Wednesday’s Word is a blog series about words associated with Christian theology. Today’s, August 16, 2017, Wednesday’s Word is Christian.
Where did the word come from?
The word “Christian” is a derivative of the Greek word “christos,” which means Christ. Followers of Jesus the Christ became known as Christians early in the life of the church. The first instance of the word in the Bible is in Acts 11:26. Luke wrote, “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).
What does the word “Christian” mean?
To answer that question, we must understand that words progress in meaning as they develop over time. For instance, my grandparents used the word “gay” as a reference for a happy person, but now the word is associated with homosexuality. The word changed over time.
The word “Christian” referenced followers of Jesus, the Messiah. To be labeled as a “Christian” in the first to fifth centuries was to be an outcast from society. People used the term “Christian” in the first century as an offensive statement. Did you notice in the reference to Acts 11:26 above that people called followers of Jesus “Christians,” and that followers of Jesus didn’t call themselves that? The word is used in two other places in the Bible, Acts 17:28 and 1 Peter 4:16. Both times, the word “Christian” implies derision or suffering.
Today, the word “Christian” means something completely different. A “Christian” could be a person who follows Jesus or a cultural statement about a person’s life. What do I mean? Some people call themselves Christians, but do not follow the commands of Jesus. That type of person made a decision to call himself or herself a “Christian” for cultural reasons. I do believe the days of “cultural Christianity” are drawing to a close so maybe we can get back to a purer form and use of the word. Until that time, though, we may have to clarify what it means to be a Christian.
Who is a “Christian” then?
A Christian is a person who confessed Jesus as Lord of their life and believed that God raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 10:9). In that simple verse, two things are necessary: action and belief. A person must believe in the resurrection of Jesus and a person must confess that belief. How a person believes is beyond the scope of this article and how a person must confess is beyond its scope as well.
Personally, I believe for someone to use the term “Christian,” he or she must be a person who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. At one point in Jesus’ ministry his mother and brothers tried to approach him but couldn’t because of a large crowd. Some people from the crowd spoke to him and told him about his family trying to get to him. Jesus said in response, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it” (Lk 8:21).