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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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Bible Insights

3 Lessons from the Early Church

Dr. Luke Describes 3 Characteristics of the Acts 4 Church

The book of Acts unfolds as an historical narrative of the early church, the activities of the first followers of Jesus and those who join them. For the most part, Acts simply describes what happens, with little commentary and few instructions for proper conduct.

While we can look to Acts as a possible model for Christian community, we would be in error to treat it as a requirement for right behavior. In this way Acts can inform us today, but it doesn’t command us.

For example, if I wrote, “My church went to a baseball game after the service,” no one (I hope) would think I was saying that attending baseball games is prescriptive of Christian life. No. It was merely descriptive of what one church did one time. We would never build our theology on a statement like that.

So it is with the book of Acts. Yet we can learn from it. Luke writes three things about that church:

Christian Unity

The Acts 4 church is of one heart and mind, just as Jesus prayed that we would be one (John 17:21). Their actions are consistent with Jesus’s prayer. Jesus prayed it, and the early church does it; I hope unity describes every one and every congregation.

Community Minded

In the Acts 4 church, no one claims their possessions as their own. It isn’t my things and your things; it is our things. They have a group mentality and act in the community’s best interest. While we might do well to hold our possessions loosely, notice that this isn’t a command. They just do it out of love.

Willing to Share

Last, the Acts 4 church shares everything they have. Not some things, not half, but all. This would be a hard thing for many in our first-world churches to do today but not so much in third-world congregations.

Again, this isn’t a command (and later on Peter confirms that sharing resources is optional, Acts 5:4); it is just a practice that happens at this moment of time in the early church. 

These 3 characteristics of the early church should inspire us to think and behave differently. Click To Tweet

While these three characteristics should inspire us to think and behave differently, and can provide a model for our gatherings and interactions, we need to remember that the Bible gives us no commands to pursue a communal-type church.

We can, but it’s one option. Of the three only unity rises as an expectation because Jesus yearns for it to be so. That should give us plenty to do.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Acts 1-4 , and today’s post is on Acts 4:32.]

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

Read more about the book of Acts in Dear Theophilus, Acts: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church now available in e-book, 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

Bible Verses about Communion

Discover What Scripture Says About the Lord’s Supper

Last week we looked at the context of the Lord’s Supper, noting that Jesus based it on Passover, which is an annual event celebrated with family around a shared meal. Although Communion is a New Testament practice, only four books in the Bible have verses about it. These passages are in three of the four biographies of Jesus, as well as Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth.

Matthew and Mark Give an Account of the Lord’s Supper

The verses about Communion in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark are similar (Matthew 26:17-30 and Mark 14:12-26). Though some of the details that preceded Jesus’s instituting Communion differ, the instructions are the same. These provide the guide that most churches follow (more or less) when they celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Luke Gives an Expanded Practice

Luke’s account of Communion includes the same information provided by Matthew and Mark, along with one interesting additional detail. In his verses about Communion, Luke notes that Jesus’s reference to the cup occurs both before and after the meal. The first time is to give God thanks for it and to distribute it to the disciples. The second time is to remind them—and us—of the new covenant that Jesus began with his sacrificial death and resurrection (Luke 22:7-23).

Paul Gives Additional Teaching

Although Paul wrote many letters to various churches, only to the church in Corinth did he address the Lord’s Supper. This is because that church struggled with its practice of Communion. Paul wrote to them, seeking to reorient their procedure to focus on Jesus and not themselves.

The first of two relevant passages in Corinthians provides general instructions relating to food and drink, as well as idol worship and freedom through Jesus. We can connect these passages to the practice of Communion (1 Corinthians 10:14-33).

An Unworthy Manner

The second passage in Corinthians with verses about Communion is in the next chapter. It is specifically about how the Corinthian church abused this sacrament (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).

In this passage Paul reminds the Corinthian believers what Jesus taught his disciples about this practice. It’s a good reminder to get them—and us—back on track.

Tucked in the middle of this passage is a convicting verse warning about taking Communion in an “unworthy manner.” This gives any believer pause, for no one wants to be guilty of this sin.

Consider these verses about Communion. Let us apply what Scripture says to guide our remembrance of what Jesus did for us. Click To Tweet

To understand what Paul means by an unworthy manner, we must consider the context by looking at the abuses that Paul details. Specifically, the Corinthian church’s practice of Communion so diverged from Jesus’s intent, that Paul deemed it unworthy.

