Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Saint Stephen Was Not a Christian

Stephen was a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5), and a man full of God’s grace and power who did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. (Acts 6:8) He is considered the first martyr of the New Testament.

But Stephen was not a Christian.

How can I say this?

This thought just came to me as I was reading further in Acts 11. It struck me that nobody was considered a Christian at the time of Stephen's death. It was some time later when some Greeks in Antioch came to believe and turned to the Lord. The label 'Christian' was first used in reference to these believers in Antioch. Stephen was following the way of Jesus, but he wouldn't have even heard of any Christians, let alone identified himself by this name.

There are some believers today that are rejecting or at least trying to avoid the label Christian. Some don't like all the religious and historical baggage that goes along with it. I understand in many cultures the term Christian invokes more negative feelings than simply talking about Jesus. There are times I try to avoid labels like Christian as well.  When the word Christian gets used, people may lump me together with all the other Christians they know - this could be good, and it could be bad, but it likely isn't very accurate.  There's a good chance I am not the same as any other Christian.  I'd much rather people get to know me and hopefully see the relationship I have with my Lord.

I also find it interesting that the disciples were "first called Christians" at Antioch. Christians did not come up with this title for themselves.

I guess we can't stop people from calling us what they want.

It would seem we don't need to call ourselves Christians to be disciples of Jesus.


Steve Martin said...

Christ Jesus is and has always been, and will always be, the Stumbling Block.

When you mention His name, the party is over and people abandon you, as they abandoned Him.

I use His name. And accept all that goes along with it.

Thanks, Jon.

Pat Hutton said...

good insight- did you hear the govt. prob. this week- how to protect missionaries overseas, and opposition from those who don't want people changing other's faiths? we need prayer..

Frank Prescott said...

Maybe when someone asks if I am a Christian, the answer should be "that is something for you to decide." Though I do not reject the term it was given because of their witness before the world. That is best summed up if we are showing love for one another. "by this all men will know that you are my disciples."

Jonathan said...

Thanks for the comments. I like your answer Frank "that is something for you to decide.". I don't think we need to reject the term either. It can be used well. I guess I'm just realizing we may not need to use it, we are free to be disciples without it, and in some situations that may be wise.

Frank said...

Excellent post.
The problem with the word "Christian" is that it is loaded with all the garbage that that particular hearer has gathered during his life. Therefore whilst you speak to him about Jesus, he will be subconsciously putting your words against a backdrop of all sorts of preconceived junk. If he has witnessed some of the hypocrisy of TV Christianity, or the sexual abuse by priests, such a backdrop may speak far louder than the words you speak.
For this reason, when I want to talk spiritual to someone, I prefer to use a whole different language to that of church. I would say such things as, "I believe that God has a plan for anyone who wants to listen to him". It rarely evokes a negative response, and usually leads to a continuing conversation. I never tell them they need to become a Christian as I know that whoever seeks to know God will find him anyway..