What is a Christian?
Dr. Ray PritchardDr. Ray Pritchard is the president of Keep Believing Ministries, in Internet-based ministry serving Christians in 225 countries. He is the author of 29 books, including Stealth Attack, Fire and Rain, Credo, The ABCs of Christmas, The Healing Power of Forgiveness, An Anchor for the Soul and Why Did This Happen to Me? Ray and Marlene, his wife of 43 years, have three sons-Josh, Mark and Nick, three daughters-in-law--Leah, Vanessa, and Sarah, and seven grandchildren. His hobbies include biking, surfing the Internet, and anything related to the Civil War.
- 2007 May 20
Last Sunday I preached at Calvary Baptist Church in Tupelo on What is a Christian? I actually started thinking about the topic when Al Sharpton stirred up a theological kerfuffle during a debate with atheist Christopher Hitchens. During one exchange he said something that seemed to imply that Mormons don’t believe in God, a riposte that led Mitt Romney to denounce the statement as bigoted. Sharpton said his words had been taken out of context. And that led CNN to air a program called “What is a Christian?”
As I began to investigate the question, I found it fascinating from every angle–historical, cultural and biblical. As you get into it, you realize that there is no agreed-upon definition of what a Christian is or who is a Christian. And the New Testament doesn’t answer it directly because “Christian” is a term that was originally given by outsiders to the followers of Christ. They meant it in a derisive way–as an insult or a put-down. The earliest Christians didn’t call themselves Christians. They preferred other names, such as believers, brethren, disciples or saints. It was only with the passage of time that “Christian” moved from a derogatory term to a self-chosen designation for the followers of Jesus of Nazareth.
So what is a Christian? I decided that it is easier to describe than to define. Thus I chose a very early passage from the Apostle Paul (ca. AD 50-51) where he explains how the former idol-worshipers at Thessalonica had become true followers of Jesus. Here are the five truths I drew from the passage:
1) A Christian is someone who has been chosen by God.
2) A Christian is someone who responds to the gospel message.
3) A Christian is someone who regards Christ as infinitely more valuable than earthly suffering.
4) A Christian is someone whose life has been genuinely changed by Jesus Christ.
5) A Christian is someone who has gone “all in” on Jesus.
I also talk about the recent massacre of three Christian workers in Turkey, a question asked by a troubled woman during a TV interview, and a letter I received from a 19-year-old in an Arizona jail.
You can read the entire sermon here. I hope this message starts you thinking. How would you answer the question, “What is a Christian?”
(As always, your comments are most welcome. Click here to give your thoughts and your answer to the question.)