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Bible Insights

Who Are We to Judge? We May Have It Backwards

Though the Bible Tells Us to Judge, Who We’re Supposed to Judge May Shock You

When Paul writes to his friends in Corinth, he has much to say because they struggle with many things, including judging others. He spends a whole chapter in his first letter addressing sin within their assembly: sexual sin, specifically incest.

In reading between the lines, it seems the people involved think God’s grace gives them the freedom to pursue this lifestyle, to live as they wish, while the rest of the church remains quiet on the issue.

Judge Ourselves

Paul is concerned one bad example will infect others and embolden them to go wild as well. As the saying goes, “one bad apple spoils the whole barrel,” though Paul’s first-century version says a little bit of yeast affects the whole batch of dough.

He tells them how to deal with this issue and the perpetrators. Though he expects them to assess the situation and take action, he places limits on the scope of their role of judging others.

The world fails to see the love of Jesus, because his followers fail to show the world his love. Click To Tweet

Not Judging Others

Specifically, he says not to worry about those on the outside, that God will deal with them. Instead, they need to worry about the people within their group, that self-policing is in order. Paul reminds them that they should judge folks within the church but they have no business judging others, the people in the world.

Much of today’s church has this backward. We delight in pointing a condemning finger at the actions of the world, all the while ignoring the behavior within our own community.

It’s no wonder the world thinks the church is comprised of close-minded, judgmental, hypocrites—because it is.

It’s no wonder the world fails to see the love of Jesus, because his followers fail to show the world his love. Instead, they show judgment, mean, hateful judgment.

Though we need to judge ourselves, we have no business judging others in the world in which we live. So stop it.

[Read through the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 5-7, and today’s post is on 1 Corinthians 5:12-13.]

Read more in Peter’s book, Love is Patient (book 7 in the Dear Theophilus series).

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Are You a Member of the Body of Christ?

Discover What the Bible Says about Being a Member

The word member appears throughout the Bible showing up eighteen times in the Old Testament and nineteen times in the New. A common convention in studying the Bible is to let earlier uses of a word inform our understanding of later occurrences.

Here is how the word member (usually it’s plural, as in members) is used in the Bible.

These occurrences—especially the initial ones—are in reference to being a member through birth, such as being borne into a family, clan, or nation (20 times). In other instances it’s a choice to join a religious faction or political movement (9 times).

A Member of Jesus’s One Body

The final use is being a member of the body, such as the body, one body, or Christ’s body (eight times in seven passages).

Paul writes that in Jesus we are one body in Christ with the members belonging to each other (Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 6:15, and Colossians 3:15).

The final four occurrences all show up in the book of Ephesians, where Paul addresses this idea of being members of one body.

He says we’re fellow citizens with all God’s people and members of his household (Ephesians 2:19). Through the good news of Jesus, both Gentiles and Jews are members of one body (Ephesians 3:6). We are members of one body (Ephesians 4:25) and are all members of Jesus’s body (Ephesians 5:29-30).

These verses about being members of one body—Jesus’s body—all refer to the universal, global church.

We’re not supposed to join a church. We join with Jesus as a member of his one family. Click To Tweet

Biblical Membership

How do we become members of the one body of Christ?

Just as people in the Bible were a member of a family, clan, or Jewish community (nation) through birth when they were born, we become members of Jesus’s family when we become born-again. Our rebirth through Jesus automatically joins us as members of one body with him.

Though many churches carry the idea of membership, either directly or indirectly, the Bible doesn’t tell us to become a member of a local church or denomination. Instead, we become a member of Jesus’s church as soon as we follow him.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Do You Know You Are a Priest?

As Followers of Jesus We Become His Priests. It’s Time to Start Acting Like It

Aside from sharing my first name, I like Peter in the Bible. His concise writing packs a lot of practical teaching into his two short letters. He writes to those who follow Jesus. He talks about us being priests.

Peter describes us in four ways: as “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” and “God’s special possession,” (1 Peter 2:9). While all four labels pack much value, I particularly like the idea of priesthood.

