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What Are We Called?

24th June 2010

We Christians are sometimes called by names like Bible-bashers, wowsers, even hypocrites if we let the side down and they say, ‘and s/he's supposed to be a Christian!' However, the Scriptures are more exact. Did you know that ‘Christian' is only found 3 times in the New Testament? Acts 11:26 says the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch . In Acts 26:28 Agrippa, faced by Paul's challenging words said, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian' (New King James Version). I Peter 4:16 says, ‘If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.' If we bear the name, let's display the beauty and grace of Jesus.

Some suggest ‘Christian' was a nickname, but nicknames like ‘Tubby', ‘Tiny or ‘Lofty' are usually distinctive and deserved. Drop the ‘a' in our word to ‘Christin', and it suits us fine! ‘ Christ in you ' (Colossians 1:29) is the shortest definition of a Christian. Christ comes first in the word and in the life.

Only one person can life the Christian life - Jesus Christ, living in and through us! So our word, maybe a nickname, or possibly in contempt, should clearly mark us out as belonging to Christ. ‘In Christ' often occurs in the New Testament Letters and ‘He in us.' Let us never bring reproach on that beautiful name and the Christ it contains.

Though only three times in the New Testament, other designations are used, with many implications. ‘Believer' comes 80 times in John's Gospel, and believe, believer, faith etc. (the same Greek root word) come 230 times in the New Testament as the heart and foundation of the Gospel. ‘Whoever believes' comes repeatedly listing the blessings and benefits! Yet some disillusioned people say it doesn't matter what you believe if you're sincere'. They can be sincerely wrong. It matters everything where Jesus is concerned.

‘Disciple' means learner. We Christians never lose our ‘L' plates; we never stop learning. Even mature saints still learn of him who said ‘Come to me…take my yoke upon you and learn from me' (Matthew 11:28). We used to sing, ‘Seeking to be, lowly and humble, a learner of Thee.' Also realise that it is linked with discipline.

‘Followers of the Way' is another label in Acts 9:2; 19:9,23 and 24:14. Some modern versions use a capital for ‘Way'. Remember Jesus said ‘I am the Way' (John 14:6), He is the way to God opened for us here and hereafter, and no-one comes to the Father but by Him. Ours is a distinctive way of life. In Acts 4:13 those watching Peter and John ‘realised… took note, that they had been with Jesus.' Would they say it of us today?

‘Saint' is there too. Don't say ‘I'm no saint!' The New Testament says you are. It means set apart, separated to God. A book was entitled ‘Danger, Saints at Work!' about Christians. A ‘saint' (69 times in the New Testament), a sanctified one is a true Christian, trusting in Christ as Saviour and Lord (I Corinthians 1:2). Holy and holiness spring from the same Greek root.

The Letters often start ‘To the saints at …' We are often called saints and called to be saints (II Corinthians 1:1 and Romans 1:7). Sanctity is not being sanctimonious, but Christ-like. ‘Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.' A child looking at a stained glass window of past saints described a saint as someone the sun shines through. In the Biblical sense the S-o-n Jesus, shines through!

Let us live out these Scripture labels. We are also called to be ‘a good soldier of Christ Jesus' (II Timothy 2:3) and you might find other terms too.

... by the Rev Perry Smith of Belmont, NSW, June 2010.

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