WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?March 5, 2021
The Complete and Fruitful Christian
By Sammy G. Tabuena (2013)
The word “Christian” was a name of contempt.
No one was called a Christian before Acts 11:26.
Christians never called themselves “Christians”:
- It was Agrippa who mentioned the word “Christian”.
- It was other people who called the disciples, “Christians”.
- Peter even implied that to be called a “Christian” is to be reproached (as a murderer, as a thief, as an evildoer, or as a busybody).
He did not even say, “I speak to you, Christians.” Rather, he said, “If ye suffer AS a Christian.”
- Jesus Christ did not call His followers, “Christians”.
- The apostle Paul never mentioned the word “Christian” in his epistles.
He called believers “brethren”, “followers”, “saints”, “beloved”, etc.
It is not wrong to be called a “Christian”.
We are not ashamed to be a “Christian”.
We don’t have to be called a “Christian”, especially when either Christians have a very bad testimony in the area, or when reaching closed countries with the gospel.
A person can be saved without being called a “Christian”.
A person can claim to be “Christian” but yet not be saved.
The Bible defines what a Christian is.
o Context determines meaning.
o The Bible defines itself.
Using the Bible to define the Bible, let us compare Scripture with Scripture (1 Cor. 2:13) and see what a “Christian” is.
I. BELIEVER OF CHRIST – Possessing Christians
Acts 26:27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.
28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
The word “Christian” is mentioned in this passage in the context of “believest” and “persuadest”. By Bible definition, a Christian is a believer of Christ, one who is persuaded of Christ.
The believers of Buddha are called Buddhists. The believers of Allah are called Muslims. The fans of Justin Bieber called themselves “believers”. The believers of Christ have been called Christians.
Some believers do not identify themselves to be one of the Christians because they are ashamed. These believers are saved. They are “possessing” Christians; they have Christ indwelling in their hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). These believers can be called Christians because they believe in Christ. A Christian is one who believes in Christ.
There are others who intentionally do not use the word “Christian” for two reasons: Christians may have a very bad reputation or testimony in the area where they live, or they may be trying to bring the gospel in closed countries that are hostile to the Bible and Christ. Are they saved? Yes. Are they Christians? If you mean they are Christians because they have believed and trusted in Christ as their Lord and Savior, the answer is, “Yes.”
Some Christians are “professing” Christians but are not “possessing” Christians. They say they are Christians, but they do not have Christ in their hearts.
A person who is called a “Christian”, or is baptized as a “Christian”, or professes to be a “Christian” does not necessarily mean that he is saved. Salvation is by BELIEVING:
Acts 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
A person may not be called a “Christian”, but if he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and trusts in Him alone as His Savior, he is saved. None of the twelve disciples were called by Jesus “Christian” before the cross. None of Peter’s converts were called “Christians” in Acts 2. Paul was not called a “Christian” when he got saved. The disciples were FIRST called Christians in Antioch in Acts 11:26. Salvation is not by being a “Christian”; it is by believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins, according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that He rose again according to the Scriptures, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.
To be a Christian is more than just believing ; to be saved — only believe!
Critics may complain that the Bible (King James Bible) is archaic because of the verb ending “-est”, as well as the pronoun, “thou”, as in Acts 26:27,28. Few do realize that this makes the Bible even clearer. Here are a few hints:
Thou, Thee, Ye, You
“Thou” – second person, singular, subjective case
Example: “Believest thou…”, “Thou persuadest…”
Hiligaynon: “Nagatoo ikaw”
“Thee” – second person, singular, objective case
Example: “I believe thee…”, not “I believe thou”
Hiligaynon: “Nagatoo ako sa imo”, indi nga, “Nagatoo ako sa ikaw”
“Ye” – second person, plural, subjective case
Example: “Ye persuadest me”, not, “You persuadest me”
Hiligaynon: “Kamo, indi nga “Inyo”
“You” – second person, plural, objective case
Example: “We have persuaded you,” not “We have persuaded ye”
Second person: Thou believest, thou persuadest
Third person: He believeth, he persuadeth
II. FOLLOWER OF CHRIST – Professing Christians
Acts 11:26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
The followers of the Mohammed are called Mohameddans. The followers of Arminius are called Arminians. The followers of Christ are called Christians.
