A few weeks ago at a morning service we were offered a petition to sign, advocating the division of California into two parts, the southern portion to retain the name California, the northern portion to be called Jefferson. The purpose was to give better representation to the rural areas of the existing state, which suffer from the clout of the urban areas. This, if possible, is highly unlikely to occur. But if it did occur, the new name would be for the purpose of recognizing which half was which.
There is another name change that is needing to be made, and indeed in some areas has already been changed. That is the name Christian.The word, “Christian,” comes from a combination of Jesus’ title, “Christ” (anointed one, or messiah) and the suffix, “ian” (belonging to or adherent of). Thus Christian means:
- Belonging to Jesus, the anointed one, or;
- Adherent of Jesus, the anointed one.
The word is used in the Bible only three times, all in the New Testament:
- Its first appearance occurs in Acts 11:26, “And when he (Barnabas) had found him (Paul), he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” It may have been a term of derision by unbelievers, but was so apropos that the believers began to use it proudly in the early Church;
- It appears again in Acts 26:28, “Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian;’”
- The last time it appears is in 1 Peter 4:16, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.”
Alas, the early Church began to suffer some terrible events that continued until the sixteenth century:
- Early in the fourth century AD the Roman Emperor, Constantine, was supposedly converted and proclaimed Christianity to be the official religion of the empire, which automatically polluted the Church with thousands of unbelievers, opening the Church to all kinds of sin, heresies and being fractured into opposing factions, having a terrible effect on the Church’s reputation;
- As Roman Catholicism developed, the Church went into the “dark ages,” outgrowths of which were the Crusades and various Inquisitions;
- The Crusades, launched in the name of Christianity, brought about the killing of multiplied thousands of Jews and Muslims, making the word Christian anathema to both groups;
- The Inquisitions brought about the killing of multiplied thousands of true Christians who in any way resisted or criticized the corrupt Church of Rome.
Then, in the sixteenth century, God brought help to His beleaguered Church:
- He used Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic priest desperately seeking salvation for his soul, to start the Protestant Reformation;
- Another disaffected Catholic Priest, John Calvin, added momentum to the movement;
- Millions of people were saved and delivered from the bondage of Roman Catholicism;
- It did have its drawbacks, as these millions of new, eager Christians, without any Pope to restrain them, divided into hundreds of different denominations;
- In spite of this, the Protestant churches caught the vision for the Great Commission which Jesus gave to the infant Church, and the era of Modern Missions began, spreading the Gospel all over the world. This great move of God is still in evidence, though weakening since the mid nineteenth century;
- Since then and till now the Church has been savagely attacked by Satan until we are seeing the fulfillment of Paul’s prophecy in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying its power. And from such people turn away.” (See previous article on Chapel’s webpage, entitled “Then and Now,” for more about this disaster.)
Do we need a name change? Yes! If someone asks us if we are a Christian, we cannot answer them with a yes or no, we have to say that it depends on what the questioner means by “Christian.” It is not enough for us to answer that we are evangelical Christians, for many so-called evangelicals are not true Christians anymore.
Some groups or organizations have already picked a different name because of this problem:
- Jews who have believed in Jesus say they are Messianic Jews, they call their churches Messianic Congregations;
- Muslims who believe in Jesus say they are followers of Isa (Arabic for Jesus), definitely not Christian;
- Gospel for Asia uses Believer for the individual, Believer’s Church for their congregations;
We need to admit that many terrible things have been done by individuals or churches in the name of Christ. That there are false Christians or false Christian Churches. This is not Jesus’ fault, or the Bible’s fault, but the individual’s or church’s fault, for not obeying Jesus’ commandments and living a Christ-like life.
We need to be able to describe what a true Christian or church is like. 1 Peter 3:15-16, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.”