A Question I Was Asked:

Why Aren't We Simply 'Believers'?

The Question:

The father of the faithful, Abraham, "believed" God many times. The Bible says we too are to be believers.... John 3:16 speaks of believers believing God: 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.'

Yet nowhere does the Bible call believers "Christian." Was It not the gentiles unbelievers who called believers "Christian"? Why are we not all BELIEVERS in God, having become members of the Church of God. Is Christianity leading us astray from the Bible by dropping the title "believers"?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Have we been led astray by dropping the name "believers" and calling ourselves "Christians"? No, I honestly don't think so.

Okay, let us look at your points, although it is only really one point. I think that we need to commence in Acts 11:

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 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 11:19-26).

So it was at Antioch that believers in the Christ were first called Christians. I quote a bigger section of Scripture here to show that there seems to be no real evidence that it was the "gentiles unbelievers" who first called believers "Christian" (although I don't rule that out). On the contrary, a careful reading of this Scripture reveals that a great and successful work of evangelism was being done among the Gentiles at Antioch. Yes, it is not impossible that it was a group of unbelievers who first categorized believers in the Lord Jesus in such a way, but does not everything in life get depicted or described in some way or other, especially as that thing grows and develops? So I see nothing odd or strange in that. But why were believers called Christians? It was to identify whom they worshipped! This naming is only evidence of a growing impact.

My questioner - whom I know is sincere - seems to feel that adopting the name "Christian" is somehow bad, but I cannot see it. Would simply "believers" be better? No, because people need to know who or what one believes in! Let us not forget Matthew 10:32:

'Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.'


'If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.' (Romans 10:9-10).

So Paul shows we must be prepared to confess Christ. Simply calling ourselves "believers" would tell people nothing about what we so passionately believe! We must clearly identify ourselves; after all, there are 'believers' in all kinds of things out there but the word 'Christian' specifically identifies us as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and accepting His claims as delivered in the New Testament.

Robin A. Brace. September 14th, 2013.