Have you ever considered what constitutes whether someone is Christian or not? Who decides who can be called a Christian? I once thought that it was a divine decision only, but I have since reconsidered that thought.
What does the word “Christian” really mean?
According to http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/christian it means the following:
1 a : one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ
b (1) : disciple 2 (2) : a member of one of the Churches of Christ separating from the Disciples of Christ in 1906 (3) : a member of the Christian denomination having part in the union of the United Church of Christ concluded in 1961
2 : the hero in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress
According to http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/christian?s=t it means the following:
1. of, pertaining to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings: a Christian faith.
3. of or pertaining to Christians: many Christian deaths in the Crusades.
4. exhibiting a spirit proper to a follower of Jesus Christ; Christlike: She displayed true Christian charity.
5. decent; respectable: They gave him a good Christian burial.
From this we can conclude that the word “Christian” when it pertains to humans, means anyone who believes or follows Christ. Thus any follower of Christ is a Christian. Now we have to look at the word Christ and see its origins. Christ is not Jesus’ last name and it actually isn’t his name at all, but a title. Christ is a title meaning “anointed one” or “Messiah.” It was the title given to the promised savior of the Jewish people.
Now let us look back in history and see when, where, and how the term “Christian” came into use.
The first time the word was used in Antioch around A.D. 43 when Saul was becoming Paul.
Acts 11:25-26 25 And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
In this verse we see that it says that “the disciples were first CALLED Christians in Antioch.” It didn’t say that they called themselves Christians, it says that they were called Christians. That brings up the question of who called them Christians? It implies that OTHERS called them that name. Who could these others be? I’m sure it wasn’t God. I’m sure it wasn’t Jesus. So who could these others be that created this term “Christian”? More than likely it was a group of nonbelievers who were desperately trying to put a label on this new spiritually based faith system that was sweeping across their world like a storm. That would mean that the term came from man, not Jesus, not God and not any of the apostles. There is no definite proof of any of this, but the odds are it is true.
How were Christ’s followers referred to by themselves and by the scriptures? They were referred to by many different words. They were called: “brethren,” “brother” and sisters, one body in Christ, members of the body, Christ’s body, partakers of the promise in Christ, saints, the church, church of God, churches of Christ, churches of the saints, household of God, church of the living God, who are enrolled in heaven, the righteous made perfect, bride… and the terms go on and on. Here are just some of the verses mentioning Christ’s followers.
Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 10:16, 1 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 3:6, Ephesians 4:12, Ephesians 5:23, Matthew 16:18, 1 Corinthians 1:2, Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 14:33, 1 Timothy 3:15, Hebrews 12:23, Revelations 19:7
There are countless references of His followers, but few using the term “Christian.” There are three instances where the term is used in the Bible; Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16. But there is only one reference where Christ’s followers are called Christians directly by a Christian and that was in 1 Peter 4:16, where he says “but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed.” That tells us that the term was accepted by the early church and thus a totally acceptable label to be used by Christians to describe them. But you must keep in mind that these are men using the label, not God or any heavenly body. However, I have to ask the question, if it was a name that Christians used extensively to refer to themselves then wouldn’t you think that it would have appeared much more frequently in the scriptures?
It is easy to see that the early Christians did not object to being called Christians. If we look back at the definitions you can see that the term literally means: one who follows the Jewish Messiah. That says a lot! It would mean that it reenforced their belief that they were followers of the TRUE Messiah. Which is what they were and knew that they were. It isn’t hard to see why the early Christians would quickly embrace the term.
Now back to the the fact that God didn’t create the term, which means He didn’t give any criteria for its use. It also means that since it is man’s term then man is free to use the term any way he pleases. Man can label anyone a Christian whenever, wherever he pleases and man has done just that, ever since the term was first spoken. Anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ can be, and is referred to as Christian. It doesn’t matter if they are Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, or a member of any of the many different “Christian” churches in the world, they can all be Christians. It doesn’t matter even if they claim to worship and follow Christ, but in fact actually worship Satan. Since they claim to follow Christ then they technically, according to man, can be called Christians. Since man created the term, why should God care who uses the term to describe themselves? God didn’t and doesn’t care if we call ourselves Christian, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Pentecostal or any other name. After all, what is in a name?
God doesn’t care about the label we wear on the outside, but instead He cares about the label we wear on the inside across our heart and mind. The label we display on the inside is not something we can put there just by saying we are something. It is put there by our actions, thoughts, beliefs and desires. The Christian label is put there by studying the word, obeying the word and living by the word. God looks at our heart and deeds. He knows if we are a true “follower” of Christ or just a Christian imposter.
If you doubt me, then consider these “so called” Christians and how they came up, far short of being a true follower of Christ or rather a Christian.
Sun Myung Moon: He lived in an eighteen acre mansion with 12 bedrooms, seven bathrooms with many extravagant amenities and he was convicted of tax fraud. He considered himself to be Christ and thus his own follower.
David Koresh: When he was 19 he impregnated a 15 year old. He was thrown out of the 7th Day Adventist Church for fooling around with the pastor’s daughter. He had sex with as many as 140 different women who were part of his followers. He had sex with any and all the women that he could persuade, and some very young girls within his “church.” He even attempted to gun-down a follower.
Matthew Hale: He was convicted of attempting to hire a hitman to kill a judge. He “preached” for a group of “Christians” who are nothing more than an offshoot of the KKK. The group preaches for a racial war to kill all blacks and Jews.
Marshall Herff Applewhite, Jr.: He proclaimed himself as the reincarnated Jesus Christ and told his followers that UFOs were coming to pick them up. When the UFO’s didn’t show, his followers left, but he didn’t give up. Then he created the “Heaven’s Gate” church and then convinced his followers to commit suicide so they could “rise up” to the UFO following the Hale-Bopp comet.
Jim Jones: He created a “Christian” church which was called the People’s Temple that he used to fill his pocketbook. He murdered 909 people with gunfire and poison when he was about to be exposed for the fraud that he was.
Charles Coughlin: He was a Catholic ordained Priest who was among the first people to use radio to reach the masses. He praised Hilter and Mussolini for their political views and actions against Jews. He was a vehement anti-Semite. He wanted the destruction of all Jews. He preached this doctrine on his radio broadcasts all the time.
These are just a few recent examples here in America, but there have been many “so called Christians” plaguing the world, for far longer. Adolf Hitler called himself a Christian. Every member of the KKK, since its inception has considered themselves Christians. The Catholic church has had its share of questionable Christians, especially in some of their previous Popes. Even more recently there has been a rash of reports of Catholic Priests who have been molesting parishioners, and many of the victims were young boys. The reports of molestation have reached such a level that there is even a website for people look up Priests that are or have been accused of “questionable acts.”
I could go on and on about people who called themselves Christians but fell short of hitting the target. My point is that you can call yourself Christian but that doesn’t make you a Christian in God’s eyes. Since man’s definition of a Christian is different than what God’s would be, then it would be acceptable within man’s definition for these people to call themselves Christians.
I’m sure God wouldn’t even consider calling them a Christian because they were anything but. The question is, does God even use the term? I doubt that He does. Why should He? He knows everyone’s heart and He doesn’t care what you call yourself because He already knows what you really are, deep down inside.
So calling yourself a Christian doesn’t make you anything special unless, you are truly a follower of Christ and your heart is right with God. Also, since the term “Christian” is a man made term, then you can call anyone you wish a Christian and God would probably care less.
Bertrum J Meisner Jr
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