I asked the question, “Is the word Christian found in the Bible?” during the sermon a few weeks ago, and the answer I gave was, “Yes, two times.” I realized a couple days ago that my answer was wrong, and I should have checked my facts rather than relying solely on my memory. The word “Christian” is actually found three times in the Bible, not two. Two times in the book of Acts, and once in 1 Peter.
So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, 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. (Acts 11:25-26)
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’s interesting about all three of these occurrences is that the word “Christian” as a title or identifier doesn’t seem to be self-applied. Rather, it is non-Christians, unbelievers, people who do not follow Jesus, who are using the term to describe or identify Jesus’ disciples or followers.
The point I was making in the sermon was that the Apostle Paul never uses the term, at least in his letters that are included in the New Testament. For Paul, the essence or core of Christianity was “union with Christ” or to be “in Christ,” and this is evident in all of his letters, from Romans to Philemon. We’re currently working our way through Ephesians, and it’s clear that “union with Christ” is a major theme of that letter.
At some point in church history, Christians started using the term to describe themselves, and I’m not suggesting that we stop doing this, if that were even possible. The word “Christian” means “follower of Christ,” which is what we are, or should be. What I am suggesting is that we align our thinking with Paul and the New Testament, and start to think of our Christianity as being in union with Christ – Christ in us and we in Christ, as, for example, Paul wrote in Colossians 1:27 that “the riches of the glory of this mystery” is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”