What Is a Christian?

In America it is fairly easy to find people who will call themselves a Christian. But it appears that the label "Christian" is used by many people in a very broad manner. Since so many people claim to be Christians, it would be good to know the answers to the following questions. Where did the term "Christian" come from? What should be the basis for the definition of Christianity? What does it mean to be a Christian? Do good works make a person a Christian?

The term Christian comes from the Bible and is found in the Book of Acts 11:26. The disciples were first called Christians in the church of Antioch. From the context of the Book of Acts, it appears that by the time Acts is written by Luke, the term Christian had become a common term and was also a label the early church accepted and went by. Since the term Christian is found in the Bible and applied to the New Testament church, this shows us that the characteristics of a Christian should be defined by the Bible.

Simply defined, the term Christian means a follower of Jesus Christ. From the Bible point of view, to be a follower of Jesus Christ is more than believing that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, rose again, and ascended up into heaven. Being a Christian is also more than believing that Jesus is God. Jesus made the statement, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).

Since Jesus is the way and we must come to the Father by him, then we start to understand that Jesus was more than a sacrifice but he was also an example for us to follow. Jesus also said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whosoever will save his life will lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:24-25). We then find that being a Christian means losing our life to follow Jesus.

We also find Jesus saying a man can't enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of the water and the Spirit (John 3:5).

If I'm claiming to be a Christian, can I say that I have lost my life to follow Jesus? Even if I have good works, can I really expect that will make me a Christian without being born again and following the will of the Lord? The truth is that on the judgment day many that called themselves Christians will be shocked to find that they were really following something or somebody other than Jesus.