Christian is used in various ways which are not according to the Word of Truth. It is applied to countries, homes, clubs, camps, and denominations. Do we have a correct conception of the term by using it in this fashion? We do not. To whom then do we have to make the application? We shall see in a moment, but first some primary observation:
1. The name Christian is a name in which there is no shame, rather through which we glorify God, I Pet 4:16. I would conclude from this simple statement if we should lower this name by exalting another, whatever the name may be would not be glorifying to God.
2. To wear the name means to “have a just claim” (right) to it, reminding us of when or at what point one becomes a Christian. Those taught (discipled) by Christ, believe in His Sonship, repent of sins, confess their faith, and are baptized into His Body, Mt 28:19, Mk 16:16, Lk 24:46, Acts 8:37, Acts 2:41. Members of the church can and are referred to as “Christians” Acts 11:26.
Some failing to understand or apply these facts apply the term to themselves or others in a sweeping fashion. When it comes to wearing the name of Christ Paul dealt with this truth as well, that is, who has a right or just claim to wearing the name of Christ. There was a problem at Corinth and in addressing it Paul wrote: “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”
These verses are often used (and I think rightly so) to condemn the practice of wearing human names, and obvious sign of religious division, the very thing Christ died to deliver men from. However, there is some positive truth presented as well. Since Paul (and the others mentioned except Christ) had not been crucified for men and it was not by his authority that they had been baptized they had not right to wear his name. Christ has died for them and they had been baptized in His name, so they had claim to wearing His name. Now, let’s look at this a little closer.
To wear Christ’s name two things must have taken place then and must take place now:
1. Christ must have been crucified for us.
2. We must be baptized in His name.
Relative to number 1, Christ has been crucified for us I Cor 15:1-4 . He died not for a few, nor a selected group, but for all men, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste of death for every man.” (Heb 2:9, see also I Jn 2:2 ). Every man then has a right to wear the name of Christ, as per this verse. NO THAT IS NOT TRUE! There is a second condition. We must be baptized in his name. This means by His authority, and we recognized not only at Corinth but in all places where the gospel was preached (Acts 2:38; 19:5; 22:16 etc.). If one is not baptized in the name of Christ he has no right to wear the name Christian.
There are a couple of things that should be said just here:
1. Baptism by the authority of Christ is for the “remission of sins.” It is not just to immerse one for other reasons, such as, because one’s sins have already been remitted, or because one has been baptized with the Holy Ghost, or for a dead relative, or to be a member of a denominational body. Baptism changes the relationship of the one immersed from an alien to a child, the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, the world to the church, from sin to salvation, Satan to Christ, from being a heathen to a Christian.
2. Those claiming to be a Christian are not to be accepted by Christians upon their mere claim. It amazes me that in legal matters if one should claim heirship without proof, without having complied with the conditions of the will, he would be laughed out of court, yet when one claims to be a citizen of the kingdom some brethren want to accept into fellowship when they have not been baptized for the remission of sins. No, it goes further, some wish to extend fellowship to some who deny the purpose of baptism. Paul says we must comply or we cannot rightly wear the name of Christ.
Published in the December 1, 1986 issue of the OPA.