The VISIBLE MARKS of a ‘TRUE’ CHRISTIAN: "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." (Acts 11:26)
Christianity is ranked as the largest religion in the world today with approximately 2 billion adherents, and 33% of the world's population is considered to be ‘Christian’. According to World Christian Encyclopedia (2001), there are approximately 38,000 Christian denominations in the world. Of the 2 billion Christians in the world today, 648 million (11% of the world's population) are ‘Evangelical’ Christians. Evangelicals have grown from only 3 million in AD 1500 to 648 million worldwide, with 54% being Non-Whites.
Today in America, about 75% of adults identify themselves as ‘Christian’, while there are more than 1500 different Christian faith groups in America. We need to probe a bit further, and get a clear understanding about who can be referred to as a ‘Christian’, and what are the visible marks of a ‘true’ Christian - strictly based from biblical standards only.
The name ‘Christian’ means ‘adherent to Christ’ or, ‘one who sticks to Christ’. From our biblical passage today, we can understand that the name ‘Christian’ was first given to the disciples in Antioch by others who noted their behavior being similar to that of their teacher Jesus Christ. There are two things that defined the early believers or followers of Christ:
- They talked and preached the gospel and the resurrection of Christ to others (v. 20) with the objective of witnessing to them based on the directive of Acts 1:8.
- They taught scriptures to the believers who assembled in the church (v. 26) with the intention of making them disciples based on the ‘Great Commission’ described in Matt. 28:19-20.
Even though the name ‘Christian’ was first directed at the followers of Jesus in scorn, these believers embraced this name as a badge of honor and as a mark of allegiance to Jesus. The question that we are facing today is: “Are we living lives that are worthy of the name ‘Christian’?” In order to truly identify ourselves with the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we should display love to one and all and reach out to them as acts of compassion. To unbelievers, we should witness and speak the gospel, to believers, we should disciple them by teaching them what Jesus has taught us already. We should impact others in both word and deeds as the disciples did to their neighbors in Antioch!
Let us truly obey the ‘new’ commandment that our Lord Jesus Christ has given us: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)