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Article 32 - Wearing The Name Christian
Wearing the Name "Christian"
Jon Gary Williams
The name "Christian" is found three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). In these passages, the term was used to refer to those who were adherents of Christ. Yes, the denominational world in general wears the name, but sadly it's contrary to the prayer of Jesus (John 17:20-23), the pleas of Paul (1 Corinthians 1:10) and the admonition by Paul for unity (Ephesians 4:4-6).
To be true to the Scriptures we must direct our attention to the true sense of the word. Although we may know that the name "Christian" is the only name we should wear, many do not realize the full significance of what it means to wear this name.
Many who wear the name today do not do so as they should. A "Christian" is more than one who has been baptized, more than one who is a church member, and more than a weekly worshiper of God. There are many of these, but fewer true "Christians." In view of this, let us first consider what wearing the name "Christian" means.
Wearing the name Christian involves the honor of doing so.
We know there is both dishonor and honor attached to names. During New Testament times, being a Gentile, a Samaritan or a Nazarene meant dishonor. The name Christian is the greatest and most distinguished name of all (Isaiah 56:6; 62:2). Early Christians were proud to wear it (1 Peter 4:16; Acts 5:41). Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words states, "From the second century onward the term was accepted by believers as a title of honor." As true Christians, we wear the name not out of an ordinance, but do so in view of God's Son in whom we glory in his name (Galatians 6:14).
Wearing the name Christian involves the reward for doing so.
The New Testament teaches there are numerous blessings from a benevolent Father that belong to the Christian. There are both material (Matthew 6:33; 7:11; James 1:17) and spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3) that come from God. The promise of heaven is given only to Christians. It is not promised to unbelievers (John 8:24) or the disobedient (2 Thessalonians 1:8). It can truly be said that heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people (John 14:3). As such, only Christians are making preparation for heaven.
The responsibility of wearing the name Christian.
Wearing a name of honor brings with it certain responsibilities. For example, wearing the name "American" involves the duty to believe in the Constitution, practice democracy, being patriotic and displaying good citizenship. Wearing the name "Father" carries with it certain responsibilities that cannot be pushed aside and still be viewed as a good father. Likewise, wearing the name "Christian" means assuming the responsibilities of being a disciple to learn; as a follower, to imitate; as a child, to obey; and as a servant, to be loyal. The Christian life is a life filled with duties (Ecclesiastes 12:13; Luke 17:10).
The difference between being a Christian and merely wearing the name.
The Bible speaks of different kinds of "Christians," and between the following extremes there are various degrees or shades. For example, Romans 15:1 speaks of the strong and the weak, while 1 Corinthians 3:1 draws a contrast between those who were spiritual and those who were carnal (worldly minded). Jesus, in Revelation 3:15, spoke of the distinction between those who were "hot" and those who were "cold." In between, there were those he referred to as "lukewarm" (Revelation 3:16). Paul wrote of those who were stable, and those who were unstable (Ephesians 4:14-16).
In each of these cases we note various truths concerning the differing kinds of "Christians." The first kind wears the name well, while the second does not. The first are those who would bring glory to the "cause," while the second would bring reproach. The first would be those who are truly converted, while the second would represent those who are half or all together unconverted. The first are going to heaven, while the second are going to hell.
How do I determine if I am really a Christian, or merely one who is wearing the name?
Ask yourself the following questions, and be honest with the answers you provide.
"Did I become a Christian from conviction or convenience?" If for family, prestige, etc., then you are merely wearing the name.
"Am I separated from the world in my recreation, language, literature, etc.?" If I am more like the world than Christ, then I am just wearing the name.
"Am I really devoted to the church?" "Does it come first in my life?" (Matthew 6:33)
"Do I love the brethren, or have no time for them?" (John 13:34, 35)
"Do I attend the maximum or the minimum number of services?" (Hebrews 10:24-26)
"Do I give liberally or miserly to the church and her efforts?" (II Corinthians 9:6, 7)
"Do I appreciate strong preaching, or am I offended when truth and error are kindly and plainly differentiated?" (Galatians 4:16; John 6:66)
"Am I growing in the Christian graces and in knowledge?" (2 Peter 1:5-9; 2 Peter 3:18)
"Am I trying to save the lost according to my opportunities and abilities?"
Three facts regarding the wearing of the name Christian.
(1) We wear it voluntarily. As such we serve gladly and willingly.
(2) We wear it incessantly. Christianity is a daily vocation (Luke 9:23).
(3) We ought to wear it intelligently. We should wear the name being mindful of our influence (Matthew 5:13-16).