Language is fascinating. I love the history — the etymology — of words. Sadly, over time the meaning of certain words can change for the worse. Terms and phrases can be diluted or distorted by the way they’re used or abused.
This has happened with a word we’re all familiar with — “Christian.” Have you ever thought about who coined the term “Christian?” What does it actually mean?
Most people think that “Christian” was something Jesus called His followers, or a term He used to describe the “religion” He founded. Or that the early church apostles created it.
None of these common beliefs are accurate. Most probably the term “Christian” was first given to followers of Jesus by unbelievers who saw how they lived, and the strong allegiance they had to their Savior. It’s highly likely that initially it was a deragatory term, meant to put down, and possibly discriminate against people who were committed and loyal to Jesus Christ — a label that made fun of them. It was something believers were “called” by those outside the faith. It was linked to the distinct moral and lifestyle differences seen in the men who women who had given their lives to Jesus.
Look at how the Bible describes the origin of the word:
… The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. — Acts 11:26 (NIV)
Why is it important to understand the history of this label? Because the word “Christian” actually had and has a specific meaning. In the 1st century it applied to someone who truly believed that:
- Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
- Through His death on the cross, Jesus actually experienced God’s judgment for our sins — He willingly accepted the punishment we deserve for our sinful nature and choices.
- On the 3rd day, following His death, Jesus rose from the grave and is alive today and forever. No doubt about it!
- Jesus is deserving of wholehearted love, worship and absolute devotion.
- Jesus rightfully is Lord, and should be recognized as Lord — the Master and Ruler — of our lives.
- True faith in Jesus Christ transforms people from the inside out. It changes people’s hearts, priorities and values. It changes the way people think, live and speak. It makes people “new.”
According to the Bible, being a “Christian” is not simply or only a cultural identity or religious preference, it’s a life-altering conviction and commitment of obedience to a Person — Jesus Christ, God’s Son. It’s not a label someone wears meaninglessly, but a way of life that starts with deep and personal faith that is lived out publicly and boldly.
Take a close look at some Bible verses that help us understand how to “be a Christian.” Read these in a continual flow of thought:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16 (NIV)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God … — Romans 3:23 (NIV)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. — Romans 5:8 (NIV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 6:23 (NIV)
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. — Romans 10:9, 10 (NIV)
… anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! — 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
Are you a “Christian?” If the answer’s “yes,” take a moment to express your love and gratitude to Jesus for all He’s done for you. If the answer’s “no” or “I’m not sure,” take time right now to sincerely admit to Jesus how much you need Him to save you. Tell Him you really believe that He is God’s Son, who died for you and rose from the dead. Then turn your whole life over to Him. It will be the greatest moment of your life!