To correct this, they should examine themselves to make sure they are not part of the problem that Paul details.

Though our churches today often encourage us to examine ourselves before we partake in the Lord’s Supper, this is an overreach of what Paul taught to the Corinthian church.

He wanted them to examine themselves to make sure they were not getting drunk during their celebration of the Lord’s Supper. He also wanted them to make sure that everyone could equally participate and have something to eat, not leaving hungry.

These are the things that Paul tells them to examine. If this applies to us, we, too, should embark on some self-examination.

(Read more about Communion and breaking bread.)

Moving Forward

May we consider these verses about Communion when we practice the Lord’s Supper. Let us apply what Scripture says, and not our own traditions, to guide our remembrance of what Jesus did for us when he died for our sins and rose from the dead to make us right with Papa, the greatest gift ever given.

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Bible Insights

Aristarchus Suffers for His Faith

Learn More about Aristarchus

Another of Paul’s friends, mentioned in his letter to Philemon, is Aristarchus. We first hear of him in Acts. We learn that he is a Macedonian from Thessalonica who is traveling with Paul on one of his missionary journeys.

Later, when Paul is sent to Rome as a prisoner, faithful Aristarchus (along with Luke) travel with him. By his actions we see that Aristarchus is both loyal and supportive.

He is also esteemed by Paul as a fellow worker, as well as being mentioned as a fellow prisoner. Just like Epaphras, his assistance to Paul and service to God does not preclude him from suffering.

While righteous suffering for our faith is not a given, it should not be viewed as an anomaly either. Like many others, Aristarchus is afflicted for following Jesus and living a life of service to him.

If we suffer because of something foolish we said or did, that is not suffering for God, but suffering for our errors. Click To Tweet

If we do suffer, however, it is important to suffer for the right thing. If we suffer because of something foolish we said or did, that is not suffering for God. It is suffering for our own shortcomings. There is nothing noteworthy or godly about that.

If we suffer, may we suffer for the right things.

[References: Acts 19:29, 20:4, & 27:2, Philemon 1:24, and Colossians 4:10.]

Read more about other people in the New Testament in The Friends and Foes of Jesus, now available in e-book, 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

The Writings of Dr. Luke

Learn More about Luke

Paul is the most prolific writer in the New Testament. Who is second? That would be Dr. Luke.

Luke wrote an account of Jesus’s life (called “The Gospel According to Luke,” or simply “Luke”). He also chronicled the activities of the early church (called “The Acts of the Apostles” or just “Acts”).

He researched and wrote these two books for a man name Theophilus, so that Theophilus could know for sure what he had been taught. These books help us today, so that we can also know for sure.

These two accounts encompass over 25 percent of the New Testament and give us valuable historical information about Jesus and his followers, providing a powerful and compelling two-book combination.

Luke was a doctor and the only non-Jewish writer in the New Testament. As such, his words are that of an outsider and may more readily connect with those on the “outside.”

Luke wrote with simple, yet compelling language. As a trained professional, He was a keen observer and provides many details and facts that are not included in the other three historical accounts of Jesus.

The book of Acts looks at Jesus’s followers and their efforts to continue on without him. They wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, who Jesus promised to send to them for guidance, direction, and counsel. Many people look to Acts for a model for how the church should function.

Noteworthy in Acts is the frequent mention Holy Spirit. With about 100 references, Acts provides a close and personal insight into the function and mystery of the Holy Spirit.

Both our monthly Bible reading plan and the New Testament reading plan kick off the year with the books of Luke and Acts. Regardless of your Bible reading intentions for the year, I hope you are off to a good start—and if not, why not start today?

