MIDWAY CHURCH OF CHRIST
BY: RUSSELL MCLAUGHLIN
BEING A CHRISTIAN
16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
1 Peter 4:16
“I’m a Christian, I wouldn’t do anything like that!” was the response of a used car salesman being accused of selling a defective used car to an unsuspecting customer. Then the television program showed a video clip of this same man laughing and bragging to his salesman buddies about how he had “dumped that pile of junk on an ignorant yoke!”
Why would this man choose a “Christian” front to attempt to hide his cruel deceit? Is it because even evil people recognize the inherent “goodness” in the teachings of Jesus Christ? Although many people, even some who consider themselves Christians, would make light of the Golden Rule and turning the other cheek, they are quick to see the protection afforded by the government founded on Christian principles.
Two members of the Jerusalem Church illustrate this importance, which Jesus attached to His teaching and the image of His Church. In Acts 6, we read about Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, conspiring to represent their monetary offering to God and the Church as total proceeds from the sale of some property. Apparently, they wanted the praise and recognition others had received for such generosity, but their greed caused them to keep a part for themselves. But when they lied to the apostle Peter about it, he said, “You have lied to God” and both of them fell down dead on the spot.
Why did God deal so severely with them? Luke’s account does not explain in detail, but he did observe that “great fear came upon all the Church, and upon as many as heard these things” Acts 5:11. Perhaps this was a crucial time for the Church when God saw an urgent need to reemphasize His authority and that of the apostles’ leadership, like He had done for Moses (Numbers 16).
So, who were Christians and what did God expect of them? According to Luke this term was first applied to the disciples in Antioch of Syria during the first year that Barnabas and Paul worked with the Church there. Luke writes in Acts 11:25-26, “25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So, for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” Although other people, (e.g., John the Baptist) had disciples, unless explicitly stated otherwise, in the books of Acts the term designates disciples of Jesus Christ – hence the term Christian.
The term Disciple “always implies personal adherence to the views of one’s master or teacher” according to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. The Greek word for disciple is mathētḗs (μαθητής), which generally means one who learns to think things through and follow the teachings of another: a pupil, learner, follower, disciple, apprentice, student, or scholar. In Luke 6:40 Jesus says, “The disciple is not above his master”. The gospel of John records these words which Jesus said to “31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31). In John 13:34-35 Jesus claims another characteristic of discipleship is love, “34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” Jesus gives the third mark of a disciple in John 15:8, “8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” This language, as well as the hundred of usages of the words in the first five books of the New Testament, makes it clear that disciples of Jesus believed and followed His teaching in their daily living. Jesus calls us to be disciples. He made it clear that we cannot be His disciples unless we deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily, and follow Him (Luke 9:23). A bird is at its best when it is flying in the air. A fish is at its best when it is swimming in water, and we are at our best when we are being like Jesus. Paul says, “For those God foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, to those called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:29) God wants us to be Christ-like Christians. Let us be true Disciples!!!