God's Idea Of A Christian

 

Introduction Text:   Acts 26:22-29

 

One thing the Bible is explicit on ¾ God does not view things as man does. When the time arrived to select a king to replace Saul, Samuel was sent to the sons of Jesse, and there he began to observe the stature the height and countenance of  his sons.  Read 1 Sam. 16:7

 

7But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. 

 

To the he Prophet Isaiah Jehovah stated it this way ¾  

         

8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

 

Not only do men rarely agree with God, but seldom  do we agree with one another. In no arena of thought is this disagreement more apparent than the crucial questions regarding Christianity

 

There are possibly as many views of any subject, regarding Christianity,  as there men to discuss it.  We disagree to what is necessary to become a Christian, we disagree what God expects of us after we become Christians.  And we disagree  how men are to worship and glorify our Creator.

 

Can we know  just how God would describe a Christian?  What is  God’s idea of a Christian?

 

Realizing that My thoughts are not your thoughts and My ways are not your ways, perhaps a careful examination of the  texts and contexts  where  the word Christian  Is used, can reveal to us God's idea of a Christian 

 

Many  are surprised to discover how few times the word Christian appears in the Bible. The word Christian is not used at all in the 39 books of the Old Testament and appears but three times throughout the 27 books of the New Testament. As we examine these three passages, it would be wise for each of us  to lay our lives alongside, lest we be weighed in the balances and found wanting by the Son of God.

 

 Turning to the New Testament, again, the word Christian does not appear in the  four  gospel accounts, but is used for the first time in the familiar verse:  Acts 11:26, where we read: that the

disciples were called Christians first in Antioch”. 

 

Just as the  philosophical followers Plato took his name and  the Jewish Herodians were known by the name of king Herod ,it was in keeping then, that the followers of Christ should wear His name.   CHRISTIAN

 

Some are also surprised to discover that the name which has been so cherished through the centuries was not used at all during the public ministry of Christ, nor was it used to describe the first disciples baptized on Pentecost, but was coined  about 5-7 years afterwards.

 

“And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

But why?

 

I believe it was because of the powerful impact which the crucified Christ was exerting on the city through His followers lives. Their lives became strangely different.  I am  reminded of the passage 2 Cor. 5:17

 

17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

 

There  had been radical change, the church had been considered a regiment of extremists.  Some contend that the name “Christian” was given in ridicule much as the unpopular movements are branded today by their leaders’  names

 

Listen to a first century historian write concerning  this:

 

The people of Syrian Antioch, who had a reputation for coining nicknames gave the name “Christian” to the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. It was a term of derision and contempt.  They  themselves were worshippers of Caesar, the citizens of Rome looked upon Caesar as a God."

Tacitus  1st cent. Historian.

                

A prophecy from the book of Isaiah however, suggests that God was involved in the coming of a new name. 

 

1For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,  Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, And her salvation as a lamp that burns. 2The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, And all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the Lord will name.      Isaiah 62:1-2

 

The very thing which happened in Jerusalem in the very beginning is seen again here in Antioch. People were changed, they no longer acted as they previously had. The connection between Christ and His followers was unavoidable. People took notice of the disciples that they had been with Jesus.

 

When Paul and Barnabas launched their gospel activities,  the Syrian city of Antioch was buzzing with deeds done in the name of Christ.   Perhaps it is true, the pagan citizens of Antioch had coined the name in derision and ridicule, but I believe they  were playing into the hands of God and the  ancient prophecy when they coined the term “Christian”.

 

We therefore conclude that the first  item in God’s idea of what  a Christian is ... would be “change”.  Change so radical that it is depicted upon the pages of Inspiration as a “New Birth.” being born again.  

 

When the apostle Paul addressed the first century Christians at Rome, he presents a picture of the new birth in Romans 6:1-7 hear it.

 

1What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  4Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7For he that is dead is freed from sin.

 

 In these passages we see the death of a person dead in sins, but resurrected or born into a new life by baptism.  Read again Romans 6:5-7

 

5For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7For he that is dead is freed from sin.

 

Paul will continue in the following verses to describe the change that is to come over one who has become a new creature in Christ.  Romans 6:8-14

 

8Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.  14For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

 

Change (repentance) is at the very heart of Christianity. In Gal. 2:20 Paul writes

 

20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,

 

Change is the very first thing one must do, and perhaps the hardest thing that we are called upon to do., Repentance is change, and we fight change. It is never easy when a total transformation is demanded.

 

Notice the emphasis in the Scriptures. When John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Christ, his first message was: Matthew 3:2

Repent ye, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand”.

 

Jesus’ message was the same as John's Mark 1:15

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at and. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  In Mark 2:17 Jesus says: 

“I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

 

 When the time came for Peter to open the doors of the church on the day of Pentecost, the disciples central theme was  repentance: Throughout the books of Acts repentance is emphasized:  (Acts 2:38)       (Act 3:19)      (Acts 17:30) 

 

Some years ago a preacher conducted a meeting for a small congregation in Tennessee. During the week two teenage brothers, from a leading family in the community, came to hear him preach.  On the last night one of the brothers responded to the invitation, and was baptized. The other failed to respond.

 

The congregation invited this preacher to come back the following summer for another meeting. His thoughts turned immediately to the brother who had refused to obey the gospel. What could he say to reach the boy this time?

 

The opening night came, and the worshippers began to arrive. He was most delighted to see the young boy, come walking into the building. Stepping up to meet him, he said: “Son, I glad you’ve come. I want to see you obey the gospel. You remember  last summer I baptized your brother.” It was then the boy replied: “Yes, you baptized my brother, but he’s no different."

