Definition: Christian

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Rufus_1611, May 25, 2007.

  1. Rufus_1611

    Rufus_1611
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    What is the definition of a Christian?

    In the past I've always considered those who are saved by grace through faith to be Christians. However, some brothers I greatly respect have posed a different definition in this thread. Is it a truth that one can be saved through faith but not be a "Christian" as they are not walking in Christ?

    I create this thread as one who is currently on the fence now as to the definition of this word and I am hoping folks might desire to reason together on this issue.

    The word "Christian" appears in the Holy Bible three times. Here are the verses...

    "And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." - Acts 11:26​

    "Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." - Acts 26:28​
    "Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf." - 1 Peter 4:16

    Using Webster's 1828, the primary definition is a believer in the religion of Christ not necessarily a doer following after Christ. However, the third definition would fit the idea of one who obeys the precepts of Christ.

    CHRISTIAN, n.

    1. A believer in the religion of Christ.

    2. A professor of his belief in the religion of Christ.

    3. A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety.

    4. In a general sense, the word Christians includes all who are born in a Christian country or of Christian parents.​

    A more contemporary American Heritage definition states:

    Chris·tian

    1. Professing belief in Jesus as Christ or following the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus.
    2. Relating to or derived from Jesus or Jesus's teachings.
    3. Manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus; Christlike.
    4. Relating to or characteristic of Christianity or its adherents.
    5. Showing a loving concern for others; humane.​

    Thus, I ask is it accurate to say that a Christian is one who believes in Jesus Christ as Saviour, or one who follows the commands of Jesus Christ or is their another answer?
     
  2. Hope of Glory

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    The name was certainly not given to them by the Jews, since they did not consider him to be the Christ. The Jews mostly called the followers of Christ "Nazarenes" because of their contempt for them.

    But, the Gentiles would have used it to distinguish them from other Jews.

    The first two instances are used by others toward them, the last was used by one. Usually, they referred to "disciples", "believers", "brethren", "saints", "of the way", etc. I think it's fairly simple (but very lengthy) to show that these terms are used for someone who is more than simply a hanger-on; someone who has believed in the aorist, then fallen away.

    In the first verse you cited, the disciples were first called Christians. Although "were called" does not convey the full impact of the words used, they were disciples, which is someone who embraces the teachings of another.

    The third one is talking about suffering for being a Christian. If you're keeping it a secret, I'd dare say there's not a lot of suffering going on.

    I think Acts 26:28 would take more than a simple surface glance to see what it says, so we'll leave that until later. But, we see that Agrippa believed the prophets, and Paul was trying to persuade him about Jesus being the Christ.

    If memory serves, all three examples are variant readings, but I think it's just a spelling difference. But, until I get a chance to look it up, please don't quote me on it.

    However, there are many, many ancient references to these people (Christians), and every single one of them is focusing upon actions: What they do, who they associate with, etc., just as "saint" is applied toward behavior and works.

    These are just a few random thoughts on the word. I'll have more later, but I'm going to be gone for the next 7 or 8 hours.

    Edited to add: The variants, if I remember, changed the spelling so that it changed from "follower of Christ" to "belonging to Christ" after the same fashion that there were those who applied a similar term to humans: For example, a subject of Caesar would "belong to Caesar", but an adherent would be a "follower of Caesar". There's a big difference, but I think they're minor variants, and later. Disclaimer: I'm quoting this from memory, so the validity of the statement about the variants is not certain.
     
    #2 Hope of Glory, May 25, 2007
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  3. LadyEagle

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    Rufus, there is a simiple, but sad, explanation: The term "Christian" has become a generic word in meaning, except that it is still written and spelled with a capital C instead of lower case. Some of these threads and posts actually make me wonder what is taught in seminary nowadays. I'm from the old school and tired. I remember when sin used to be called sin, instead of an alternate lifestyle and when the Bible used to be interpreted literally and Scripture compared with Scripture instead of pulled out of context to mean whatever anyone wants it to mean.

    Even so, Come, Lord Jesus. The world view of the world instead of the Biblical view of the world is getting too much for this old soldier to bear much longer. I'm looking forward to going home. (don't worry, I'm not suicidal or depressed, just anxious for Jesus to Come)
     
    #3 LadyEagle, May 25, 2007
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  4. Scarlett O.

