Bible Study: What does it mean to be a Christian

Who is a Christian?

Some claim there are 2.1 billion Christians in the world (about one third of the total population of the planet). “What is included among the definition of 'Christian' is not agreed upon by many of the groups involved” (Wiki). Much of this disagreement comes from misunderstanding the definition.

Whenever we want to understand the Bible, it is helpful to look at original word definitions since language is consantly changing (think about what the word "cool" means now...and 200 years ago). Looking up word meanings may seem kind of boring, but it is unavoidable if we want to grasp what the author was trying to say.

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me

Salvation | Christian | Bible Study | Facts

It is interesting that the word “Christian” is only found in the Bible a few times. When we look at the word origin we get the following: Christian comes from the Greek word Christianos and simply means “a follower of Christ”

The three verses that refer to “Christians” are:

Acts 11:26 “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.”

Acts 26:28 “Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?"

1 Peter 4:16
However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

The word “Christianity” isn’t found in the Bible at all. Just as a side note-- It's curious to me that we use this to describe ourselves and our faith.

There is another term that is similar to “Christian”—that word is disciple. There are two different words for disciple used in the New Testament: Matheteuo and Mathetes.

“Matheteuo” -- This word is used only 3 times in Matt.13:52, 27:57, and 28:19. It means to be a disciple of someone; to follow his precepts and instructions; to make disciples by teaching and instructing. We see this word used in a very familiar passage-- This passage has been called the “Great Commission”.

Matthew 28:19--"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

It is our instruction to go into the world and teach the nations to follow the precepts of God.

The other word for disciple,” Mathetes”, is used 246 times in the New Testament. Mathetes means to be a learner or pupil.

I think it is good to understand some of the nuances of each of these terms as it helps with our understanding of what it means to call ourselves “Christian”. It also may help those who don’t know Christ, understand what to expect from someone who claims to be “Christian”.

We are disciples of Christ.

How does Christ fit in to your religion? Some common answers:

  • He was a prophet
  • He was a good man
  • He was a disciple of God
  • He was a good teacher

Jesus asked his own followers who people thought he was. Here is the answer that Peter gave him:

Matthew 16:13-16--When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Jesus is “the Christ”. He is the Son of the living God. Christ, or “Christos”, the Messiah, the Son of God, the anointed one.

As Christians then-

  • We are to believe and acknowledge that Christ was who he claimed to be--Accept it (salvation).
  • We are to be pupils of Christ. We are to learn his ways and his teachings (disciples-Mathetes).
  • We are to be followers of Christ. We are to follow his ways in our own lives and teach others to follow them (disciples-Matheteuo).

This is the definition of what it means to be a Christian.

John 10:38B " that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father."

Acts 4:12
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

Acts 16:31
They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.

1 John 2:22, “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son.

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Comments 7 comments

Timely profile image

Timely 7 years ago from United States

Great Hub, it's alwasys interesting to find the many facets of truth and definition the Bible holds:)

Sciantel 7 years ago

What it has always meant to me is that I love the Lord and make Him my number one priority, to do the Father's Will. To live as the Bible describes all true Christians should do. You can say you are a Christian. That is a real simple thing to do, just as you can say, I know what pizza is. But unless you partake and eat pizza, and it becomes a personal favorite in your life, you cannot say you are a pizza eater,or a pizza lover. It is same way being a Christian. You must partake Jesus, every day,and love Him, so that they will know you are a true Christian. It is our responsibility to, or they will take it the wrong way and not see what a true Christian is all about.

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 7 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Yes that is why we are to follow his ways :)This doesn't "make us" a Christian, however. Many people believe and know about Jesus as an historical figure.They also may practice some of his teaching, but we become one with Him by faith and acceptance of who He is and why he came...that is the belief part. That begins the journey. Learning and following is part of our maturing on that journey. take a look at for more on that. Thanks for stopping by!! I appreciate it!

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

Thank you for laying it on the line. A Christian is a follower of the Christ—The Way, The Truth and The Life. Amen!

frogyfish profile image

frogyfish 6 years ago from Central United States of America

Very well put - documented. Thanks for sharing it so well.

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