 

Repentance is the most difficult step involved in becoming a Christian, because it is the point at which the demand is made to change. Beloved, a commitment which does not change your life will have no effect upon your eternity!          Romans 12:1-2

 

1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed    to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

God’s first idea of a Christian ?  Change.

Acts 11:26

 

The word “Christian” next appears in our opening text. Notice Acts 26:28

 

28Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

 

This was King Agrippa’s tragic reply to Paul’s sermon which featured Christ as the fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy.  Notice how Paul concludes his evidence with this charge;                                   Acts 26:27-28

 

27King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. 28Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

 

If faith only can make one a Christian then Agrippa qualified. By Paul own testimony the king believed. Paul knew the king was convinced intellectually that Jesus was the very Christ, but Paul knew also that mere mental assent  to a fact , could not make one a child of God. And so he urged the king  to renounce self and choose Christ.

 

But how does one make such a choice? Paul answered Agrippa:  Acts 26:29

 

29And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds

 

Paul's  course of  life had been one of change. This began on the road  to  Damascus as recorded in Acts 9, and recounted in Acts 22.  For three days and nights he was without sight, and his penitence was so deep he fasted and prayed. Beloved, if regret, repentance, and prayer, make one a Christian then Paul qualified.  But despite his remorse and his desire to change, he was not yet a Christian, for Ananias came to interrupt his prayers, with a message from God:  Acts 22:16

         

16And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

 

Paul had called on Christ by submitting to baptism, the new birth. This was the choice he had to make, and did make. This was the choice that Paul urged Agrippa to make.

 

Baptism is not our savior, baptism is the divinely appointed way that we choose Christ. This is the choice that all must make.  Baptism is not how one is saved......the power of the gospel  how,  (Romans 1:16) by obedience we are saved by the blood of Jesus, no one denies this.  Baptism is not how –  Baptism is when we choose Christ   John 1:11-13

 

11He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:  13Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

 

The word power, here is the Greek word [ejxousivan] meaning to be authorized to become children of God. We are authorized by faith to become children of God, we choose through the mode of baptism.  Read Galatians 3:26-27

 

26For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  

 

To put on is the Greek word [ejnduvw] (to clothe or be clothed with (in the sense of sinking into a garment)).  In baptism one is clothed with Christ, we are in Christ, and expected to become the new creature in Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:17

 

17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 

 

The next verses describe how things are new, we are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.  He concludes this line of thought in verse 21:

21For he hath made him (Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

 

All of this was behind Paul’s plea to Agrippa: Acts 26:29

 

29And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds

 

In a sense Paul was saying I wish that you would choose Christ just as I have chosen him.”    Paul chose Christ by being baptized into Christ.  Eph 1:3-4

 

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:  4According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love

    

2 Timothy 2:10

10Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him

 

Read with me Gal. 3:26-28 once again:

26For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

Baptism not the how one is save, but the when we are brought into a saving relationship with our Lord. 

 

The familiar and beloved KJV translation catches Agrippa saying: Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”

 

Do you see the point? Here is a man convinced that Jesus fulfills Hebrew prophecy -  a believer. But he is merely almost a Christian, “Agrippa failed to choose Christ.”  And many today fail just at this same point.

 

God’s idea of a Christian?

1st- A change  ¾   2nd- A choice.

 

The final appearance of the word “Christian” is not  so popular  but the definition is incomplete without it.     1 Peter 4:15-16

 

15But 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. 16Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

 

In addition to the change, and  choice, that  we must make, God’s idea of a Christian involves challenge.

 

 Suffer as a Christian? This is a word we do not relish, even to sacrifice is to great a challenge. But suffer? It smacks of disease, poverty, pestilence. It fits for Bosnia, for Korea, or third rate countries,

 

Our great society has declared war on poverty. We want to eliminate suffering, but God names it here as one of the touch stones of the Christian life.

 

Peter warned those of his day that suffering would be the unavoidable price to pay.  Read this very meaningful scripture with me:    & 1 Peter 3:8-20

 

8Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:  9Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.  13And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 

16Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

18For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

 

Read the book of Acts, Paul himself was called upon to suffer for the name of Christ. To the church at Philippi he wrote:       Philippians 1:27-29

 

27Only let your conduct be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. 29For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;  

 

Timothy was advised that if he followed Paul’s teachings, his conduct, and faith, that he should brace himself for persecutions,  and sufferings.  2 Tim. 3:10

 

12Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

 

And someone might ask: “But where is the suffering”?  This question is debated by many!  The times have changed,  We  live in a society where we are protected today rather than persecuted by our state: Let us be glad that we are not called upon today to give our lives for the cause of Christ. But it could come again.? Who knows!

 

Suffering is what happens when men try to bring light to others who love darkness. And  whose lives are darkness and lies.  There is in the very nature of the Christian commitment a clash with the world. Christ own words:  John 5:19-20

 

19If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.  

    

Beloved, the same name we so often wear so casually, so conveniently, others have suffered for it.  May we never take  the sacred name for granted may we always wear it with dignity and pride.  I pray we may never be called upon to suffer for the name. But if we do, let us do as those  of Acts 5:41:

 

41And they departed rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name

 

We conclude therefore “here it is” God’s definition of a Christian

It is a  life which starts by being tired of the world, and ends  by being at war with it.  1 John 2:15-15

 

his life is conceived with a resolve to change, a change that Bible styles as “Repentance” Next we choose Christ through our obedience, and through baptism.  Someone has said that baptism is the Christian’s wedding ceremony. Finally!  We must be willing if time comes to suffer for the name  of Christ..   “Christian”

 

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contact:

Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ

email:  RonCope@chestnutmtchurchofchrist.com

phone:  (678)617-9658