What Is A Christian?  Part I

This seems like a question that is almost too basic.  However, if we think we are Christians, or if we are thinking of becoming one, or even if we are sure we do not want to be one, the least we can do is to find out what one is.

Are you a Christian if you go to church?  If you pray?  What about if you are a Roman Catholic, a Baptist, a Seventh Day Adventist?  How about if you are a nice person?  Or if you wear a cross necklace?  Or have a bumper sticker with a fish?

Are you not a Christian if someone says so, or if you don't like what you see on Sunday morning television, or if you smoke or drink or gamble?

To be sure we must go to the Word of God and let it tell us what a Christian is.

You may find this hard to believe, but the word "Christian" occurs only three times in the Bible:  twice in the book of Acts and once in I Peter.  Its first occurrence is in Acts 11:26.  The context of this verse is at the end of a tremendous record where non-Judeans (a Roman soldier and his family and friends) received the gift of holy spirit.  Prior to this only those of the Judean faith had received the gift.  I encourage you to read the entire chapter.

Acts 11:26

And when he [Barnabas] had found him [Paul], 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 believers in the book of Acts, after the day of Pentecost when the gift of holy spirit was given, did many signs, miracles, and wonders.  They walked with tremendous power and many healings were done by the men and women who believed.

Why?  Because of what they had received on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2.  This was foretold some time before in the book of John.

John 14:12, 16, 17

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him:  but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

This "comforter", the "spirit of truth", was given on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2.  An immediate change in the power and walk of the believers was evident.  The signs, miracles, and wonders; the healings; the boldness of the believers was an outward evidence of this power within each believer.

Colossians is very revealing:

Colossians 1:27

To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

The "spirit of truth" wasn't merely the spirit of God, as God had put his spirit in measure on men and women of the Old Testament before the day of Pentecost.   This was something more.  This was "Christ in you".  Think about that a minute:   "Christ in you".  In John 14:12 Jesus Christ said that we could do the works he did, and greater.  How?  Because we, the believers, have "Christ in" us:  the power of the resurrected Christ in us to use!  This is what the believers in Acts had tapped into.  This is why they walked with such power and with such boldness.

The believers in Antioch (Acts 11:26) were always talking about "Christ in" them (christos + en), and this is where we got the word "Christian".

So, from God's point of view (which is the one that counts), you are a Christian if and only if you have Christ in you.

It's not did you get dunked in a river, how many hours on your knees in prayer did you spend, or if you pleaded, or gave all your money to a worthy cause, or went to church every Sunday, or confessed, or gave up certain vices.  You are a Christian if (and only if) you have Christ in you.  It does not matter what denomination you may belong to, or if you belong to any!  Do you have Christ in you?

We will explore just this.

Part II