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    That's a good post, Rufus, and some good questions. You do know, brother, that you are going to get a myriad of answers. :eek:

    Concerning your last comment here, I believe that one who believes in Jesus Christ as Savior and LORD will follow the commands of Jesus Christ. Not perfectly and not always, but real Christians will. So what came first, the obedience or the faith? Or is placing your faith in Christ obeying God in the first place?

    Most importantly, I believe that the bible should speak to your question and not me, so I am going to ask you some questions based on the three citations you made.

    1. Acts 11:26b -".....and the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." Going back to verse 19, just what were the characteristics of these people who were called Christians for the first time?
    • verse 19 - they were spreading the gospel
    • verse 21 - God's hand was on them
    • verse 21 - they were spiritually fruitful
    • verse 23 - their reputation for being Godly spread and they had unity
    • verse 26 - there was a lot of teaching of the Word going on
    • verse 28 - they met people's physical needs as well as spiritual
    • verse 29 - they trusted their spiritual leaders
    Just food for thought.

    2. Acts 26:28 - "....Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." Just what had Paul told Agrippa to almost persuade him? What had he told him that a Christian was?
    • verses 9-11: Paul started by telling him about his days before he was saved. He told him what a Christian wasn't.
    • verses 12-18: Paul tells him his conversion experience.
    • verses 19-20: Paul tells him that being saved is a life-changing experience. You don't behave the same anymore.
    3. 1 Peter 4:16 - "Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him be not ashamed...." Well, what does it mean to suffer as a Christian? It mean the opposite of suffering as described in verse 15.

    • verse 15 - suffering because you pay the consequences for sin isn't suffering as Christian. We will pay natural consequences for our acts, but we should never confuse that with persecution.
    • verse 19 - suffering for the cause of Christ is expected and should draw one nearer to God and more deeply abiding in His Trustworthiness.
    Well, I've rambled enough.

     
    #4 Scarlett O., May 25, 2007
    Last edited: May 25, 2007
  5. StraightAndNarrow

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    Last Sunday we had a baptism in my church. The pastor asked the candidate:

    Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? By saying that they accepted Him as their Savior this person expressed their faith that Christ had saved them from their sins through His sacrifice on the cross. By accepting Him as Lord they were saying that they would follow Him all their life and if they should stray they would repent and once again get right with Christ. This person wasn't saved through baptism. They were simply publicly expressing their faith and obeying His commandment.

    Those who believe that they can simply claim to be a Christian without ever being born again are seriously mistaken. Christ said to Nicodemus, "Ye must be born again." Being born again means a complete change in what is important in your life and that translates into a change in behavior. No change in behavior means, as Jesus said, no salvation.
     
  6. Salty

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    What is an American? Is is only a citizen of the United States? Is an American anyone from North or South American. Could it be someone from Asia or Europe who has lived in the US for a period of time? Its all how you look at it.

    The big issue with Mitt Romey is whether he is a Christian or not.

    Jerry Farwell would say "Born again Christian" is an redundant term. Maybe he is wrong. You might call yourself a "Christian,and but not be born again.

    Salty

    What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet;
    Romeo & Juliet - Shakespear
     
    #6 Salty, May 25, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: May 25, 2007
  7. J. Jump

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    Please give us the Scripture book, chapter and verse that says such. I've never seen it.

    While there are probably folks that believe this (unfortunately), I have not seen this sentiment from anyone on this thread.
     
  8. LadyEagle

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    II Cor. 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

    Matt.7:16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? [20] Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
     
  9. DQuixote

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    It doesn't get much clearer than that. A Christian is a born-again Believer in Christ as Savior and Lord. Then there are counterfeits, too numerous to mention here.
     
  10. J. Jump

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    This doesn't say anything about a person being changed in a way that they never live a life of sin.


    This is talking about false teachers not in general.

    Are those the only two you got?
     
  11. David Lamb

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    (Words in red added by current poster)

    Paul wrote to Christians in Ephesians 2.8-10:

    8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
    9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
    10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

    In this life, the Christian's obedience to God will never be perfect, but if someone says they have become a Christian, but there is absolutely no change evident in their life, there is something dreadfully wrong.
     
  12. J. Jump

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    David you use the same argument that a number of folks do, but Ephesians 2:10 proves my point in that works are not a guarantee as you and others suggest. Works are supposed to be walked in, but there is no guarantee that they will according to the very verse that you have put forth.

