Christian: Of Christ
The word Christian indicates that something originated with Christ or exists within Him, and the Bible teaches us what things are truly of Christ.
The church is of Christ. Jesus said, “I will build My church.” (Matthew 16:18) Clearly, the church originated with Christ and could not exist without Him for the church was purchased with His blood. (Acts 20:28)
Disciples are of Christ. We are born of God (1 Peter 1:3). Those who have been baptized are described as being baptized into Christ and belonging to Christ (Galatians 3:26-29). In the city of of Antioch, disciples began to be called Christians (Acts 11:26). Truly, disciples of Jesus have been born anew and exist as new creations within His spiritual body.
The apostles are of Christ. Jesus told His apostles, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26) Later He said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses of Me.” (Acts 1:8) In one of Jesus’ final recorded prayers, He refers to the apostles as the men whom the Father had given to Him out of the world (John 17:6). The apostles were given to Jesus by the Father. They spoke His words by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and they were witnesses to Him. Thus, they were of Christ.
Marriage is of Christ. When the Jews questioned Jesus about marriage and divorce He reminded them of its heavenly origin. “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6) Since marriage is a heavenly institution and Jesus has all authority (Matthew 28:18), we conclude that marriages today can only be legitimized by His teachings. Thus, we conclude that marriage is of Christ.
There can be no such thing as a Christian organization. For any organization to be considered Christian, we would have to have an example from the teachings of Christ or His apostles describing the organization in question. The fact that Christians may operate an organization does not make it of Christ.
This is the issue that is raised by those who object to the creation of man-made institutions such as missionary societies and orphan’s homes. In the Bible, we never read about Christians or churches creating new institutions separate from the church to do the work of the church. We do read, however, that the church is complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10), and that the Scriptures equip believers for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
Missionary societies and orphan’s homes in the past have clearly expressed their intentions to do the work of the church, and whether they intended to or not, these organizations put themselves in positions of oversight over local churches. They were taking money from the churches to do the work of the churches, but they were not churches. What were they then? Christian organizations? If they were Christian organizations this would mean that they originated with Christ or existed within Him. Why can we not read about such organizations in the Scriptures? Christians have the right to run their secular organizations according to their own wisdom, even if that involves making faith a part of their model. However, including faith in a business model does not make any man-made organization of Christ.
America cannot be a Christian nation. I consider myself a patriot, and I love America and the freedom that she affords - but is she of Christ? While Christians may agree with many of the principles of the Constitution, is it of Christ? The only way the Constitution could be considered Christian is if it originated with Christ or His apostles. Even if the Constitution were written by Christians, that would only make it of Christians. If it could ever come to pass that a Christian were elected president, would that make America of Christ? America is one of the greatest countries this world has ever known, and she is without question the greatest nation currently in existence. But her history, her politicians, and even her heroes apply only to the spectrum of things American.
Sometimes I fear that we are more zealous in debating American politics with our neighbors than we are in teaching them the gospel of Christ. I am not condemning an interest in politics. I am simply observing that if our neighbors were converted to Christ it would go a long way in helping us to see eye to eye politically. This is because our view of the world and our basis for morality would now be the same. Let’s remember that this world is not our home: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20)
It may be significant to consider that the word Christian is never even used in the Scriptures as an adjective. It is always used as a noun to identify people who are disciples of Christ (Acts 11:26, 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). It is not necessarily wrong to describe a thing that is truly of Christ as being Christian. However, if we will try to be careful to use the word Christian in the same way that the Bible uses that word, it may go a long way in eliminating a lot of confusing ideas about which things the servants of Jesus Christ are to be seeking, first and foremost (Matthew 6:33).
All quotations from the New King James Version, copyright 1994, Thomas Nelson, Inc.