In the Old Testament, only select people could become priests. Priests had to come from the tribe of Levi, which ruled out everyone from the other eleven tribes.

In addition, they had to be a descendant of Aaron; this eliminated most of the rest of the tribe of Levi. Plus they had to be male, thus removing all women from consideration. Last they couldn’t serve until they turned twenty-five, making younger men have to wait.

That was quite restrictive. Either someone was in or not. There were no exceptions. Jesus changes all of that.

Under Jesus, spiritual service is not limited to a select few born under the right conditions or possessing certain credentials. In Jesus’s church the door to priesthood is thrown wide open. We are all eligible to be priests. In fact we are all priests by virtue of being his followers.

Under Jesus the priesthood becomes something we all should embrace as our calling. Click To Tweet

As priests we minister to each other and shouldn’t expect someone else to do the job for us. As priests we don’t need special clergy to serve as our liaison to God; we can approach God directly. Under Jesus the priesthood as a special ordained position becomes obsolete.

Instead the priesthood becomes normal, something we all should embrace as our calling.

Today’s paid ministers and pastors are an extension of the Old Testament priesthood, something Jesus effectively eliminates when he fulfills the Law of Moses. It’s time we start acting like his priests and stop expecting the clergy to do our jobs for us.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is 1 Peter 1-3, and today’s post is on 1 Peter 2:9.]

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

What Are the End Times?

Discover What the Bible Says about the End of Time

Some Christians give a lot of attention to the end times. Others choose to ignore it. Interestingly, the phrase end times doesn’t appear in the Bible, at least not in the NIV. Though four subheadings, added later, do carry this phrase.

The End Times

These passages about the end times are Daniel 12, Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21:5-36. Surprisingly, John’s epic end-time prophecy in the book of Revelation doesn’t mention that phrase. This is despite containing most of the Bible’s text about the subject.

What does the end times refer to? We might think of it as the judgment day or Armageddon. Other understandings are the end of the world, the day of reckoning, or the Apocalypse.

The end time is nothing to dread for those who follow Jesus. Click To Tweet

The End of Time

If these things are the end of time, what happens after it? Do all things, including us, cease to exist?

This might be a logical conclusion, but it’s the wrong one.

When God created our world and the cosmos that surrounds it, he also created time. Remember that scientists teach that time and space exist on a continuum. This means we can’t have one without the other. So, if God created space, he had to have created time along with it.

This means that the end of time doesn’t signal the end of everything, just the end of our temporal existence and the space that surrounds it. We will live on in the spiritual realm.

Revelation ends with a glorious look at a new heaven and a new earth, ushered in when time as we understand it ends. Eternity awaits.

Eternal Life

To those who reject Jesus and don’t accept his gift of eternal life (John 3:14-17), they’ll encounter an unpleasant outcome. They had the chance. And they’ll have more chances.

According to the book of Revelation they’ll have multiple opportunities to repent of their wrongdoing and follow Jesus. But many won’t. They’ll receive an eternal reward instead—eternal punishment. This is something to fear.

Yet to those who follow Jesus (Luke 9:23), whose names appear written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 13:8 and Revelation 21:27), the end time is nothing to dread. We are on the winning side, and good will prevail over evil. We’ll spend eternity with Jesus.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Is Christian a Noun or an Adjective?

Let’s Stop Using Christian as an Adjective

Do you call yourself a Christian? What does that word mean to you? What might it mean to others? Especially to those who aren’t part of our faith community? Let us consider if we should use Christian as a noun, Christian as an adjective, or Christian as something else.

Christian in the Bible

The word Christian does occur in Scripture, but not often.

Luke uses it twice in the book of Acts. He first confirms that the word popped up in Antioch (Acts 11:26). It was a label given to those who follow Jesus, that is, the Christ (the Messiah). Later King Agrippa uses it when talking to Paul at his trial (Acts 26:28).