    Eph. 2:10 says we SHOULD walk in them, not we WILL walk in them. There is a HUGE difference in those two words. The Greek verb is subjunctive which means it may or may not happen. If the Spirit wanted to tell us that works were a guarantee, but not perfect as you suggest then why didn't He guide the author to use a indicitive verb?

    The change that is brought about when someone is saved is that their dead spirit is brought to life and passed out of darkness into the Light. They have become neither Jew nor Gentile, neither male nor female. Now the possibility exists that they can act within the spiritual realm by faith and be pleasing to God whereas before that was an impossibility. It doesn't mean they will, it just means the ability exists now.
     
  13. Amy.G

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    That's not what the Lord says.

    John 14
    21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."

    Keeping the commandments of the Lord shows that we love Him.

    Only born again believers love the Lord and have any interest in obeying Him. Our love and obedience to Him is revealed in our actions. Yet, you say there may not be a change in our behavior after we're saved.

    1 John 3
    24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

    We know that the Spirit lives in us because we keep His commandments. The person without the Spirit does not keep His commandments or even care what they are.

    John 13
    35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

    1 John 3
    14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.

    1 John 4
    12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit

    The indwelling of the Spirit is clearly shown in our love for one another. To say that a person can be filled with the Spirit and show no change in their behavior is either ignorance or a total denial of God's word.
     
  14. David Lamb

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    Sorry, you must have misunderstood me. I didn't say that the works were a guarantee that someone is a Christian, but that the lack of any change at all in the way someone who says they have been converted lives their life should be a cause for concern. I am no Greek scholar, but from what I read in concordances, I would agree with what you say about the subjuntive mood of the verb.

    I am afraid I don't always write as clearly as I should, so I apologise for giving the wrong impresssion this time.
     
  15. J. Jump

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    My apology for the misunderstanding! And I agree totally with this statement. This is a HUGE concern, but not in the context of eternal salvation.

    There will be consquences for living a life of disobedience and unfaithfulness.
     
  16. J. Jump

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    Exactly. I have never disagreed with that. However that doesn't mean that every saved individual is going to love the Lord and want to be obedient.

    That's not what I say, that's what Scripture bears out for us.

    You know I wonder why you keep claiming that you are learning, yet continue to make statements like this and then say oh I'm not promoting anything.

    Everyone of the verses that you have just used if they are in the context of eternal salvation as you are promoting and yes that's what you are doing, then there are contradictions within Scripture. Now how do you get around these contradictions.

    Your verses say that one must to continue in these things. That is a direct contradiction to Acts 16:30-31 and Ephesians 2:8-9. I don't know how many times I've asked you to address this on various threads, but you continue to skirt the contradictions.

    To claim that a saved individual, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is going to automatically produce fruit and continue to do so until they die is either ignorance or a total denial of God's Word.
     
  17. LadyEagle

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    But the spirit of rebellion is not the Spirit of God which bears fruit. So your case doesn't hold water. A new creature will automatically have a new spirit and new outward fruit (behavior) of the new spirit. God will not fill someone with His Holy Spirit and they continue live a lifestyle in the muck and mire of the world (sin) that He condemns. You are coming across like you believe in universalism from the posts I've read - i.e., all roads lead to God no matter how one lives and whether or not a person produces good fruit.

    Here's a thought: A pig, born with a pig's heart, can be outwardly washed, bathed, perfumed, and smell real nice. But since it still has a pig's heart, it will go back to wallow in the muck and mire - it's heart still is the nature of a pig.

    So it is with a sinner. One can profess all the right things outwardly and even know about God in their head (head knowledge), be baptized, be a Baptist (or some other denomination) church member, even be a deacon, a missionary, even a pastor of a church, give tihes, keep up all outward appearances, but if their heart is not changed and they are not in a relationship with Jesus Christ, they are still lost and will still follow the desires of the flesh and have a rebellious spirit. If they are still living a life of sin, a lifestyle of sin, and if they don't repent and turn from that sin, in spite of the pretenses, they are still lost and on their way to hell.

    The Holy Spirit will not produce Fruit that is sinful or in rebellion to a Holy and Righteous God. The Holy Spirit will not produce Fruit that is in contradiction to what He has said in His Word.

