Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Name Says It All

“And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26b)

Here, in this busy port city of Syria with half a million people, the third largest in the Roman Empire—here is where the Gentiles who had aligned themselves with dispersed Jewish believers in Jesus Christ, were all collectively referred to as Christians, for the first time. Some have suggested it was a term of derision. No matter. What it did say was that this “Jewish religion spin-off” was no longer centered in Jerusalem and wholly made up of Jews. The common denominator was no longer a place or a people, but a Person. In fact, it was so obvious that Jesus Christ, and His death, burial, and resurrection, were now the focal point of their worship that the only way to describe them was by using His name as the root word. To this they added the suffix “-ian.”

Perhaps looking at what that Latin suffix (in relation to the word to which it is attached) means, will give us some idea of what a Christian really is. The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology gives the meanings of the suffix “-ian” as being:

1. belonging to — This is all about ownership, or Lordship, if you will. A
Christian belongs to Jesus Christ—lock, stock, and barrel, without any
question of authority. (1 Cor. 6:20)

2. coming from — If you are a Christian, it is because you have been born
of God, not because you were born in a so-called “Christian country,”
or to Christian parents. (1 Pet. 1:23)

3. being involved in — Christians migrate to other Christians. They may
associate with unbelievers, but they are involved with other believers in
Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 5:4)

4. being like — There’s a family resemblance. Not always to all their siblings;
but certainly to their Elder Brother. (2 Cor. 3:18)

Those who have a legitimate claim to the name “Christian” cannot always count on being esteemed in this world. After all, the One who gave us the name was crucified. James has told us, “Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by which we are called?” (2:7). Again, no matter. I am blessed to be able to count myself part of that glorious band of believers who call themselves—and are called by others—Christian.

What is a Christian? The name says it all.

If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to
convict you?
— David Otis Fuller

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