Peter is the only other biblical writer who uses the word, Christian. He writes about those who suffer for their faith as followers of Jesus. He encourages them to not be ashamed but to praise God (1 Peter 4:16). Implicitly, when our walk with Jesus aligns so closely with him, that we face attack, this persecution, in effect, confirms our faith. Although unwanted, this opposition becomes a praiseworthy event.

Noun Versus Adjective

In each of these cases, the writers use Christian as a noun. This is an appropriate convention for us to follow. However, we often encounter this word misused as an adjective: as in Christian music, Christian movie, Christian business, Christian community, and Christian book, to name a few common usages. And singer Steve Taylor facetiously sang a song that mentioned a Christian cow. This jest certainly shows the absurdity of employing Christian as an adjective

Although the dictionary now permits using Christian as an adjective—no doubt prompted because of its common misuse—we must remind ourselves that this usage isn’t a biblical application for the word. Rob Bell writes that “Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective” (Velvet Elvis, page 84).

Yet even as a noun, Christian means different things to different people. Because of that it’s a label packed with misunderstanding. For this reason, I personally don’t like the tag of Christian, and I try to minimize using it. I prefer calling myself a follower of Jesus, or if I’m being overly confident, a disciple of Jesus. Yet to avoid confusing my audience, I sometimes resort to saying that I’m a Christian.

As an author who often writes books for the Christian market—that is, for followers of Jesus—I’m often confronted with the need to use Christian as an adjective for the sake of clarity. This results in admitting that I am a Christian author and that I write Christian books. (More correctly, I am an author who is a Christian—that is, I follow Jesus. And my books are for other Christians—that is, other followers of Jesus.) My attempts to explain these two truths without using the word Christian, only confuses people and leads them to make wrong assumptions about me and the topics I cover.

Would we benefit by thinking of Christian as a verb? Click To Tweet

Should Christian be a Verb?

I, along with many others, have advocated that love is a verb. That is, love isn’t how we feel or think; it’s how we act. We show our love by what we do.

I wonder if we would likewise benefit by thinking of Christian as a verb. Yes, being a Christian is about belief and faith, but if we don’t put our faith into action, what good is it? Can we have a true faith without doing good (James 2:14-19)?

Moving Forward as Christians

I encourage you to embrace Christian as a noun, stop using it as an adjective, and explore how you can turn it into a verb. This may be the most effective witness we can offer.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Jesus Talked about the Kingdom of God and We Made a Church

What if Jesus Never Intended His Followers to Form a Church as we Know it Today?

I looked at where the Bible talks about the kingdom of God and where it talks about church. What I learned is shocking. Jesus teaches about the kingdom of God, not church.

These are New Testament Considerations

Both the church and the kingdom of God (along with the kingdom of Heaven) are New Testament concepts. None of these terms occur in the Old Testament. Since Jesus comes to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17), the kingdom of God must be one way he intends to do so.

Jesus Teaches about the Kingdom of God, not Church

Jesus talks much about the kingdom of God (Heaven) and little about the church: fifty-four times versus three. Clearly Jesus focuses his teaching on the kingdom of God. If the kingdom of God is so important to Jesus, it should be important to us as well.

If the kingdom of God was so important to Jesus, it should be important to us, too. Click To Tweet

A Change Occurs in Acts

A transition of emphasis happens in the book of Acts, with twenty-one mentions of church and only six mentions of the kingdom of God. Early on Jesus’s followers shift their focus from the kingdom of God to the church.

This is logical because a church is a tangible result while the kingdom of God is a more ethereal concept. But just because this is a logical shift, that doesn’t make it right.

Jesus’s Followers Focus on Church

The rest of the New Testament (Romans through Revelation) emphasizes church over the kingdom of God: ninety times versus eight.

Even though the early followers of Jesus favor the practice of church over the concept of the kingdom of God, the fact remains that their practice of church then is far different from ours today.

Today’s church should push aside her traditions and practices to replace them with what Jesus teaches about the kingdom of God. It will change everything.