Read more about the book of Luke in Dear Theophilus: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus through the Gospel of Luke now available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Read more about the book of Acts in Dear Theophilus, Acts: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church now available in e-book, 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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Peter DeHaan News

Peter DeHaan Releases Second Box Set

The Dear Theophilus series Books 1 through 5

The first five books in the popular Dear Theophilus series are now available in a convenient e-book box set. This Dear Theophilus box set includes:

  • Dear Theophilus: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus through the Gospel of Luke
  • Dear Theophilus Acts: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church
  • Dear Theophilus Isaiah: 40 Prophetic Insights about Jesus, Justice, and Gentiles
  • Dear Theophilus Minor Prophets: 40 Prophetic Teachings about Unfaithfulness, Punishment, and Hope
  • Dear Theophilus Job: 40 Insights About Moving from Despair to Deliverance
Dear Theophilus Books 1-5: Exploring Luke, Acts, Isaiah, the Minor Prophets, and Job

In Dear Theophilus Books 1–5: Exploring Luke, Acts, Isaiah, Job, and the Minor Prophets, lifetime student of the Bible and ABibleADay.com founder, Peter DeHaan, PhD., digs deep into the beloved Gospel of Luke to unearth 40 thought-provoking gems that can inform your beliefs and transform your life.

Next, he builds on that foundation by exploring 40 more jewels from the book of Acts.

Then, he examines Isaiah, the Minor Prophets, and the book of Job for 120 more nuggets of gold.

In this five-book box set treasure, you’ll discover:

  • The way Luke viewed God, and how his view might change your view
  • How Jesus’s followers in Acts met daily in people’s homes and public spaces, which ignited church growth
  • The parallels between the books of Isaiah and Revelation, about peace, woe, and salvation
  • The Minor Prophets’ place in the biblical timeline—because the Bible doesn’t list them chronologically
  • How the book of Job resembles a play and the way that can enlighten our understanding of suffering, Satan, and God’s sovereignty.

The Dear Theophilus series explores Scripture like you’ve never seen before. It’s part devotional, part bible study, and fully life changing.

Explore the powerful way the words of these books of the Bible can speak to you today, as you increase your understanding and grow in faith.

In Dear Theophilus Books 1–5, you’ll encounter eye-opening insights from passages you thought were familiar. Find fresh truths as you gain a broader appreciation of what the Bible says and how this ancient book is still relevant for us today.

Ideal for both individual and group study, these books includes Scripture references and questions inviting further discussion.

Get the Dear Theophilus Books 15 box set today to deepen your understanding of Jesus and his church.

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Peter DeHaan News

Discover More about Luke and Acts

Want to learn more about the Gospel of Luke? Do you seek insights from the book of Acts?

Doctor Luke wrote the two powerful New Testament books of Luke and Acts, giving us a compelling one-two punch into better understanding the life of Jesus and the work of his followers.

Grow in your faith and deepen your understanding of Jesus and his church from these two amazing books in this special Dear Theophilus box set.

In Dear Theophilus, Dr Luke, lifetime student of the Bible and founder of ABibleADay.com, Peter DeHaan, PhD., digs deep into the beloved Gospel of Luke to unearth 40 thought-provoking gems that can inform your beliefs and transform your life. Then he builds on that foundation by exploring 40 more jewels from the book of Acts.

Part devotional. Part Bible study. Totally life changing. No fluff.

In this book, you’ll discover:

  • The way Luke viewed God, and how his view might change your view
  • The people who angered Jesus the most, why they frustrated him, and how this applies to us
  • The importance of community and getting along
  • The example to minister to each other, serve as priests, and tell others about Jesus.
  • The model of sharing life with other believers

In Dear Theophilus, Dr. Luke you’ll encounter eye-opening insights from passages you thought were familiar. Find fresh truths as you gain a broader appreciation of Luke’s biography of Jesus and the account of his followers as they formed the Christian church.

Ideal for both individual or group study, this book includes scripture references and questions inviting readers to go deeper.

Get Dear Theophilus, Dr Luke today to deepen your understanding of Jesus and his church.

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Peter DeHaan News

Dear Theophilus, Acts: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church

Does Your Church Function Like the Early Church in Acts?

Doubt it.

Yes, you may see snippets of similarities, but if you look closely, you’ll find huge gaps. Don’t believe me?

  • Consider the early church’s astronomical growth. Does your church experience that?
  • When was the last time someone at your church died for their faith?
  • Does your church experience Holy Spirit baptism and speaking in tongues? Most don’t.
Dear Theophilus, Acts: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church, by Peter DeHaan, PhD

We’re Just Getting Started

  • What about sharing all your resources with other believers?
  • How about supernatural healing, signs and wonders, and exorcisms?
  • Do you take offerings for other believers and not yourself?

