For some reason there is a lot of different teachings about what the true definition of Christian and how it relates to Disciple. The best place to start is from the beginning and get down to a elementary approach of looking into the Bible for answers. We will start with the word Christian. If you were to break that down you would start with the word Christ.
Christ is from the Greek Christos, it means anointed one. In the Old Testament, prophets, priests and kings were anointed, this is a good reference since Jesus is often referred to as the greatest prophet, a great high priest and the King of Kings. Christ is associated with Jesus in the Bible and Jesus means salvation. When you break the words down, they start to have meaning. Furthermore, the word Christian was a reference of one who followed Jesus. Even though Jesus is not alive in the flesh, the teachings of Jesus (the plan of salvation) are still followed today, although some have twisted and changed some of its original meanings and intentions.
Naturally our next point of investigation would be to look up the word christian in our concordance. If you are not familiar with a concordance, it simply is a tool or a reference that lists everywhere certain terms or words are written in the Bible. It is not an exposition, narrative, or commentary on scripture. It simply is a tool that helps you find words in the Bible. The word Christian is only mentioned three times in the New Testament. Those are Acts 26:28, 1Peter 4:16, amd Acts 11:26. So lets start with each and figure out the puzzle.
Acts 26:28 The context is Paul speaking to King Agrippa explaining his actions to teach the Gospel and how he became a Christian. This obviously is after Jesus’ death and takes part as the church begins to boldly start spreading the word about Jesus. The King says to Paul “Do you think that in such as short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” This obviously was not meant as a compliment, the term Christian was a slang and often in reference into something to be looked down upon by the Jews. Nevertheless, it is a reference that King Agrippa makes to someone who is devoted to Christ. If you like to dig deep, there is a footnote reference in the Bible that takes us to our next scripture. These footnotes make it easy to see other scriptures that are being used as a reference to the conversation.
Acts 11:28 The context is the history of the first century church. The chapter references the church in Antioch and Jerusalem. Barnabas and Saul are meeting with the church in Antioch and are teaching the church where verse 26 comes into play “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” Up until this time, everyone referenced followers of Christ as disciples and rightfully so, since the definition of a disciple is a follower. This is the first reference we see where the first two terms equate to each other. So naturally to get a better and more thorough understand of what a Christian is, we need to investigate what a disciple is by definition. But lets not ignore the last reference to the word Christian.
1 Peter 4:16 “However if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” If you look further up the paragraph you can see the context or reference to this scripture as “Suffering for Being a Christian” This is the church being addressed and taught. Here the reference is taking the word Christian and giving it a more noble meaning versus the slang or insulting reference that we see in Acts 26.
So now we have a clear understand of what the word Christian really means, it means a disciple or follower of Christ who was the anointed one from God to bring salvation to mankind. Naturally the next step would be to figure out exactly what a Disciple is and why more churches are not referencing it directly today.
A good way to examine or search for truths in the Bible is to ask yourself Who, What, When, Where and Why. Elementary teachings can be thoroughly researched if you take this approach to figureing out something. Sadly a lot of churches today ignore some of the findings and go with just the ones they think are pertinent today. This is best illustrated in 2 Timothy 4:3 which says
“for a time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” This is why I am emphasizing the concept of who, what, where, when and why. We cannot ignore sound doctrine (teaching) and this is the best way to be thorough.
One of the best way to define disciples (Christians) is to look at history and see who was first. This lays the ground work and shows you exactly how Jesus called men to follow him.
Mark 1:16-20 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Calls His First Disciples
16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Luke 9:23-25 New International Version (NIV)
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?
Luke 14:25-33 New International Version (NIV)
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
Luke 9:57-62 New International Version (NIV)
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
John 13:34-35 New International Version (NIV)
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Matthew 28:18-20 New International Version (NIV)
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Who: A person that wants to be a disciple can be any ordinary person that responds to the message of Jesus
What: The plan of salvation is most definetly a plan. It has steps for each of us to follow, imitate and then recreate in someone else.
When: There is no specific day of the week or time of day, Christians (Disciples) are always working and looking for opportunities to change and to help others to change.
Where: Everywhere, every culture, every continent, every country, every state. The call to follow Jesus is loud and clear in order to have a relationship with God.
Why: Because you want to obey Jesus and follow the Bible without any person or church making it harder. Churches are suppose to be groups of Disciples that love and encourage one another as we carry our crosses and learn to love God. We are suppose to grow and change and we cannot do that without each other. Each other is the plan that God has chosen and he used Jesus’ life to unveil the true plan of salvation. It’s not a secret, were supposed to struggle and overcome, it is that very process that helps us become more like Jesus which spurs us on to keep changing.