Am I a Christian?
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And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. (Ac. 11:26)
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If a follower of Herod is a Herodian (Matt. 22:16), then a follower of Christ must be a Christian. After two thousand years that label seems obvious, but in the beginning it was slow to catch on. In the early years of the Jesus movement, there was no formal designation. His people called themselves disciples, believers, saints, or brethren. It was not until the new faith began to take hold among the Gentiles--specifically, in Antioch of Syria--that this name emerged. In time the designation met with divine approval (Ac. 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16).
So how did this name originate? M. R. Vincent, in his Word Studies in the New Testament (p. 248-249), provides some interesting insights in his analysis of the word "call" (Greek: chrematizo):
"[It] meant; originally; to transact business; to base dealings with, . . . Later; it acquires the meaning to bear a name; to be called; with the implication of a name used in the ordinary transactions and intercourse of men; the name under which one passes. This process of transition appears in the practice of naming men according to their occupations; as, in English; 'John the Smith'; 'Philip the Armorer'; a practice which is the origin of many familiar family names, such as Butler, Carpenter, Smith, Cooper. Compare in New Testament Alexander the coppersmith (2 Tim. 4:14); Matthew the publican (Matt. 10:3); Luke the physician (Col. 4:14); Erastus the chamberlain (Rom. 16:23); Rahab the harlot (Heb. 11:31). In the same line is the use of the word calling, to denote one's business."
Vincent then compares this passage to the promiscuous woman of Rom. 7:3, who marries another man while her husband still lives: "she will be called an adulteress." The label reflects her behavior.
Given the use of this peculiar word, Vincent argues that "Christian" was not a name the disciples chose for themselves. Neither could it have been invented by the Jews, who were violently opposed to the idea of Jesus being their Messiah (Christ, the anointed one). Vincent concludes, "It, doubtless, was bestowed by the Gentiles. . . . The name may have been given simply as a distinct title, naturally chosen from the recognized and avowed devotion of the disciples to Christ as their leader." They were called Christians, because they followed His lead.
Today, the name "Christian" has lost its original significance. Millions call themselves "Christians" without any pretense of following Christ. It has, for all practical purposes, become just an empty label.
If we have any integrity, we must restore the meaning of this name. In everything we say, do, and think, we must demonstrate that following Christ is the chief occupation of our life.
Am I a Christian? Only my actions will tell.