(Here’s the background:

The word church occurs 114 times in the Bible, all in the New Testament. Of the four accounts of Jesus, church only occurs in Matthew and then just three times. Acts, the book about the early church, mentions church twenty-one times.

The word church occurs in the majority of the rest of the New Testament books (fifteen of them).

Instead of church, Jesus talks about the kingdom of God. The phrase, kingdom of God, occurs sixty-eight times in the Bible, again, all in the New Testament.

The majority of occurrences are in the four biographies of Jesus, accounting for fifty-four of its sixty-eight appearances. Acts mentions the kingdom of God six times, with only eight occurrences popping up in the rest of the New Testament.

Matthew generally writes using the kingdom of Heaven instead of the kingdom of God. He uses kingdom of Heaven thirty-one times and is the only writer in the Bible to use this phrase.

By comparing parallel passages in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we see the same account with the only difference being that Matthew writes kingdom of Heaven whereas Mark and Luke use kingdom of God.

Clearly Matthew, the only biblical writer to use kingdom of Heaven, equates it to kingdom of God. Additionally Matthew uses the kingdom of God five times.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

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Bible Insights

The Bible Gives Us Eight Things to Think About

As Followers of Jesus We Must Focus Our Attention

Paul encourages the church in Philippi to focus their thoughts (Philippians 4:8). We should do this too. But what should we think about? Fortunately, Paul gives us a list. We are to pursue these ideas.

Think about Whatever is True

First, we should dwell on the truth. This refers to God’s truth as opposed to the world’s lies. As a source for what is true, let’s start with the Bible.

Think about Whatever is Noble

Next, we should celebrate what is honorable, upholding moral values and not letting immorality sway us. We should push aside the world’s anything-goes mentality to embrace God’s call to right living.

Think about Whatever is Right

Third, we are to acknowledge all that has merit. This means shoving aside everything that lacks value, which pulls us away from God’s call to righteous living.

Think about Whatever is Pure

Next, Paul encourages us to fixate on what is wholesome. While the world dwells on what is impure—often celebrating it—we shouldn’t sink to their level. Instead we should claim clean thoughts. We celebrate purity and refused to let immorality drag us down.

Think about Whatever is Lovely

Fifth, we can reflect on what is beautiful. By dwelling on the attractive elements in this place God created for us to live in, we tune out the opposite. By doing so we honor God—and his lovely creation.

Think about Whatever is Admirable

Next, Paul’s passage directs us to consider what is laudable. From God comes the commendable. As we pursue admirable thoughts, we push aside the interruptions and distractions of our world.

Think about Whatever is Excellent or Praiseworthy

Last, we are to deliberate on all that is exceptional and worthy of praise. This pushes aside considerations of what is less than ideal. It saves us from distractions of what doesn’t warrant our attention.

Thinking only God-honoring thoughts isn’t a once-and-done endeavor but a lifelong pursuit. Click To Tweet

Moving Forward

As we follow Paul’s instructions and contemplate on these God-honoring ideas, we focus our attention on what is worthwhile. To do this we start by holding every thought captive to render it obedient to Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Thinking only God-honoring thoughts isn’t a once-and-done endeavor but a lifelong pursuit. We may never fully realize complete success in this area, but each step we take to achieve it is a step toward the life God calls us to—a life worthy of Jesus and all that he’s done for us.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

They’ll Know We’re Christians By Our Love

Followers of Jesus Should Carefully Consider the Message We Send to the World

A song from my youth carries the title, which repeats in the chorus, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” If you’re not familiar with this song, check out the lyrics or watch a video.

Though not the style of music I listened to then or prefer now, the haunting melody drew me in and served as a bridge to connect my growing, yet questioning, faith with the 60s Jesus movement, for which I was born a bit too late. Christian love became my focus in all that I did.

Christian Love

This phrase, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love,” became my anthem then and persists today as a key guiding principle for life and living. In Paul’s popular teaching on love in 1 Corinthians 13, he ends by saying that three things will last forever, faith, hope, and love.

