How To Become A Christian
Contemplation on the matter convinces the seriously thinking student of the Scriptures that the term "Christian" is used much too generally and loosely in our society today. Our nation, for example, is spoken of as being a "Christian nation" in contrast to a Hindu nation or a nation of Mohammedans. Likewise, the term is loosely used to refer to any individual who belongs to a religious group that believes in Christ.
May we challenge your thinking further with the suggestion that the New Testament uses the term "Christian" with a deeper and more exact meaning. As used in the New Testament the word "Christian" refers, not just to a member of some particular nation as contrasted with another, nor just to some person who has some sort of belief in a supreme being; but rather, the term is very specifically applied to a person who has experienced a "new birth," that is, one who has been spiritually born again. It thus refers to one who is a new individual, wearing a new name (the name of Christ), one who has a new speech, a new attitude toward his neighbor and toward his enemy. This new creature has a new set of business rules and he has a new use for his money, his physical possessions, and for his time. He is one who is a "Christ-like" person who is existing as a living sacrifice in strict obedience to every desire and command of the Lord. This is truly a Christian!
One might be surprised to learn that the word "Christian" is found only three times in all of the Bible. Each of these references is in the New Testament, which of course began the "Christian Age" or the time of the new law as contrasted with the old law of the Old Testament which had served its purpose. The first time we read the term "Christian" is in Acts 11:21-26, speaking of the disciples of the Lord that were scattered abroad in a time of persecution. Reading of this, beginning in verse 21, "And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number that believed turned unto the Lord. And the report concerning them came to the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas ias tar as Antioch; who when he was come, and had seen the grace of God, was glad; and he exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord: tor he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith' and much people was added unto the Lord. And he went forth to Tarsus to seek for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that even for a whole year they were gathered together with the church, and taught much people; and that the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch."
From this first passage then, we learn that a Christian is a person who is a true disciple or learner of the Lord, one who has been taught as Barnabas and the others taught these (people. We further learn that Christians were ones who had purposed in their heart to cleave to the Lord and the passage says that they were added to the Lord. Another time we read about the process of being added to the Lord or to the church is in Acts 2, which again is an account of people becoming Christians, as the book of Acts is a book of conversions showing how people became Christians under the inspired direction of the apostles of the Lord. Reading in Acts 2, we learn about those who were "added" and the process whereby this came about. In verse 47, we read, "And the Lord added to them (or to the church) day by day those that were saved."
To see how they were saved and why they were added, we notice the context just before this verse. From the first part of Acts 2 we read of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles enabling them to speak the tongues of the various nations that were gathered there on this Pentecostal feast day. The twelve apostles stood up and preached to those people and the sermon we have recorded is Peter's. Peter preached a sermon about the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, proving that the Christ, whom they had killed, was the son of God. The conclusion of his sermon is found in verse 36, as Peter says, "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified." Then in the next verse we learn of the reaction of the people to Peter's sermon and we note what Peter told them to do.
Beginning in verse 37 we read, "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins " Reading further in verse 41, "They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about 3000 souls." Then verse 47 tells us that the Lord continued to add those that were saved. those who obeyed what the apostles taught, those who had the remission of their sins by being baptized in the name of the Lord, These were the disciples of the Lord, the ones who were called "Christians." They were also called "Saints" because they were "sanctified" or set apart to God's service; they are called "Brethren" because they have, by being born again spiritually, come into the family of God. These are Christians in the true sense of the word.
The next time we read the word "Christian" in the New Testament is in Acts 26:28. In order to get the thought In mind, we begin with verse 24 as Paul is making his defense before Festus, "And as he thus made his defense, Festus saith with a loud voice, Paul, thou art mad; thy much learning is turning thee mad. But Paul saith, I am not mad, most excellent Festus; but speak forth words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things, unto whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things is hidden from him; for this hath not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. And Agrippa said unto Paul, with but little persuasion thou wouldest fain make me a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that whether with little or with much, not thou only, but also all that hear me this day, might become such as I am, except these bonds." Again, we learn that "a Christian" is something one becomes. Agrippa had heard what Paul called truth, he believed it, but he lacked obedience to it and thus he was not a Christian. Becoming a Christian involves obedience to the gospel of Christ.
Many people today feel that they are Christians because they live in a so-called Christian nation or because they belong to some religious organization that believes in Christ. If you are of this disposition, may we, for the sake of your soul, challenge you to examine the truth as revealed in the Bible and see if you are truly a Christian, one who has obeyed the gospel of Christ, one who has repented of their sins, confessed the name of Christ before men and has been baptized in the name of Christ for, the remission of your sins and thus was added to the Lord's church by the Lord. Being born in a nation that is called a Christian nation no more makes one a Christian than being born in a garage makes one an automobile. And having a general belief in Christ does not make you a Christian. Christ says, "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things I say?" A Christian is one who has become such by doing what the Lord commands. A Christian is a saved person. Christ said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned..." (Mark 16:16) This is how one is saved and thus becomes a Christian and is added to the church by the Lord.
— The third and last time we read the word "Christian" in the New Testament is in 1 Peter 4:15-16, which States, "For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil doer, or as a meddler in other men's matters: but if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name." "A Christian" is the name then that the true disciple of the Lord is to wear, not the name of Martin Luther, Alexander Campbell, Meno Simon or any other religious leader. We are to wear the name of Christ. We are to be called Christians! A Christian is one who has become such and with pride wears the name because of his complete submission to his namesake.
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