A Christian is a disciple, a follower of Christ. A disciple is someone who is “taught”. Here is once again the Bible’s built-in dictionary in action: “taught”….”disciples”, “disciples”…”Christians”.
A Christian is not only a believer of Christ; he is also a follower of Christ. When Jesus called the twelve disciples, he called them to be His followers:
Matthew 4:19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
Paul also called believers to become followers of him only as he follows Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
1 Corinthians 4:16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.
Ephesians 5:1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
Philippians 3:17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
1 Thessalonians 1:6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:
1 Thessalonians 2:14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:
Christians are not only to be “possessing” Christ but also must be “professing” Christ. A professing Christian is one who shares Christ to others through word and deed.
There are some professing Christians, however, who are not possessing Christians. They may claim to be following Christ outwardly, but they may have never be believing Christ inwardly.
If we are going to choose between a possessing Christian and a professing Christian, which one is the better choice? It is better to be a possessing Christian than to be just a professing Christian. A Christian who professes but does not possess Christ will go to Hell, while a Christian who may not have the courage to profess Christ but who has Christ in his heart is sure to go to Heaven. Profession without possession is useless and ineffective.
If given another choice, the best choice is to be both a possessing Christian and a professing Christian.
III. PARTAKERS OF THE AFFLICTIONS OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST – Powerful Christians
1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.
16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
To be “partakers of Christ’s sufferings” does not refer to the Roman Catholic doctrine of stigmata (marks or pain in areas corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Christ) or doing penance. The Bible defines the phrase in verse 14. To be partakers of Christ’s sufferings is to be “reporached in the name of Christ”. To be “reproached for the name of Christ” is also defined as “he is evil spoekn of”. To “suffer as a Christian” (v.16) means to “suffer as a murderer, or as a theif, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters” (v.15).
Many Christians have the form of Godliness, but they deny the power thereof (2 Tim. 3). Instead, God wants us to display this power of Godliness in our lives.
Philippians 1:29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
2 Timothy 1:8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
Those who followed the Lord had “received the word in much affliction with joy of the Holy Ghost” (1 Thess. 1:6); let us not be surprised if we suffer “like things”.
2 Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
IV. MULTIPLIERS OF THE WORD AND THE LIFE OF CHRIST – Producing Christians
Acts 12:24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.
2 Corinthians 3:1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?
2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
It is but normal for life to produce life.
Genesis 1:11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
Christ is life. The Word of God is the Word of life. The Word of God and the life of Christ are in the lives of every Christians. Every Christian, therefore, has the potential to multiply “after their kind” (Gen. 1:11,12).
Sometimes we pride ourselves when we have won a soul to the Lord. Little do we realize that we have just done that “which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10). A normal Christian is a producing Christian. It is not normal, or “abnormal”, if a Christian does not reproduce.
Many times, we think of our Christian ministry as sowing and reaping. We may have grown into a fruitbearing tree; but what happens to the fruits? We let them fall to the ground and die. Our purpose is not just to bring forth fruit, but to multiply fruitbearing trees.
The word of God and the life of Christ is multiplied is when Christians multiply themselves by producing believers, followers, and partakers, and by reproducing multipliers.
John 15:2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
John 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
Have you ever seen stones reproduce their kind? Have you ever seen a building growing and reproducing itself on its own? Have you ever lacked money and wished your money would bear children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren on its own? No dead thing can produce a living thing. Only life reproduce itself.
It is but normal for a young banana tree to first grow into a mature banana tree and bear fruit. The fruits are either harvested or they fall to the ground.
The fruits are then gone. As long as that banana tree is alive it will continue to produce fruits. When the tree dies, no more fruit could be produced.
A normal banana tree though does not just bear fruit; it reproduces itself. As it bears fruit, it can be observed that young banana trees grow beside itself. Before a banana tree dies, the next generations are already in place. This is normal – life reproduces life!
A normal Christian life is like a banana tree; it grows to maturity, produces fruits, and reproduces itself. A Christian who does not bear fruit and does not multiply itself is not normal; or as others put it, “abnormal”. The Christian’s “seed” is in itself and it will surely reproduce “after its kind”. A normal Christian life is a complete and fruitful Christian life – to believe, to follow, to partake, and to multiply.