Names are fascinating things. While awaiting a new baby, parents ponder over the perfect name choice for the child. Businesses strive to identify just the right label to appeal to their market. Sports teams search for a moniker that will induce pride in their franchise. We even labor to uncover the ideal tag for our pets!
But no name seems to elicit as much emotional response as the ethnic and national titles hung upon the varied peoples of the earth. We take pride in being recognized by our nationality or that of our forefathers. We compose and proudly sing national anthems; design flags and banners; and wear clothing emblazoned in national colors to unmistakably link us to our heritage. This serves to associate us with a particular segment of the world’s population and identify under which authority we have been placed, whether by choice or circumstance. Sometimes these distinctions are easy to discern through physical traits or language, but often they require explicit expression.
The United States is unique among countries through its history as a “melting-pot” of people. Unlike many countries, there is no absolute ethnic distinction that makes one an obvious citizen, so residents take on the title of American to declare their uniqueness among the other people of earth. They are declaring themselves to be an “America-man” in subjection to, and under the protection of, the laws and rulers of that land.
In like manner, when taking on the name of Christian, the believer confesses himself to belong to his Lord and Savior and declares himself a citizen of Heaven, the possession of God, and subject to His rule over his life. He has announced himself to be a “Christ-man,” the meaning of the term Christian.
The Title of “Christian”
The Christian has been called out from among the people of this world to be a member of a distinct body. He does not require a flag or special clothing to distinguish himself; he can wave the banner of Christ and proclaim his uniqueness through that unmistakable name.
But we must take care over that which is labeled “Christian.” There are many that take that name for themselves with no real justification. Though they may play the part well, they neither trust Christ as Savior nor bow to God’s authority. Some may fashion their own peculiar brand of doctrine while staking residence under the banner of Christ – a claim that may be wholly unjustified.
Therefore, we must be wise and “not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure,” (1 Tim. 5:22) and should be very careful as to what we express fellowship with, for there is much out there today claiming to be Christian with little, or no, basis in truth and doctrine.
Of course we know that once a person has trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior, and thus come under the full effect of His finished work on the cross, a person falls into the ranks of those who have believed “unto salvation,” (Rom. 10:9-10). This believer is certainly fully entitled to call himself a Christian or any of the other beautiful names given in the Bible. Scripture employs many names that apply personally to each one washed in the blood of Jesus, such as believer (2 Cor. 6:15), saint (Eph. 1:1, 1 Cor. 1:2), brother/sister (Acts 18:27, Heb. 2:11), and child of God (1 Jn. 3:1). Each of these are beautiful expressions of who he is to God, but not necessarily evident to other people.
However, the distinctive “Christian” is decidedly a term to show publicly who we are in Jesus Christ. It is a word found only four times in our New Testament and in each case the use is for outward, or public, association with the glorious person of Christ.
The term was apparently coined by those outside the church to identify the adherents to this “new religion” sprouting up throughout the region. We are told in Acts 11:26 that “in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Later in the same book (Acts 26:28), King Agrippa tells Paul that he has almost convinced him to become a Christian, or to align himself outwardly with those holding the doctrine of the Christ. Unfortunately, it does not appear he ever took the necessary step of receiving Christ as Savior in spite of the attraction of some of the doctrine. This is sadly the case with too many claiming to be Christians today.
Please see 1 Corinthians 14:16 and 1 Peter 4:16 for additional reference to this wonderful name and ponder the effects of its implications.
We can see that the one truly taking on identification as a Christian has therefore fully associated himself publicly with the Son of God, the crucified and rejected Christ. We can also have joy that the title of Christian became the moniker the world uses to this day to distinguish us from among the various other groups in societies throughout mankind. The Christian rejoices in being so thoroughly identified with his Savior through this name and will not shrink from public recognition as such.
What a blessing to be known in this way for it is far more glorious to be associated with His name than with any ethnic or national identity. The Christian will carefully guard this truth. What are you willing to do?