The term “Christian” literally means “Christ-like”, specifically in reference to Jesus Christ. The term was first used as a mockery against early new testament believers, insinuating that they were nothing more than mindless followers of Jesus Christ. As any true follower of Christ would be, the “Christians” accepted the reproachful term as flattery for their faith, and the title eventually became quite common, though mentioned only twice in the Bible itself (Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16). Having this understanding of the origin of the term, the question must again be asked, “What, then, is a Christian?” A Christian is simply a person who behaves, believes, and is becoming like Jesus Christ.
First, is behavior important? Yes! As Jesus said in John 13:15 “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” This is imperative to being a Christian, according to Christ himself. Second, a Christian must believe that Christ was the Son of God, for Jesus said in John 14:11, “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.”
Finally, a Christian is someone who is continually living for God, to become more like Christ. In Hebrews 3:14 it says, “For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,” therefore, a Christian must remain such “to the end”. The original Greek word for “end” is “telos”. Telos specifically means the end of a state (i.e. death) as opposed to the end of a time. This is important because this means that a Christian is someone who actually lives their life for God “to the end of it’s living state,” not until “the end of a time” when they decide to live otherwise.
Jesus explained in no uncertain terms that whether or not someone was a genuine Christian was crucial, especially upon their passing away. He made it clear that after death a soul would either be joyfully welcomed into Heaven or judged to be sent to hell. Jesus said in John 3:18 “He who believes in Him (speaking of himself) is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” This is the judgment of those who did not believe in Jesus. In Matthew 25:32-46, Jesus told the parable of the sheep and goats, where people who considered themselves to be “Christian” are sent to “everlasting fire” (Hell) because they did not behave like, or do the works of a Christian. Therefore, it is not enough to believe in Christ, alone, but it must be supported by works. And in Matthew 7:21-23Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice iniquity!'” So, too, it is not enough to believe and behave like a Christian if you do not become like Christ to the end.
“What is a Christian” Copyright © 1996, E. Kidwel