In the community of Christ followers, there is a language that can be confusing and for the most part misunderstood. Just as there is a culture in any organization, there are acronyms, phrases, and words for which insiders can have differing definitions and leave outsiders bewildered, to say the least. To further the confusion, Christianity has conceded labels that are core to defining who we are to those who have distorted the truth and the heart of Christ.
I have friends who are apologists and who would write lengthy papers on defining some of these words and phrases. Still, I think there is value to putting a stake in the ground for our purposes and our discussions. These definitions are not intended to be all-encompassing but rather, what I hope will be, a biblical place to begin our thinking on such matters.
Let’s start with the word Christian. The word Christian was first recorded in the book of Acts of the Apostles chapter 26 verse 28 when King Agrippa tells Paul that he is almost persuaded to become a Christian. The term Christian was used to describe people who were committed to following Christ in the days of the early church. Included with this label was the concept of those who adhered to the teachings of the Scriptures and accepting Christ as part of the triune God. Jesus claimed to be God. He said I and the Father are one. Either He was who He said He was or He was a liar and not God. So the word Christian in its original context defined a devoted Christ follower.
In Romans 12:9-21 Paul challenges the Roman church to Christian lifestyle and virtues. The ESV Bible titles this section, “Marks of the True Christian.”
Today we ascribe the label of Christian to anyone who is not Jewish or atheist. If you are not opposed to the idea of God you have earned the label of Christian. Adherence to the teachings of the Bible is no longer a part of the definition. Jude wrote in his letter addressed to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ these words, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
The world is influencing the church through various means, without us even noticing, to redefine and pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ. In so doing, they have redefined, in the public square, the real meaning of Christianity. Many churches that once held to a biblical standard, have abandoned the truths of Scripture, for the logic of the “intellectual elites.” Indeed, the Scriptures are no longer held to be God’s words for mankind. This gives the world credibility as they continue to further pervert and erode the gospel and grace of God.
We have now chosen to call ourselves “Christ followers.” But make no mistake about it, I still identify with the Christians spoken of by the New Testament writers. One final word on this topic …
Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” As Christians who love and follow Jesus, we need to know and keep His commands rather than distorting and perverting those commands to meet our own desires.