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  • Writer's picturePastor Paul

What is a Christian?

You would think such a straight forward question would be relatively simple to answer. However, that is not the case.  When the question has been posed to a variety of people it is amazing at the amount of significantly different answers or non answers have been provided.  Some of the responses I have heard or read about have included the following.

A Christian is:

• Someone who believes in Jesus • Someone who tries to follow the teachings of Jesus • Someone who has been baptized into the Christian church • Someone who believes in the Bible

When I have asked, “Are you a Christian?” I have received some interesting responses as well. Some of the answers I have received are as follows:

• When asked of a politician- “I like the teachings of Jesus.” • From a 25 year old girl in Massachusetts -“Of course, I was born here.” • From a man from North Africa -“Yes.”(meaning I am not a Muslim)

From the answers given above, one could surmise that a Christian is one who likes the teachings of Jesus, or someone who has been born in the United States, or it could mean any non-Muslim.

Are any of these definitions true? Certainly a Christian would say they like the teachings of Jesus.  Most certainly, someone born in the United States can say they are Christian. I was born in South Carolina and I am a Christian.  It can also be true that a non-Muslim can be a Christian; but that doesn’t really answer the question, does it? While all those statements can be true, they can also apply to non-Christians. There are in fact, people who like the teachings of Christ, but would not consider themselves Christians. Not everyone born in America is a Christian (contrary to what some may think). Just because one is not a Muslim does not automatically make one a Christian. 

So how can one accurately define what is a Christian?  Why not go to directly to the source? Let us go to the Bible where the word first appears and look at the Bible to answer this question. I would even argue that one cannot define a Christian apart from the Bible. 

The first use of the word Christian appears in Acts Chapter 11, "So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him too Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Acts 11:25-26

There are only two other places in all of the New Testament that the word Christian shows up:

•"And Agrippa said to Paul,"In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?" Acts 26:28 •"Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name." 1 Peter 4:16

What we know from these texts is that the word was primarily used as a derogatory term by non-Christians referring to Christians. The word literally means, "little Christs." This is believed to have been used as a way of mocking those who patterned their lives after Christ. For example, they might say, "Look at those little Christs running around."

Therefore to better understand what is a Christian we must dig a little deeper in the New Testament.  The key is found in the Acts 11 passage when it states that those that were called Christians were disciples.  I believe we can get a clear picture of what is a Christian by looking at the characteristics of a disciple of Jesus.

First and foremost, a Christian is someone who has experienced regeneration.  Regeneration is a theological term meaning to be brought to spiritual life.  To experience a new birth or to be "born again."

• John 3:5-7: 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

• Eph 2:1: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins tells us that because of sin." We are spiritually dead and separated from God.  • Eph. 2:,5,8-9 : "even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved”…For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

The New Birth is completely a work of God.

• Romans 9:15-16: "For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

•Acts 13:48  And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.


Romans 8:28-30 gives us one of the best descriptions of those that have been saved. This passage has been called "The Golden Chain of Salvation."

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Notice what it says concerning Christians:

•They have been called according to Gods purpose •God foreknew (foreloved - to love beforehand) them •He predestined them to be conformed to the image of His Son (to look like Christ). Ephesians 1 tells us he chose us in Him before the foundations of the world. •They are justified (declared and made right before God) •They are glorified. (promised to share in Christ glory in eternity).


•They have been born again. John 3:5-7 •They are followers of Christ. Matthew 6:24 •They have experienced godly sorrow that produces repentance that leads to salvation. 2 Corinthians 7:14 •They have been saved by grace through faith. Eph 2:8-9

Praise God for saving us!

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