Happy Heralds, Inc


by Dr. Fred Wittman


“Then Bahrnáhbahs exited unto Tahrsóhs, to thoroughly search for Saul. And 6:15 P.M. when he found him, he led him unto Antioch. Then it came to pass for them to be gathered together with the church and to teach a considerable crowd for a whole era. And as a result the disciples were identifyingly named [indicating one's business] Christians first in Antioch’’ (Acts 11:25,26 APT).

INTRODUCTION: What is a Christian? Many years ago during several weeks of evangelistic preaching in Jamaica, while giving out tracts in an open air market, I was asked by a lady vender sitting by her wares, as she reached up to take the tract I offered, Christian? The reply, are you asking, Am I a Christian? She nodded yes. My response was, That is a question others must answer. The content of this literature is about The Lord Jesus Christ. And if you call me a Christian because my life reflects Christ as a follower and disciple of Him, I will be honored. But it does not belong to me or to anyone to make such claim for ourselves because the Scriptural meaning is very limited in scope.’’

The current usage of the term ‘Christian’ by many people conveys a very broad meaning, much more inclusive than is warranted. Some use it in the broadest possible sense. But to derive its true Scriptural meaning, we must turn to The Word of God, which conveys a very much narrower meaning. Since the term was originally used early in the spring of A.D. 44 in Antioch, Syria and first recorded by Luke in Scripture when he wrote Acts of The Apostles in A.D. 62-63, it is to that Scripture one is required to refer for the proper meaning of the term, ‘Christian.’

  I. The Meaning of ‘Christian.’

      A. ‘Christian’ comes from Xreestóhs

This is the Greek word for ‘Messiah.’ To this the Greek suffix -ιανός (-eeahnóhs) is appended. This suffix carries the meaning of ‘‘belonging to, a follower of, or a strict adherent to doctrine of.’’ This suffix was used to designate the fanatic political party known in Christ’s day as the ‘Herodians.’ Thus, the Greeks observed the disciples as followers of Christ, those who belonged to Christ, fanatics to His teachings. Those who fanatically followed Christ and put His doctrine in practice in all areas of life, were called Christians. And because of the way they lived after being converted to Christ, they were considered ‘little Christs’ or mini-Christs.

B. ‘Christian’ has been used by the unregenerate ones in Antioch to mean Christ’s disciples (Acts 11:26 {see above}; 26:28).

“Then Agrippa expressed to Paul, In a scant way you are persuading me to become a Christian.” (Acts 26:28 APT).

In Scripture the term ‘Christian was never used or claimed for themselves by the disciples of The Lord Jesus Christ. It was always ascribed to them by someone else who recognized that their lives backed up their message. So it should be today! No one has the right to call himself or herself a Christian because in reality the term means one who is like The Christ, who loves like The Christ, who suffers like The Christ even to death for His enemies.

 C. ‘A Christian’ is a partaker in Christ’s sufferings (1 Pet. 4:13-16).

Peter wrote in his Epistle that a Christian is one who partakes in Christ’s sufferings and rejoices in such sufferings. He also stated for what we are not to suffer.

“On the contrary continually rejoice! in proportion as you& are partaking by sharing with the sufferings of The Christ in order that you&, being exceeding glad ones, also rejoice in the revelation of the glory [majestic radiant splendor] of Him. If (and it is true) you& are being verbally abused with disgraceful language in Christ’s name, |you& are| blessed [favored and happy because of all God’s beneficent gifts] ones! because The |Spirit| of the glory and The Spirit of The God refreshingly reposes upon you&. On the one hand pertaining to them He is being blasphemed, but on the other hand pertaining to you& He is being glorified. Certainly not anyone of you& is to suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a busybody [meddler] in affairs of others! But if (and it is true) |anyone suffer| as a Christian, he is to stop being shamed! but he is continually to glorify The God in this /part!” (1 Pet. 4:13-16 APT).

 II. The Meaning of χρηματίζω (xraymahtéez0).

The word translated ‘called’ in Acts 11:26 by most versions is very interesting. It is not kahléh0, the word usually translated ‘called’ but literally means ‘summoned’ and is translated so in A Precise Translation. But the word is xraymahtéez0, which means ‘‘to be given an identifying name indicating one’s business.’’ This word is used to designate a business, to call by a name which comes from one's business. For example, a business called ‘the bootery’ would be a place which sells boots, repairs boots, or makes boots to order. One who cuts up meats and sells them is ‘the butcher,’ just as the one who makes and sells bread and all kinds of baked goods is ‘the baker.’ That is the way a number of English people got their surname - by their occupation or business. The name by which people are ‘called’ indicates the business, in which they are engaged, is their life occupation. Some Greeks in Antioch, Syria may have used the term ‘Christian’ in a derogatory manner, but it accurately described those who belonged to Christ, those who were close followers of His, and those who were fanatic about their salvation and most assuredly their Savior. Unless one was sold out to Christ, he would not be given the title, or be called a Christian; nor would one want the title, because of the reproach that went with the name. But in our day there are so few who live such sanctified, separated lives in such fanatic devotion to Christ that the reproach is gone.

