triffle with the matter, for eternal consequences are involved.
Become a Christian now. Repent of your sins. Receive Christ, own Him as you Lord and Saviour. Then like one of old, along with many today, you will be able to say “I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” (2 Timothy 2:12). Becoming a Christian may bring reproach upon you from even your closest friends and relatives, but God says in His Word, “If ye be reproaced for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified … Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him be not ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:14,16). Bearing the scorn of man now is nought compared with the wrath of God eternally!