In this trio, love stands above the other two. That means, love is the greatest thing (1 Corinthians 13:13).

The biblical basis for this song’s title and chorus is perhaps John 13:35, where Jesus says to his disciples that everyone will know they follow him if they love each other.

That is, “They’ll know you’re my followers by your love.” Of course, the Bible has many other verses about love and the importance of loving one another.

When we truly love one another, we point people to Jesus. Isn’t that our purpose?

Christianity Unity

A secondary theme in this song is unity, specifically Christian unity. It says we are one in the Holy Spirit and one through Jesus. It also prays for the restoration of unity and ends with an acknowledgment that the Holy Spirit unites us.

Jesus echoes this need for unity. In his final prayer before his execution, he asks his father that all his followers—both present and future—will be one—that is, united—just as he and Papa are (John 17:21). Christian unity then, is another trait that points people to Jesus.

We must pursue Christian love and unity, Click To Tweet

Christian Love and Unity

Sadly, our world today does not celebrate Christianity for our love or our unity. Instead too often society views Christians as purveyors of hate and the cause of division. Our 42,000 Protestant denominations prove that we can’t get along and don’t care about unity.

The world hears these messages and rejects Jesus because of them—because of us.

Instead we must pursue Christian love and unity. And not just for the sake of love and unity, but for the sake of pointing people to Jesus. May the world know we are Christians because we love one another, and may they know we are Christians because we all get along.

If we can master Christian love and unity, everything else will fall into place.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Should Christians Follow Jesus, Be His Disciple, or Go as a Missionary?

We Must Choose Labels with Care for They Reflect Our Identity and Our Theology

By definition I am a Christian, but I’ve always shied away from that word. It means different things to different people, not all of which are positive. For too many, Christian is a negative label implying narrow minded, bigoted, or hate-filled people.

Since these things make me cringe and don’t describe me, I typically avoid saying or writing the word Christian. Instead I say I’m a follower of Jesus.

I could also say I’m a disciple of Jesus, but I’m wary of that for fear that I too often fall short. Others say that they’re missionaries for Jesus, which implies following him and being his disciple. But that label never clicked with me either.

What insight does the Bible give us about which label we should use?

Christian

Interestingly, the word Christian only appears three times in the Bible, twice in Acts and once in 1 Peter. People who know Greek tell me it means “little Christs.” It may have first been a derisive term (Acts 11:26 and Acts 26:28), which was later accepted by Jesus’s squad (1 Peter 4:16).

But the fact that the Bible rarely uses Christian is telling. I wonder if we should avoid it too, especially given how emotionally laden this word has become.

Follower of Jesus

In the Bible, the idea of following Jesus occurs a lot in its various forms. This includes, they “followed him” (27 times), “follow me” (22), “followed Jesus” (5), and “following Jesus” (2).

The command Jesus seems to give most often to people who approach him is to follow him. Though he sometimes says, “repent and follow me,” the idea of following implies a prior repentance. Think of repent as doing a U-turn; we must do a U-turn if we follow Jesus.

Disciple of Jesus

Disciple, which means an “active adherent” or “someone who embraces and spreads the teachings of another,” occurs in the Bible a lot. It occurs nearly three hundred times in the New Testament, all in the four biographies of Jesus and the book of Acts.

Disciple emerges as the preferred descriptive term in the Bible for those who follow Jesus, a.k.a. Christians. I suppose disciples refers to the early church, but church isn’t used nearly as often (114 times), mostly by Paul. Besides church is perhaps an even bigger misused and misunderstood term.

A disciple is someone who embraces and spreads the teachings of Jesus. Click To Tweet

Missionary of Jesus

In last week’s post on the Great Commission, which many see as a call to be a missionary, the word go emerges as the first action step. Missionary refers to someone who goes to persuade or convert others, but it doesn’t appear in the Bible at all. It’s a word we added after the Bible was written.

I wonder if we should likewise avoid using it. That doesn’t mean being a missionary of Jesus isn’t biblical or is wrong, but it does imply it might be the wrong label.