    A saved individual, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is going to automatically see the need to repent from sin and turn from their wicked ways because they ARE indwelt by the Holy Spirit - and will produce some good fruit and change in behavior - if not, their days will be shortened (as Paul says - for this reason some "sleep among you."). They may be saved, but "so as by fire." How sad.
     
    #17 LadyEagle, May 26, 2007
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  18. Amy.G

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    Yes it does, or else they were not saved.

    If we love one another, God abides in us

    He who does not love his brother abides in death.

    Not every believer loves the Lord? Where do you get that?

    If you love Me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

    A saved individual who doesn't love the Lord, is really an unbeliever and is not saved.

    Eph. 2:8-9
    We are saved by grace through faith. Our works do not save us, but once we are saved, our works are evidence of the change that has taken place within us.
    Love for the Lord, love for the brethren.

    Acts 16:30
    Again we are saved by grace through faith apart from works.

    Faith without works is dead faith.

    I'm sure that you love your wife, but if your love never manifests itself in your actions, can it really be said that you love her? (Maybe I should ask your wife :))Isn't love manifested in deeds? If not, is there love?

    James 2
    14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.


    Yes, I'm still learning, but that doesn't make me completely ignorant of all scripture. There are things that I have learned and things that I am learning.
     
  19. J. Jump

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    Loving the Lord has nothing to do with eternal salvation. Please show me in Scripture where love is required for eternal salvation. That just doesn't exist.

    With the very verses that you are trying to prove me wrong with.

    Notice you even highlight the correct word. IF is the key. If you love Him do what He says. IF you don't love Him you aren't going to care what His instructions to you are.

    Again please show me this using Scripture not just your opinion statements.

    That's not what Ephesians 2:8-9 says. Ephesians 2:10 says we SHOULD walk in the good works. You and others like you for some reason think the verse says WILL, but it doesn't it says SHOULD. We SHOULD do the works that are laid before us, but there is no guaratee that we will. Why do you think it says SHOULD?

    That comes from the book of James and eternal context is not the context of James.

    Again I have never disputed such a statement. But you have failed to show that love on our part is connected with eternal salvation.

    Scripture says we are saved by God's grace through faith, not a continual life-long love.

    Well like I keep trying to express to you, by what you are claiming as true, via your statements, your are putting yourself in a corner that you are not going to be to find your way out of accurately. Again you are correctly seeing the warnings in Scripture about believers falling away, but the next statement out of your mouth is that all believers are obedient and faithful. Those two things don't like up. They are pure opposites. Either those warnings aren't to believers, which is going to be awfully hard to prove contextually, or those warnings are to believers and there are saved individuals that aren't doing the right things. There are no other options.

    Again that is what is so amazing about Scripture is that while there may be hundreds upon hundreds of denominations because of differing beliefs, if a person will remove themselves and just go by what Scripture says there is only one right answer and the rest is man-made tradition.

    Here is a perfect example. You bring up this text in James two. The answer to that question because of the Greek structure requires a negative answer if I'm not mistaken. So no this faith that James is speaking of doesn't save someone.

    But when we compare this faith with the faith that is spoken of in Ephesians we see that they are completely different types of faith. Ephesians talks about a faith apart from works. James speaks about a faith that that is combined with works. They aren't the same thing.

    The reason being is that one is talking about eternal salvation. The other is talking about a salvation that comes after eternal salvation. And we see in James 1:21 that it is talking about the salvation of the soul.
     
  20. Accountable

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    This was eralier quoted: "I'm sure that you love your wife, but if your love never manifests itself in your actions, can it really be said that you love her? (Maybe I should ask your wife )Isn't love manifested in deeds? If not, is there love? "


    Don't get me wrong, I believe that we should love the Lord is all our heart, but our salvation is not dependant on our love for Christ but His love for us.

    Refering to the statement about marriage, I know many people who are married who, at this time in life, do not love each other. This doesn't nullify the marriage for the marriage is not contengiant on this action. Regardless of what has happened, they are married.

    If a son rebukes his father and denies his father the authority over him that his father desires to have, does this make him not a son? No the fellowship is severed but the relation is still there regardless of our emotions, feelings, actions, etc. Though they may go years without speaking, they are still father and son.
    Example, the Prodilgal Son.
     

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