The label “Christian” gets placed on many different people today. Are we a “Christian nation” simply because we are not ruled by Sharia law, or some kind of monarchy? Is a person a Christian simply because he attends a place of worship that is not Jewish or Muslim? Can we call ourselves Christians by virtue of our family background, religious affiliation, political persuasion, or moral code of conduct?
Christianity must be properly defined if it is to retain its important meaning and significance. The first use of this word in the Bible is in Acts 11:26 when believers were first called Christians in Antioch. This word is used only two other times in the NT. In Acts 26:28 King Agrippa said he was almost persuaded to become a Christian through the words of the apostle Paul. Then Peter used it in 1 Peter 4:16 about suffering as a Christian.
The word is christianos, and it essentially means to be a follower of Christ. Every time it is used in the NT, it refers to a person who believes in the true identity of Jesus Christ, follows the true teachings of Jesus Christ, and has been converted to follow Jesus Christ. It is not used to refer to someone who is familiar with Jesus Christ, or who merely affirms the truth of Jesus Christ.
The demons affirm the truth of Jesus Christ; they know and believe exactly in who he is and what he taught during his earthly ministry. They believe in the creation, and Creator. They know about eternal judgment and condemnation. Yet they cannot rightly be called Christians.
King Agrippa in Acts 26 had some learning regarding the Jewish prophets and prophesied Messiah, yet he was not a Christian.
So what is a Christian? A Christian is a person who not only knows about Jesus Christ, but has yielded his very soul to Jesus Christ in repentant faith. He believes that his own salvation is by no merits of his own in any way, shape, or form. He realizes that apart from Jesus Christ, he is a condemned soul, eternally damned to hell. His life has been transformed from works of darkness to works of righteousness, not as a means of procuring salvation, but as a proof of the salvation which has already taken place in his soul.
A Christian is one who is saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. There is nothing more to be added or done; Jesus Christ accomplished all that is necessary for salvation through his sinless life and substitutionary death.
To refer, then, to people outside of the true meaning of the word “Christian” is to profane the word itself. When people are put underneath the umbrella of “Christianity” who are not in fact, true Christians, it confuses the meaning of the word, and it also confuses the true identity of the person/group.
We must be careful to distinguish true Christians, in the biblical sense, from those who are not. Christianity must mean something more than simply not being a Jew or a Muslim. While many have hi-jacked the term for their own religious benefit, True Christianity is unique, and cannot rightly encompass Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, the Orthodox Church, or other religious groups which may claim knowledge of Christ, but reject the truth of salvation in Christ alone through faith alone by grace alone. True Christians cannot confuse the issue to unbelievers in this area, but must remain loyal to biblical terminology.
Religious persecution is a reality that seems to more rampant today. However, not all of it is true “Christian” persecution. My heart is saddened by what is going on around the world. People are being brutally killed because of their religious beliefs. Religious persecution in other countries provides true Christians to evaluate their own faith, and whether they would stand true for Christ in the face of persecution that might come our way. Let’s be careful to not label all religious persecution as being “Christian” persecution. I am a Christian, and I believe the truth, meaning, and significance of that name must be conserved and communicated with clarity.