What Is A Christian?
“…And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26, NKJV)
The word “Christian” is a derivative of the title Christ, meaning to be Christ-like. “Christian” as a name actually means “one who belongs to Christ” or “follower of Christ” (Strong’s #5546). Originally the word was used to show contempt against the Believers and new converts at Antioch, given by pagans in Acts 11. Since the apostles and others began to preach the gospel beyond the Jewish area, and because of the conversion of gentiles they were no longer considered part of the Jewish sect. There are only three places in the entire Bible where the name Christian appears: Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28 and 1st Peter 4:16.
In spite of what many may believe there is only one kind of Christian, and that is a born again one. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3 that unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Being “born again” is to be regenerated or made anew; “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new,” 2nd Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV). In Greek, the term “regeneration” literally means “being born again:” experiencing a spiritual rebirth (Strong’s #3824). Jesus continues to explain to Nicodemus in verses 5 and 6 that one must be born of the water and the Spirit; and that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. To be born of the water is to be baptized by water. Water is symbolic for the Holy Spirit and is also for the Word of God. Jesus said that if we believe in Him as the Scripture has said, out of our bellies [hearts] will flow
rivers of living water (the Word of God and the Holy Spirit) (John 7:38). Receiving water baptism is an open expression of one’s belief in Jesus Christ. Baptism in the Greek means to dip, immerse or submerge (Strong’s #907, #911). Regeneration for a Christian is impartation of spiritual life from God to those who trust Christ; thus being “born of the Spirit.” Without the spiritual birth, it is impossible to see spiritual things, therefore being impossible for one to enter into the kingdom of God.
First John 3:8-10 clearly explains what a Christian is; it states, “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” A Christian is a person who practices righteousness. When we sin, even as Christians, we are separated from God. It is only through our relationship with Jesus Christ do we have access to the Father. When we received Jesus Christ into our hearts, He redeemed us from sin and death and reconciled us to the Father, as explained in Romans 5:1-11. Christian’s acceptance of Jesus Christ is also known as receiving “salvation.” The Apostle Paul says in Romans 1:16 that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God to “salvation” for everyone who believes: salvation meaning deliverance from past, present and future sin.
Revealed in Romans 10, we see in verses 9 through 13 the basic steps of receiving salvation or becoming born again. In verse 9 the Bible declares that we must confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, then we will be saved. Every Christian knows (at least mature ones) that salvation is a process. The Bible tells us that we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, according to Philippians 2:12. This does not mean we are to work for our salvation, but to allow God to work through us. The change begins to take place upon receiving the Lord Jesus Christ, but without proper spiritual guidance and total regeneration, a new convert can return back to his/her old ways, in a backslidden state.
Before I move on to the next section of this chapter, permit me very briefly to go over the procedures of receiving salvation. A person must first admit that s/he is a sinner. They must sincerely confess to God that they have sinned (1st John 1:9) and fallen short (Romans 3:23). Repentance must take place, which is purposing in the heart to turn away from sin. Then believing that Jesus Christ died on the cross and that God raised Him from the dead reveals your acceptance. Finally, your willingness to receive God’s Word, join a ministry, tell others about what you have experienced and fellowship with other Christians, displays the receiving of salvation. This is what a Christian is.