In a world of hatred, anger, violence, terrorism and so on, it is said that we "Christians" should all lean upon each other and especially not attack one another for the differences that some may believe.
Is this a valid question? Is this a valid argument at all? The Bible tells us that we all need to become Christians in order to be saved for an eternity...but what does that really mean? Aren't we all (believers in Christ) Christians?
Let's take a look at the very basis of the question and see if we can find a biblical answer as we should in all things.
1. Who are Christians?
“Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (Acts 11:19–26, NKJV)
In the text quoted, we can see several qualities of a Christian. Notice in the final verse that the Bible says that the "disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." Why were they called Christians here? Let's look at a couple of points:
- Those that had heard the gospel of Jesus Christ (11:19-20)
- Those that believed the gospel of Jesus Christ, repented and confessed (turned toward Christ), (11:21)
- Those that were added to the Lord(Acts 2:47 - "and the Lord added..." resulting from obedience in baptism for the remission of sins) ultimately, to the church. (11:24)
We can also see in the surrounding verses that these Christians showed their allegiance to God, to Christ, and to each other in their unity, their continued study, and their lives of teaching and living.
2. What does the term "Christian" really mean?
The term is built from a root word and a suffix. The Greek terms Christos (Christ) and ianos (possession of, belonging to) put together would render the easiest and best definition that can be given. "belonging to Christ." Some have said that the term meant a "follower of Christ," and that would possibly lend to the thought of a majority of persons identifying themselves as a Christian. But, belonging to Christ would imply and entail much more than just "following Christ." We can see this in the thoughts of the early disciples/apostles.
Jesus said to His disciples on multiple occasions - "Follow Me." It is a simple statement, but is that all that we see in the lives of the disciples; specifically those that became His disciples? Certainly not. We can see their desire to follow Jesus in the sense that they wanted to learn His teachings, but we also see their complete allegiance to Him (even Judas unto the point of betrayal), their obedience, and their love for Him.
Following Jesus isn't enough for you and I to be called a Christian either!
3. Can all believers be Christians?
Back to our original question...aren't all believers Christians?
Personally, I have been "attacked" with this thought by those in denominations, and surprisingly by those in the Lord's church as well. The thought is that we should all band together and fight false religions such as Islam, ISIS, atheism, agnosticism, etc. Who is "all?" According to some, it is any that believe that Jesus is Lord, and have followed any sort of way to salvation that is taught by men...whether it be by saying a prayer to invite Jesus into their hearts, sprinkled as either an infant or an adult, being baptized for someone else that has already died, just confessing that Jesus is Lord, and so on.
Friends, this cannot be true. Just believing in Jesus is not enough! James 2:19 says that even the demons believe and tremble! Jesus poured out His blood so that you and I can become "Christians." Not followers, not believer, not part-timers...but fully belonging to Christ.
Belonging to Christ would also mean that we are willing to obey Him. Jesus told His disciples to continue teaching, much like we see in Acts 11, but He said to do more than teach. He said to baptize, making other disciples, and then teach them some more! That is the ONLY way that one can become a Christian...full obedience to Christ.
How do we become a Christian?
The Bible clearly tells that we must obey the Gospel of Christ. (2 Thes 1:8)
We can only obey the Gospel if we understand that the Gospel means coming into contact with Christ's death (His blood - Hebrews 9:22; 1 John 1:7; Rev 1:5; John 19:34)
Obeying the Gospel means that we submit our lives to Him fully in His death, burial, and resurrection (Rom 6:1-6)
There is only one Gospel to obey (1 Cor 15:1-11)
Are we all Christians?
That would be such a joy! But, unfortunately, just like I was told recently - "Christians need to stand up against false religions such as Islam." That is ever so correct; yet, Christians also need to stand up against religious confusion and false teaching just as much! Romans 16:17 says that those that teach falsely should be identified. Not as Christians...but as false teachers. 1 Cor 1:10 tells us that we should not be divided. The inept definition of "denomination" is to be divided.
We can't all believe different things and be united as "belonging to Christ." There is only ONE Christ, and only ONE Gospel of Christ. Please obey that one doctrine that is presented in the only source that we can trust! His Holy Word!
And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’ (Acts 22:16 NKJV)
I pray that these thoughts are taken in love, understood, and acted upon if necessary.
Minister, Rock Hill church of Christ