What’s in a name?” opined Juliet in Shakespeare’s famous play Romeo and Juliet.
Her answer: “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
This idea has often been applied religiously. Throughout my years of preaching, I’ve heard people say, “There’s nothing in a name!”
But, is that really so?
What does the Bible say? How are Believers identified? And why? These and other questions are answered in just three passages in which we find the name Christian.
Disciples are called Christians
In Acts 11:26 Luke records the first instance of the word “Christian.” He pens “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” Some claim that “Christian” was a term of derision given by their enemies to mock them.
Yet, the word “called,” as used in the Bible, refers to a divine calling. It is used 9 times and each passage speaks to an admonition, exhortation or warning from God.”
People who are called by the Gospel (2 Thess 2:14), and come into a relationship with the Lord (1 Cor 1:2,9) are identified by God as Christians. It is the fulfillment of that “new name” that Isaiah prophesied. (Isa 62:2)
The Latin suffix tan means “belonging to.” We belong to Christ. We are his disciples. His pupils. His followers.
Christians are “to be” something
When Paul pleaded his cause before Herod Agrippa II, he used that occasion to preach the Gospel of Christ. It appears that Agrippa was somewhat surprised and replied, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28)
Christian is more than a name. Or a church membership. Or a religious affiliation to check off on a form. A Christian should be. There are numerous exhortations regarding Christian living in the New Testament regarding who and what we are to be.
Be Sober Minded
Be of One Mind
Be Not Afraid
Be Not Put to Shame
Be Not troubled
Be Not Barren or Unfruitful
Be Ready to give a defense
Be Glad with exceeding joy
Be clothed with humility
Be Partakers of Divine Nature
Being a Christian demands a change in beliefs and behavior. Attitude and actions. Conduct and character.
Christians Glorify God
Being a Christian is not about us. Our religion. Or our church. It’s about God. His Son. His church. His calling.
To scattered Christians who were enduring various trials for their faith, Peter exhorted, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” (1 Pet. 4:15-16)
We glorify God in our conversion for Christ. In our conviction for His cause. In our consecration of life. And in our commitment to even suffer for wearing His name.
Too often the name Christian is brandished about loosely. Applied carelessly. And identified inappropriately. If you’re a Christian, really be a Christian, true to your calling, glorifying God.
And by the way, even Shakespeare had a different point of view about the importance of a name when he wrote in Othello ”
“Who steals my purse steals trash…
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman