The title of this chapter suggests one need only proceed to Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, or 1 Peter. 4:16 (the three places in the New Testament where the word “Christian” appears) and read a sentence that begins with “a Christian is…” Unfortunately it is not be that easy.
Jesus taught that we must “search the scriptures” (John 5:39). The word “search” translated in this case meaning to search diligently or anxiously. This is exactly what author Eric Shuster did after finding little satisfaction in the previous chapter’s effort. His deep dive studied separately the words attributed directly to Jesus Christ in the New Testament (KJV) and those attributed to the New Testament authors starting in Acts.
Defining a Christian begins with the core of Christianity itself—belief in Jesus Christ. Everlasting life or eternal life is the ultimate goal of every Christian and is therefore often associated with being a Christian. According to Jesus Christ one must believe in Him to gain eternal life or everlasting life, otherwise he is condemned (John 3:18). To believe in Jesus Christ is to believe He is the Messiah, the only begotten Son of God, the Light of the World, the Forgiver of Sins, the Good Shepherd, the Only Way to the Father and He who is one with the Father. However, while belief can bring about great things Matthew 7:21-23 indicates to know Christ alone may not be enough.
Beyond belief comes repentance (Mark 1:15), baptism (Mark 16:16) and partaking of the Lord’s Supper (John 6:54). a Christian follows Christ (John 10:27) and in doing so makes sacrifices (Luke 9:23) and demonstrates love (Matt.22:37-39)—including keeping “His” commandments (John 14:15).
Searching the words of the New Testament authors beyond the four gospels reveals some very interesting transitions. While belief in Christ is still emphasized the term “eternal life” is mostly replaced with “salvation.” The word “grace” enters the conversation (Eph. 2:5) despite the fact Jesus himself never used the term.
The New Testament authors go on to discuss the importance of following Jesus Christ and emulating his characteristics (1 Pet. 2:21) and that salvation comes through faith (2 Tim. 3:15), repentance (2 Cor. 7:10), obedience (Heb.5:9), and even suffering (Rom. 8:18). The books of the Bible after the four gospels reinforce the significance of conversion, repentance, baptism and the Lord’s Supper as well as the prominent role of the Holy Ghost. In addition the authors write of key values and characteristics that followers of Christ should embrace and live as His disciples.
The exercise from the previous chapter and this in-depth search of the New Testament helps produce a two part definition of a Christian: a Believing Christian and a Practicing Christian (see the book for details). The process of defining a Christian doesn’t stop there. The next chapter puts the definition to the test using quantitative data from a number of landmark Christian studies to test its relevancy and application.
Go to www.findyourchristianity.com to watch the book trailer, find out what type of Christian you are, and to order the book