Acts 11:26b “The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.”
I identify myself as a Christian, but have noticed that over the past years have always leaned towards further clarifying that I am a “follower of Jesus”. As I reflected on my insistence on elaborating what kind of Christian I am, I realised that it does stem from experiences and interaction with people both within and without my family circle who identify themselves as Christian but are far from reflecting any Christ like behaviour in their everyday life. And I found that when I gave my life to Jesus and comprehended what it means to live for Him in response to His grace and love, I did find myself always eager to ensure that I clarify there is a difference in calling oneself a Christian and living one’s life as a Christian in a biblical sense.
In Acts 11:26 we see that the term ‘Christians’ coined and used for the first time in Antioch. If we think about it, people were then known as Jews, Gentiles, Greeks, Romans among other things that gave them some identity. Antioch, was a very diverse population, and the message of Christ’s salvation drew people to faith from all backgrounds, breaking down barriers and uniting them as one in Christ. The name ‘Christians’ was given by the society in Antioch and not by the believers then.
But why the name?
The people in Antioch needed to identify these group of people as something and what was common for them was that they all belonged to Jesus and followed His teaching. In my eyes, what a wonderful way to be identified. But if we just take a deeper look, it implies that their ways were changed enough to warrant a new name.
Their love for God was the essence of their faith and was not in word alone but was evidenced in their actions, behaviour and their way of life to warrant a new identity.
It is one thing to be a Christian in a spiritual and biblical sense and another for your Christian identity to be only true in your life culturally and socially. Ticking the box on an application against Christian or attending church on Sunday and living the rest of the week disconnected from God or His word does not make one a Christian.
Christian – an apt name for belonging to Christ, but what does it mean to belong to Christ?
It is to be a disciple of Christ.
What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ?
Lets just look at some verses that speaks in what being a disciple means.
John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 8:31 “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”
John 15:8 “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
Luke 14:26-27 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14:33 “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
Mathew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Being a disciple of Jesus is not a set of rules to follow or attributes to acquire. It is more than just accepting certain truths about Jesus or being righteous in one aspect or area of your life.
Living as a disciple of Christ is a state of being.
The very essence of Christ should be woven into the fabric of our existence that functioning separate from Him should be unfathomable. It does not mean that we are perfect all the time, but it does mean that we are constantly aware of the spirit within us, of God with us, of His voice, of what is right in His eyes, His prompting, His warnings, His disciplining, His teaching and His refining to be more like Him and to follow Him in every sense.
A disciple is one who
- Keeps God above all else.
- Points to Jesus.
- Is a worshipper of Him, in word and deed
- Gives God all the glory
- Serves to reflect Him and further the kingdom purposes.
- Abides in the word
- Loves others as Christ wants us to and
- Follows His example.
Faith is the root of a Christian life and the fruit of the spirit is the evidence of that faith. People around us see the fruit and then question our underlying faith. There is nothing like living as an occasional or part-time disciple. We are either a disciple of Jesus or not. May we reflect on that and strive to be true disciples of Jesus.
Let’s take a moment and reflect on where we are at when it comes to following Jesus? A Christian in name alone, or a Christian who is a true disciple of Jesus embodying the real meaning of what it means to be a Christian – to live a life for Christ.