Many believe that going into the building called Church; one becomes a Christian, forgetting that it is not about registering one’s presence in a particular place but change of heart that God desires. Anyone who does not recognize the presence of God in His place of worship and then humbles himself in His presence has no idea about Christianity. A believer or Christian is the one who believes in the Son of God and then moulds his life as per His Word. It is not about joining an organization as a member but about adopting a lifestyle as per God’s word.
Real meaning of being a Christian – ‘And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch’ (Acts 11:26) and this word is derived from the Greek word ‘Khristos’ meaning ‘anointed’. It is a literal translation of the Hebrew word ‘Mashiah’ reflecting the fact that Lord Jesus was ‘the anointed of God or Messiah’. The other names given were as discussed here. ‘Notzrim’ is the general term used in rabbinical and contemporary Israeli Hebrew for the believers. This is derived from Natzeret or Natzrat, the Hebrew name for Nazareth, the place where Lord Jesus was born. ‘A certain orator named Tertullus was brought by the Jewish leaders to present ‘evidence’ against Apostle Paul at Caesaria and he gave another name and called Apostle Paul ‘a ringleader of the sect of the Nzaarenes’ (Acts 24:1-5).
The word disciple has been used many times for those who gathered around and followed Lord Jesus. The word brother or brethren is used along with ‘disciple’ and this comes from the fact that all believers through faith become part of God’s family and His children (Acts 18:27). The word brother is also used by and for the Roman Catholic ministers. Apostle Paul has addressed the Epistle to the ‘saints at Ephesus’ meaning all believers who were at that place (Ephesians 1:1). The word is connected to martyrs and as per Roman Catholic traditions all believers are considered to be saints in heaven, though some deserve more honor or veneration (Revelation 17:6). The church bestows such honor on the chosen ones through canonization and glorification.
Other words of identity used are, ‘follower of the way’ (Acts 24:14); ‘believer’ (2 Corinthians 6:15); believers were also called ‘friends’ but is the word used for mere acquaintances or Christians in general? (Acts 27:3); Tertulius, the advocate of the Chief Priests and Jewish elders called, Apostle Paul as, ‘a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5 and Apostle Paul also referred to Christians as ‘the elect’ (Colossians 3:12).
From ‘Christos’ it means that a Christian is one ‘anointed by God’ and one whose behavior and heart reflects Lord Jesus. From this it is apparent, one must first of all accept Lord Jesus as the Messiah, Son of God, who has the authority to forgive sins. And then also love God and his neighbor as himself; forgive others who have wronged you and love your enemies. He must seek God’s forgiveness for sins committed and have a personal relationship with the Lord which is developed through prayer, studying, meditating upon and living the Word of God. Connected to this is fellowship with other believers and service to others in the community.
The Scripture identifies that ‘Whoever believes on the LORD (Jehovah) shall be saved’ and this includes all denominations (Romans 10:13 & Joel 2:32). St. Augustine’s famous motto was, ‘In essentials, unity; in non essentials, liberty, and in all things charity’. A Christian must also believe and declare the creeds of Nicea and Chalcedon. Thus a Christian is not merely one who claims to believe in Lord Jesus and follow His teachings for Gnostics and Judaisers etc were not accepted by the writers of the New Testament.
Lord Jesus provided the best definition, ‘By this all will know that you are My disciples’, said Jesus, ‘if you have love for one another’ (John 13:35). The Messiah revealed God the Father in Him and Apostle John further defined a believer who professes to know and represent God ‘He who does not love, does not know God, for God is love’ (1 John 4:8).
Importance must also be given to a person’s verbal confession of faith for otherwise how would one obey the Lord’s command to go and make disciples. Lord Jesus taught the Samaritan woman, ‘God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth’ (John 4:23-24). The difference is of the capital S and the small s and with this any elitism of caste or any other distinguishing features lose any importance. Lord Jesus has laid down another identification of a true believer, ‘My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me’ (John 10:27). He definitely knows all His sheep but one who hears and follows His voice is His.
Judgment of non believers – Lord Jesus laid a condition for all of mankind that only the who confesses Lord Jesus as Savior Lord before men will be recognized by Him before God the Father in heaven, while others will be denied and thus judged (Matthew 10:32-33). But to confess, one must know Him first and linked to this is the Great Commission command, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations’ (Matthew 28:19). When the message is preached, some will accept while others will reject the Son of God and His grace.
God uses different means to reach out to people with the Gospel message and the usual one is evangelicals reaching out to communities in all countries where the message has not yet been preached. In other places a friend or an acquaintance may give witness; sometimes through a tragedy; sometimes by just reading or hearing a Scripture verse on a billboard. The daily visits of God to Adam and Eve resulted in His message being written on their conscience and like the sinful nature of Satan, this nature to love God and do good is also transferred to all mankind. So everyone at one time or another does reflect on the existence of God and makes a decision to seek Him or go through life ignoring Him.
