What’s In A Name
by Impact Church
1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? 19 Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. 1 Peter 4:12-19
Over the last few years, there has been a move from certain national church leaders to distance themselves and their congregations from the word “Christian”. Most of the desire to drop the use of the term was to distance the church from the bad behavior of “Christians” in the media and politics. The alternative most preferred is to be called a “disciple of Jesus”, which means “follower of Jesus”. The move is also bolstered by noting that in Acts 11:26, it was those outside the church that supposedly coined the term: “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” And in Acts 26:28, the unbelieving Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.”
In the simplest of definitions, “Christian” (from the Greek word, Χριστιανός – Christianos) actually means “Christ ones” or “followers of Christ”, which is the same as “Christ’s disciple”. The church leaders attempting to avoid the name of “Christian” are actually more interested in marketing to the world than teaching what the Bible actually teaches. One well-known preacher is actually attempting to rebrand the church away from the use of the word. The concern about avoiding calling oneself “Christian” is a market place concern rather than a biblical use of the word and its meaning in the Christian life, worship, and testimony to the world.
The third and last use of the word “Christian” is used not by an outsider or a Roman leader, but by the Apostle Peter. What he thinks about the name is important for people who value their Bible over the market place. Peter wrote to the Church in perilous times, calling them “the fiery ordeal, which comes upon you for your testing”. The testing is defined as: 1) a sharing in the sufferings of Christ (note Peter didn’t use the name “Jesus”); 2) a cause for rejoicing; 3) and an eventual revelation that will cause greater rejoicing.
Sharpening his focus on “the name of Christ” – once again not using the name “Jesus” – Peter in verse 14, is clear to say if you are reviled in that name, “Christ”, you are blessed. Why? Because “the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you”.
After ensuring that the sufferings the Christians were experiencing are NOT for any wrong they might have done (4:15), he says, “but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” Note: “glorify God in THIS NAME”! Peter teaches that suffering of Christians, those who go by that name and who claim that name, are actually glorifying God by that name. It was a lesson he learned from Jesus after He asked them who people thought He was. Peter is the one who said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. And it was that statement of faith upon which Jesus said He would build His church and that He would suffer and die for (Matthew 16:13-23). The name Christ meant everything to the Lord Jesus, to Peter, and to the Church.
In 1 Peter, Peter used the name “Jesus” 8 times. He used the name 8 times in 2 Peter. The name “Christ” he used 20 times in 1 Peter and 7 times in 2 Peter and each time it was joined as “Jesus Christ”. And once he used “Christian” as noted in 1 Peter 4:16. Why does Peter focus on the name “Christ” more than the name “Jesus” and why would he tie the name “Christian” to the glorification of God? A reading of Peter’s epistles reveals that the church was going through hard times and more difficulty was coming. The promised Jewish Messiah was going to come and put an end to the evil in the world one day. The church’s name for Messiah is “Christ” and those who are living through hard times and being called “Christian” were glorying God when they endured the sufferings. They were rejoicing in sharing in the sufferings of Christ. And they looked forward to the day when their “Christ” would reveal Himself and put an end to sin, evil, and death.
The church does not need a marketing campaign to make a better appeal to the world. The Church would do well to rejoice in being called “Christians” as the Bible teaches and in so doing the Church will glorify God.