Wait, There’s More

  • Do you meet daily in people’s homes and public spaces?
  • Is community and getting along more important than just about everything else?
  • Do you minister to one another, serve as priests, and focus on telling others about Jesus?

Dear Theophilus, Acts is a devotional. It’s a Bible Study. And it emerges as a manifesto for today’s church.

It’s time to realign your thinking. Dear Theophilus, Acts will ease you into it. It gives forty devotional insights from the book of Acts for today’s church—and for you.

Get your copy of Dear Theophilus, Acts today!

Peter DeHaan, PhD, earned his doctorate—awarded with high distinction—from Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary. He lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and plays with crossword puzzles in his spare time.

Read more about the book of Acts in Dear Theophilus, Acts: 40 Devotional Insights for Today’s Church now available in e-book, 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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Peter DeHaan News

Dear Theophilus

A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus through the Gospel of Luke

You’ve Never Seen the Gospel of Luke Quite Like This

You may have read the gospel of Luke. But you might have missed a few things. Maybe more than a few. Like:

  • The way Luke viewed God, and how his view might change your view
  • Why Luke’s book matters more today than ever
  • The people who angered Jesus the most, why they angered him, and how that applies to us
  • The Lord’s Prayer and Communion from a new perspective
  • The radical ways Jesus loved outsiders, outcasts, and those on the fringe of society.
Dear Theophilus: A 40 Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus through the Gospel of Luke, by Peter DeHaan, PhD

In Dear Theophilus: A 40 Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus through the Gospel of Luke, you’ll discover new insights from passages you thought were familiar, find fresh truths as you come to a deeper understanding of Luke’s gospel, and get a revitalized perspective on your faith and your life.

Warning! Not Your Typical Devotional

In Dear Theophilus, Peter DeHaan once again whacks a spiritual hornet’s nest, in order to bring us into a closer alignment with Jesus.

Bonus Material!

  • Overview of all the parables in the book of Luke
  • Summary of all Jesus’s miracles in Luke
  • How the Holy Spirit is a recurring character within Luke’s gospel

Get your copy of Dear Theophilus today!

Peter DeHaan, PhD, earned his doctorate—awarded with high distinction—from Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary. He lives in Michigan with his wife and tinkers with crossword puzzles in his spare time.

Read more about the book of Luke in Dear Theophilus: A 40-Day Devotional Exploring the Life of Jesus through the Gospel of Luke now available in e-book, 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

Who Wrote the Book of Hebrews?

When We Don’t Get Credit for What We Do

As a child someone told me that Paul wrote the book of Hebrews. This has stuck with me, and I still consider Paul as the book’s most likely author. But as I look for confirmation of this early lesson, I find little support.

Though initially attributed to Paul, that assumption fell out of favor centuries ago. Some Bible scholars suggest that Barnabas or Apollo wrote Hebrews. They had the religious pedigree to address the letter’s deeper Jewish topics.

Less likely candidates include Luke, Priscilla, or Clement of Rome. Frankly, I have trouble warming up to any of these five candidates. I don’t see any of them as more likely than Paul.

But it would thrill me if Dr. Luke, one of my favorite Bible characters, wrote the book of Hebrews. Even more appealing would be if Priscilla wrote it. Since all the books in the Bible come from men, having Priscilla as the author of Hebrews would stand as a delightful bonus.

In truth, the book of Hebrews does not indicate who wrote it. And nonbiblical sources give us no clarity.

Why Paul Could Have Wrote the Book of Hebrews

Paul certainly had the credentials to write a book of such depth. In addition, the book’s concluding text is similar to what Paul writes in his other books. Writing in first person, the letter’s audience knows who wrote it.

The author talks about restoration, implying he is in jail. He writes from Italy, likely Rome. And he talks about a partnership with Timothy. These things are all consistent with what we know about Paul.

What matters to God is that we do our part to advance his kingdom. The credit rightly belongs to him, not us. Click To Tweet

But the fact remains that this is only speculation, and we don’t know who wrote the book of Hebrews. Why does this matter? It doesn’t, not really.

Sometimes we receive credit for the things we do for Jesus, and other times we don’t. Though this may matter to us, I doubt it’s that important to God. What matters to him is that we do our part to advance his kingdom. The credit rightly belongs to him, not us.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Hebrews 11-13 and today’s post is on Hebrews 13:19-24.]

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.