TITLE: Who is a Christian? 5/26/16
By Rachel Jamerson
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Without thinking we attach meanings to words simply because that is what they have always meant to us. In so doing we often send or receive the wrong message. For in truth the definition of any term comes from the acquired knowledge of the individual who is using it.
As our society evolves new terms are introduced and some old terms acquire new definitions. In my day we used a kitchen utensil we called an ‘egg turner.’ To us it was a flat surface attached to a long handle which was used to turn the eggs over when frying. Of course the proper term is spatula. We viewed someone called a Christian as an individual who was good. Other religious organizations may define Christian as someone who holds to certain doctrines that are not supported by theirs. Still others may consider someone who has been baptized, or embraces the Christian teaching… as a Christian.
As stated before, at first it was a derogative term used to identify what the people saw as a new religious sect. One that had separated from an established religion and was viewed by others as extreme or dangerous. Over the centuries it has meant many things to many people. Remember it is an identifying label applied to many different areas by many differently thinking individuals. It by no means exclusivity identifies a person who is going to heaven.
If you are reading someone else’s writing and applying your own definition to their words… they could be speaking a different language. If the information is important to you, seek out the meaning applied by the original author. In study of the scriptures use resources that use the language in which it was written along with the definition determined by that language.
What does the term mean to you? To me it identifies someone who believes that Yeshua (Jesus Christ) is the son of God and that He gave His life to redeem mankind. It is for this reason I use the term believer instead of Christian… in most instances. This particular word could more readily associated with one who believes in the deity of Christ which is required for salvation.
Personally I believe there are many accepted terms which are interpreted incorrectly. Thereby leading to the wrong conclusion as to what is being discussed. One example is the word church. Over the years it has been viewed my most as a place where religious people meet to practice their religion. Many, even those in leadership, often see the church as an organization operated much like a business.
Any organization requires three things to operate, money a product and a market.
Basically the organization has a product they want to sell… in the market place… in order to generate the necessary funds to keep the organization operating. The priority is placed on money and everything is focused on one goal…increasing income.
Organizations also operate with a hierarchical system. From the standpoint of order and expediency, this works well. However, usually the power and authority of individuals in leadership lead to the sin of pride. This problem develops especially for those who enjoy a long period in office and/or experience great success. Such power over others lends itself to self-promotion and a feeling of superiority. This not only leads to problems within the organization, but if allowed to continue unchecked will lead to self-destruction.
The church however was never intended to be operated as a business. The word translated as church in scripture means a called out assembly. Actually it is not a place or an organization but the body of Christ. Made up of those individuals who have responded to the invitation of the Holy Spirit and placed their faith in Christ. The body of Christ is made up of believers from across the globe and throughout the centuries that have chosen to believe and follow the teaching of Christ.
When an assembly chooses to operate as an organization chaos ensues. The hierarchy is made up of pastors, deacons, superintendents, directors, overseers, and any who exercise authority over the people. The hierarchy develops governing documents such as a constitution, requirements for membership, bylaws, curriculum, and qualifications for leadership. In most churches the exercise of spiritual gifts is also governed. Instead of freedom in Christ church membership has led to bondage in many cases.
One very important fact that has been discarded is… the believers are the body of Christ and He is the head. He through the Holy Spirit directs the members of His body. The only authentic governing document is the Holy Scriptures. God’s direction, correction, teaching and leading all come from His Word directly to the individual believer. Anything else is corrupted by man.
Scripture in some instances delegates authority for the purpose of assisting other individuals in the assembly. The important thing to remember is that all authority comes from God and only He has the right to delegate. Those who have been delegated authority and use it to manipulate instead of lead, are in danger of God’s judgement.
Authority is more correctly interpreted as responsibility. God has supernaturally gifted certain people in certain areas to assist one another in maturing in the knowledge of God. These gifts carry with them the responsibility to use them to edify others in the body and for no other reason. They were not intended to set one above the other in superiority, or give one individual power over another. Members of the body have been given spiritual gifts to empower them to serve one another. No one gift is more important than the others and all are to be administered in love.
In the OT God raised up prophets to warn the people of what was going to happen in the future. After the scriptures were in the hands of believers those with the gift of prophecy warned people of coming events through a more in-depth understanding of the scriptures.
The Greek and Hebrew words translated as pastor pointed to a shepherd in the original. As stated in Bible Study Tools, “the tasks of a Near Eastern shepherd were: - to watch for enemies trying to attack the sheep - to defend the sheep from attackers - to heal the wounded and sick sheep - to find and save lost or trapped sheep - to love them, sharing their lives and so earning their trust.” What a great definition for pastors… sadly not many take the meaning from the original manuscripts.
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