The Church is called the Bride of Christ and the Lord uses various means to develop and nurture this relationship (Ephesians 5:26-27). As per Chaim Bentorah, a Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic scholar, someone has written 604 romantic novels implying this many ways of linking up of a man and a woman. How much more ways would God, who is love, evolve to woo His bride?
The Greek word used ‘homologesie’ meaning ‘acknowledge, declare, speaking the same thing’ (Matthew 10:32-33). However in Aramaic, the language used by the Lord, the word is ‘nawdy’ which means ‘to give thanks’. So confession is not a quiet whisper, ‘Yes I am a Christian’ but taking pride in acknowledging Lord Jesus as my Savior. Then He will also speak about me to His Father in heaven, ‘This is the person I died for and I am proud of him’. That is boasting about His relationship with me and that is what He has promised.
Apostle Paul’s teaching is not contrary to the message of Lord Jesus being the only Way. He teaches that ‘when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves. Who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves, their thoughts accusing or else excusing them’ (Romans 2:14-15). So anyone who has already gone to sleep will also be judged. God ‘will render to each one according to his deeds; eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness – indignation and wrath – God does not show partiality towards anyone’ (Romans 2:6-9).
Lord Jesus revealed taught through the Parable of the Wheat and Tares that both good and evil grow together but God will judge and separate them in the end (Matthew 13:30 & 37-43). The angel sent by the Lord will ‘gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness; and will cast them into the furnace of fire’. The teaching for us is, ‘Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God’ (1 Corinthians 4:5). Final judgment is of the LORD and that day of judgment is known to Him alone and on that day many surprises will be there for those who declare their righteousness loudly may not be found by God to be so.
Advantage of being a Christian – Apostle Peter in his epistle to the Christians scattered throughout the Roman empire, wrote, ‘You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light’ (1 Peter 2:9). These people were a small persecuted minority surrounded by unbelief and hostility with adversaries who were numerous, powerful and dangerous. The Israelites were called to be a ‘kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ but now every Christian is blessed thus (Exodus 19:5-6). We are a chosen race, Lord Jesus emphasized that ‘No one can come to me unless the Father has granted it to him’ (John 6:65). Thus we are chosen by God to be a part of His Divine family.
We are a ‘royal priesthood’ – Royalty and priesthood were separated in Israel but Lord Jesus, who is our King and High Priest has brought these together for His people. We are a ‘holy nation’ and this is not something that we have achieved but what the Lord has done through His shed blood on the cross and forgiving our sins. We are ‘His own special people’ for we belong to God and He works in us. As priests we have right of access to God, as a nation we are under His government and being His possession He dwells in us.
The Scripture clearly defines the days of final tribulation when Satan will make a final attempt against God. Apostle Paul teaches about rapture of the saints, that ‘the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so will be with the Lord forever’ (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18).
Believers’ judgment will not be for punishment but for giving of rewards for their works. Lord Jesus has promised all believers that He prepares a place for each believer in His Father’s house in heaven and will come back to take them to make them live with Him forever (John 14:1-3).
The reasons for rejoicing are many, first, God did not choose me for my faith, I have faith for He chose me despite all my weaknesses. My being has been in God as part of His family from eternity past and not because of my efforts. Second, God’s choosing me is an act of His grace and for His love. Third, I can know of being chosen through the power of His Word and His Spirit working in me. Four, No charge of the devil can stick against me for ‘who shall bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who justifies’ (Romans 8:31-34). The Judge declares me free of all charges. Five, I am being changed daily, for God chose me in my weakness and shame of sin and through repentance and forgiveness daily transforms us into His image. Six, Being part of His family I have special rights and privileges to know Him and get into a close relationship with Him. Seven, Being chosen by God a believer will be taken up into the clouds to be with the Lord and escape much of tribulation times. Also for the sake of the chosen ones the days of tribulation will also be cut short for otherwise ‘no human being would be saved’ (Matthew 24:22).
The greatest gift from God to us is that we stop trying to win God’s approval through our works but we do good deeds to tell others about His love. Also since our adversary the devil is ever trying to dislodge us from our faith, we are given not only ‘weapons of God’ but also empowered through the indwelling Holy Spirit. We may face many trials here but we rejoice for the Lord has overcome all this. A Christian’s assurance and hope is in the promise of the Lord for being in His presence for eternity in heaven while enjoying life abundantly here on earth.
The blessing of a believer is not only in his being chosen by God but his life being lived forever in the presence, guidance and power of the Lord. It defies understanding that God chose us despite the multitude of our sins and our sinful nature of repeated indulgence in sin. Our daily fellowship with Him is to inspect our hearts and then, like David, seek His Divine help for repentance and abstaining from sin in future. God sanctifies His chosen ones through this daily process into His image and likeness that we be not ashamed in His presence on the final day.