Key Scripture: Acts 11:26 “And when [Barnabas] had found [Saul], he brought him to 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.”
Beginning in the 1st century AD, the term “Christian” described this distinct people group, comprising both Jews and Gentiles, who believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ—the promised Messiah. The moment they put their trust in Jesus, they fully committed their lives to following Him. The word “Christian” literally means follower of Christ.
Though “Christian” is only used 3 times in the New Testament, the Bible does not differentiate between a “Christian” and a disciple of Christ.
Christians are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mark Dever writes, “Following Jesus first means that you have entered into a personal, saving relationship with him. You have been, ‘united with Christ’ (Philippians 2:1)… To be a Christian means to be a disciple. There are no Christians who are not disciples. And to be a disciple of Jesus means to follow Jesus. There are no disciples of Jesus who are not following Jesus… Christians are people who have real faith in Christ and show it by resting their hopes, fears, and lives entirely upon him.”
This biblical definition is helpful because this is not the way most people generally understand and use these terms today. There is a tendency to apply “Christian” in a very broad sense and “disciple” in a very narrow sense. Yet, everyone who claims to believe in God (or just claims not to be an Atheist) is not a “Christian.” Likewise, a “disciple” is not a type of Christian—one that is a step ahead, a level above, or just one who follows harder after Jesus. Christians don’t become disciples by following Jesus. Christians are disciples who obediently follow Jesus.
Remember, Christian = disciple.
Questions to Consider:
In what sense do I think of and use the terms “Christian” and “disciple”? Am I a Christian, according to the biblical definition?
Praise God, for there is, “neither Jew nor Gentile … for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Pray that the Lord will help you rightly understand what it means to be a Christian and that you would be eager to follow Jesus