III. The Meaning of ‘Disciple.’

Since it was the disciples who were given the name ‘Christians’ first in Antioch, it is well to obtain an understanding of the meaning of the term ‘disciple.’ There are three Greek words to be considered: a noun, a verb used only four times in The New Testament, three times in Matthew and once in Acts, and the root verb used throughout The New Testament. These shall be considered on that order.

A. Μαθητής - mathaytáys (n.) - is one who is a learner, a learned pupil who follows a master-teacher, a disciple (Acts 11:26). This is the Greek term that the regenerated Jews and Gentiles in Antioch used to refer to themselves throughout the Book of Acts of the Apostles.

B. Μαθητεύω - mathayteuo (v.) - is a verb meaning to make disciples of, to train others in discipleship, to disciple, teach by practice (Mt. 27:57,58; 28:19; Acts 14:21).

“When it became sunset [onset of evening, sunset until dark], a rich human from Ahree-mahthaíah, of the name, Joseph, who also himself was discipled [to train by intimate process] by /Jesus, this one approached [the face of] /Pilate and petitioned the body of /Jesus for Himself” (Mt. 27:57,58 APT).

Therefore journey& and consecutively disciple [train by intimate process] people of all the [metonymy]nations” (Mt. 28:19 APT).

“And after evangelizing that /city and discipling [to train by intimate process] a considerable |number|, they returned unto /Lústrah and Eekóh-neeohn and Antioch” (Acts 14:21 APT).

C. Manthano (root v.) - to learn by practice, to train as a disciple, regulated, subject to control, discipline (Eph. 4:20; Col. 1:7; Mt. 11:29).

“But you& yourselves did not in this way train as a disciple” (Eph. 4:20 APT).

“ . . . according as also you& trained [learn by practice, to be discipled] as a disciple by Ehpahfráhs, the beloved fellow bondslave of ours, who is a faithful domestic [deacon] servant of The Christ in behalf of you&”(Col. 1:7 APT).

“Carry off My /yoke upon you& and learn [train as a disciple] by practice from Me because I am meek and humble in heart! And you& shall find refreshing repose for your& souls. For My /yoke |is| kind and My /burden is light weight” (Mt. 11:29,30 APT).

A true disciple of Christ has forsaken all to follow Christ (Luke 14:26, 27, 33).

“If (and it is true) anyone comes to Me and does not hate the father of himself and his mother and his wife and his children and his brothers and his sisters, yet in fact even the natural life of himself, he is not able to be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his /cross and continually come after Me, he is not able to be My disciple. . . .Therefore in this way every one of you& who does not bid farewell to all the possessions of himself, he is not able to be My disciple” (Luke 14:26, 27, 33 APT).

n.b. With reference to the word disciple in the New Testament, after the death of Judas the definite article is always used.

 IV. The Term ‘Christian’ Means Little Today.

Through the years, the full significance that this name conveyed in the first century has been lost, until it is a misnomer in its common use today. It is commonly used to designate anyone who practices a religion that believes in Jesus Christ in any way at all, even as ‘just a great teacher.’ If one professes to believe in Christ, he claims to be a Christian. Scripturally, this is not proper or correct. It is about time that true believers - possessors and not professors of eternal life - insist on the proper use of the name Christian. This can only be done by our lives measuring up to our confession and living separated and sanctified lives which demonstrate possession and not mere profession that we belong to Christ.

According to the New Testament use of the term, no one can call himself a Christian. It is a restricted term, used to specify a godly living, dedicated, and totally committed person, strictly following The Lord Jesus Christ. It is for others to observe and, if the life measures up, to call that one a Christian. We cannot properly claim the title; but if others see Christ in us so that our lives reflect that we have died to self and Christ lives His life in and through us as Paul claimed in Galatians 2:20,

“I stand crucified together with Christ, but I absolutely live. No longer myself, but Christ absolutely lives in me. In fact what I now absolutely live in 0flesh, I absolutely live by means of faith^, |namely | the^ one of The Son of The God, Who loved me and delivered Himself over in my behalf”(Gal. 2:20 APT).

then it is an honor to be called Christians. We glorify Christ and God as we bear Christ's reproach (Heb. 13:13) and suffer as a Christian (1 Peter 4:16). Just because one has made a profession of faith, he or she does not become a Christian unless and until his life indicates he is a true disciple of Christ, and he has forsaken all to follow Christ (Luke 14:26, 27, 33). But in our day there are so many who claim to be Christians and yet are living in sin and worldliness, fulfilling fleshly lusts, that the average ‘unregenerate Jane or Joe’ seldom if ever sees anyone so distinctly different as did the unregenerate Syrians in Antioch in A.D. 44.

CONCLUSION: Are you a Christian? Does your life confirm that you are because you are sanctified - separated unto Christ from the world and its sinful lusts and pleasures? Are you a disciple of The Lord Jesus Christ? If not, what will you do about it? Why not totally commit to The Lord Jesus Christ NOW?

| | understood $singular &plural /the 0no article +masculine ~neuter
[ ]basic meaning
/ \ manuscripts divided

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Last modified: May 25, 2005