The word Christian is frequently used, but often misunderstood! A dictionary definition might be: “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ” (Merriam-Webster). While this is a good starting point, it falls somewhat short of really communicating the biblical truth of what it means to be a Christian.
In the Bible
God only uses the word Christian in the Bible three times (Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16). Followers of Jesus Christ were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26) because their life, speech and behaviour resembled that of the Lord Jesus Christ. The word literally means ‘belonging to the party of Christ’ or ‘a follower of Jesus Christ’.
Over time though, the word Christian has lost much of its original significance and is often used of someone who is religious or who has high moral values, but may or may not be someone who truly follows the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many people consider themselves to be a Christian because they have been born into a Christian family and brought up in a so-called Christian country, because they have attended church, have been baptised, christened or confirmed, or do good deeds. But these things do not make a person a Christian:
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.
The Bible teaches that every person born into this world is spiritually dead and is a sinner by nature and by practice (Ephesians 2:1, Romans 3:23) and that the good works we do cannot make us acceptable to God:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.
Being “born again”
The Bible also teaches us that a Christian is someone who has been “born again” (John 3:3-7; 1 Peter 1:23), that is someone who has repented of their sins (Acts 2:38, Acts 17:30), placing their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord:
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.
A person needs to be “born again” in order to have their sins forgiven and to have a right relationship with God. A true Christian is therefore someone who has placed their trust in the person and the work of Jesus Christ, including His death on the cross as a sacrifice and payment for their sins, and His resurrection from the dead on the third day (John 1:12; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Because of His love for us (John 3:16), God has made it very simple for a person to become a Christian, a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. All that is necessary is for you to turn away from your sins (the Bible calls this repentance) and by faith turn to Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord of your life, fully accepting His death on the cross and the shedding of His blood as the perfectly sufficient sacrifice for your sins (Acts 16:31).
Being a Christian
Becoming a Christian is not all about rituals, going to church, doing or refraining from certain things but about having a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, the only way to God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Acts 4:12; John 14:6). A true Christian is a child of God, who can have absolute confidence in their sins being forgiven, peace with God and eternal life as a present possession (John 1:12, Romans 5:1, John 10:28-29).