Which came first, the Christian or the Disciple?


You know the question that is asked, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”  Of course, if you read Genesis 1 the answer is the chicken.  Now I know that still may evoke some disagreement.  But have you ever asked, which came first the Christian or the disciple?  We use those two terms, but is their one that is primary?

Look at, Acts 11:26 “… And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”

Reading this last week made me think about how we’ve turned things around.

The early believers were first and foremost disciples of Jesus. This means they were learners and followers of Christ. The process seemed to be repentance, faith, baptism, and obedience. The heard and followed the commands of Christ. When others saw their lifestyle of commitment to Christ, they were branded with the nickname of “Christian.”

In the typical American-Evangelical church, we turn this around. We call people Christians (converts) and we hope they will grow into disciples (followers). This sounds like a slight deviation, but I think the implications are huge.

1. We eliminate the necessity of following Christ from our definition of faith.

Jesus said the one who loves Him is the one who obeys Him.

2. We give people a false sense of security by branding them with a name that may not represent their true devotion.

Some will come to Him and say, “Lord, Lord…” That doesn’t mean they know Him.

3. We make faith about adherence to a set of beliefs rather than loyalty to the Lordship of Christ.

Remember even the demons “believe in God and shudder.”

4. We perpetuate the myth that one little prayer, walking the aisle, or being dunked in water is the essence of being saved.

Jesus announced the Kingdom of God and then called, “come, follow me.”

I think it is time the church turn the order around again. Let’s make disciples. As people see that we are learning to walk the Jesus way, they will call us Christians. And it will be a badge of honor.

Here’s a challenge. Don’t use the title “Christian” for yourself until or unless someone, looking at your values, your obedience and your devotion to Christ, would call you that name. Be a disciple first.

Which term in more meaningful to you?  Why?

One thought on “Which came first, the Christian or the Disciple?

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