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What is a Christian?

"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 11:26b

The Greek word translated as "Christian" is christianos, which literally means "follower of Christ." The Bible uses the word "Christian" three times, the first referring to those in Antioch who followed Jesus Christ's teaching (Acts 11:26; 26:28), then later as an encouragement to believers who had suffered because they chose to follow Christ. Peter told these believers that they should not be ashamed of following Christ but let God be glorified in Christ's name (1 Peter 4:16).

Because of the behavior, actions, and words of these first followers of Christ, they were likened to their teacher Jesus Christ, who had come before them, and called "Christians." Today, a true Christian will also display Christlikeness in his or her life, but there's a little more to the definition than what you see on the outside.

What a Christian is NOT.

Unfortunately, the word "Christian" has been watered down a lot over the centuries. Some people consider themselves Christians just because they have high moral values or attend church or give to the needy or were raised in a Christian family or because they live in a "Christian" nation. While those are all fine things, none of them necessarily mean "this is a person who follows Jesus Christ." Going to church doesn't make someone a Christian anymore than going to a garage makes someone a mechanic.

What a Christian IS.

A true Christian, a true follower of Christ, is a person who has put their faith and trust in the gift of salvation offered through Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross (John 3:16; John 8:12; John 10:9) and now experiences new life through God's great mercy (John 3:3; John 3:7; 1 Peter 1:23).

The Bible tells us that we can do NOTHING to earn God's love or favor and that no one is innocent of sin (Romans 3:21-26). Ephesians 2:8 tells us that it is "by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." Titus 3:5 says that we are saved from the punishment of sin by God's mercy and the "washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit."

"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." —John 1:12

Marks of a True Christian

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." —John 13:34-35

While the decision to follow Christ is made in our hearts and minds, there are some outward evidences that naturally become a part of a believer's life which will hint to what's going on inside. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." Our old, sinful ways should no longer be a part of our new life. Instead, we ought to show a love for others and obedience to God's Word (1 John 2:4, 10). Our behavior, actions, and words will reflect the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

A person who has chosen to follow Christ is indeed a true Christian, a child of God, one of God's royal sons and daughters, and a joyful recipient of new life through Jesus.

TL;DR

A true Christian is a person who has have put their faith and trust in the gift of salvation offered through Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross (John 3:16; John 8:12; John 10:9) and now experiences new life through God's great mercy (John 3:3; John 3:7; 1 Peter 1:23). Their behavior, actions, and words should reflect the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. They will show a love for others, obedience to God's Word (1 John 2:4, 10), and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

By: Catiana Nak Kheiyn

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.

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