Let’s go back to the definition of disciple. A disciple is someone who embraces and spreads the teachings of another person, in our case Jesus. This means that as a disciple, we are by default a missionary—or at least we should be.

Frankly, that makes me squirm a bit. It’s easy for me to be a missionary for Jesus in the words I write, but it’s a much more challenging task to be a missionary with the words I say, at least to those opposed to Jesus.

Conclusion: Be a Disciple of Jesus

Though we can call ourselves Christians or identify as part of the church, being a disciple of Jesus emerges as the most accurate, biblical, and appropriate label to use. Both following Jesus and being a missionary for Jesus are embedded in what it means to truly be a disciple of Jesus.

I’m going to start making that mental shift from being a follower of Jesus to being a disciple of Jesus. Will you join me in this journey? It could change everything.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Are You a Christian?

Discover What Label Best Describes Our Faith

Are you a Christian? Be careful before you answer. By definition I am a Christian, though I seldom use the Christian label. Why?

In my book How Big is Your Tent?, I write: “Christian is a loaded term. It means many things to different people. To some, Christian implies narrow-minded.

To others, Christian means hateful. Still others think Christian is a political party or secular movement. And what about mean, militant, murdering, manipulative, and money-mongering?” (page 32).

This explains why I don’t like the Christian label. Most non-Christians think negatively towards Christians. Though Jesus has a different goal in mind, that our love for others will create a positive impression, we’ve given the world many reasons to conclude the opposite.

Christian in the Bible

It’s interesting that the word Christian only appears three times in the Bible (four more if you count subheadings that aren’t part of the original text). The most notable is in Acts when Luke introduces the term as a new name for Jesus’s squad (Acts 11:26).

However, after what seems to emerge as a significant development, Luke only uses the term one more time, as does Peter. The word Christian doesn’t catch on in the Bible.

Obviously, Scripture doesn’t favor the Christian label. So what does it use?

Followers in the Bible

Instead of using the Christian label, I often say, “I’m a follower of Jesus.” One of the most common instructions Jesus gives people is to follow him. That’s what I’m doing. That’s why I’m a follower of Jesus.

The word follower appears twenty-four times in both the Old and New Testaments, but most references are to following someone else, such as Korah, Abimelek, David, and Omri in the Old Testament, as well as Paul and Judas (not the disciple) in the New Testament. And, of course, we can follow Jesus.

The Way in the Bible

The Way is another label the Bible uses to refer to the group of people who align with Jesus. Though intriguing, it only occurs twice in the Bible, both in the book of Acts.

Believers in the Bible

Making one appearance in the Old Testament, the word believer occurs fifty-nine times in the New Testament, half of them in the book of Acts, but it only shows up three times in the Gospels, all in the book of John.

Though I’m tempted to call myself a believer, I shy away from this label because of what James writes. He says that even the demons believe in God—and shutter (James 2:19). This tells me that believing isn’t enough.

If we say we’re with Jesus, we need to start acting like it. Click To Tweet

Disciples in the Bible

Another intriguing label is disciple. With the exception of twice in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, the word disciple pops up almost 300 times in the New Testament, all in the biographies of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and the book of Acts.

Some references specifically address the twelve disciples and a few others to John the Baptist’s disciples, but most are to the larger group of Jesus’s disciples.

It’s one thing to follow Jesus: to make a U-turn in our life and go all in for him. However, being his disciple implies an even greater level of commitment. Though I like to think of myself as a disciple of Jesus, it’s a weighty claim. I question if I live up to it, despite striving to do that exact thing.

But the Label Doesn’t Matter

However, whether we call ourselves a Christian, a follower of Jesus, a follower of The Way, a believer in Jesus, or a disciple of Jesus, it doesn’t matter.

Until we change our behavior and love others as Jesus tells us to, the world will still think less of us and have a negative impression of our faith, along with the God we claim to serve.

If we say we’re with Jesus, we need to start acting like it. Then our faith label won’t so much matter.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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