Praise God We Bear the Name
- part 2 of 4 - objections answered
1 Peter 4:16 "However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name."
Part 1 showed from scripture that we should bear the name Christian, as well as how early witnesses for Christ bore the name of Christian. This part answers objections some today might have to following 1 Peter 4:16.
Bearing the Name "Christian" in Scripture
Acts 11:26b says that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. Acts 26:27-20 shows that Agrippa recognized that Paul was a Christian.
A C5 person told me that they were first called Christians in Antioch but it does not say that they themselves used that name. Likewise Acts 26:27-29 shows an unbeliever, not a follower of Christ, calling Paul a Christian.
These verses introduce the name of Christian. There is no hint that it was not proper for followers of Christ to not call themselves Christians. This is an argument from silence by the C5 person; the verses do not imply that followers of Christ did not call themselves Christians, or that they should not do so. Most pointedly, Paul does not correct King Agrippa or deny that he is a Christian.
However, in 1 Peter 4:16 the apostle Peter tells us to praise God that we bear the name "Christian." If we are commanded to praise God bearing that name, shouldn't we obey?
A C5 person said that this usage of the word "Christian" was given in the context of suffering.
While it is true that the context of the verse is suffering, Peter's command is that we should rejoice in the label "Christian", even in light of the suffering which may come from bearing the name.
They might listen better if you bear a different name
Besides calling ourselves Christians because scripture says we are to bear the name, a second reason is external unity, that we publicly identify with other Christians around the world and in different ages.
One objection is that if you are identified as a Christian, then Muslims will be less willing to listen to you about your beliefs. But if you call yourself a Muslim, then they will listen with open arms to what you say about Jesus. You can tell them that Muslim means submission, and a true Muslim is anyone who submits themselves to following God. Of course you have to do this in a way where the Muslim does not think you were lying earlier.
But, regardless of whether they call you a liar to your face or not, Muslims will see you as that, and tell others that Christians are liars. I wish I could tell you that nobody sharing Christ has ever done this; it is sad that I have learned otherwise.
They might listen more if you at least don't bear the name
Even if you do not try to tell Muslims you are Muslim too, at least don't tell them you are a Christian, but rather a follower of Jesus. It is true, in all senses, that you are a follower of Jesus.
Some today say they follow Christ but do not want to be known as Christians. But are "stealth Christians" a witness? If you deny you are a Christian, you are denying you are the same as the early Christians. While you don't have to say you are a Christian as the first thing out of your mouth, you must never deny that you are a Christian.
"Christians" have done some evil things
Some people calling themselves Christians have in fact done some very un-Christlike things.
This argument presumes that Muslims cannot understand there are true and false Christians. Idi Amin, Tamerlane, and others have butchered large numbers of people and called themselves Muslims. Do more peaceful Muslims think even for a moment that they should stop calling themselves Muslims because of what some did? The actions of evil, false Christians do not mean we should go against 1 Peter 4:16 and not praise God that we bear the name Christian.
But Middle East Christians don't need to follow western Christian traditions
Christians should all agree that it is not necessary for Christians in one culture to dress, speak, or live like Christians in another culture.
This is true, but this an objection can be just a smokescreen for rejecting doctrines of the Bible, including the deity of Christ and Jesus being the Son of God. If you are going to reject what the Bible teaches, at least be honest and say you are rejecting what the Bible has said, and do not be dishonest. If someone is really not a Christian, he should not represent to others that he is one.
But what if I don't believe what Christians believe?
Others don't want to be known as Christians because they do not see unity between themselves and Christians.
They might be right. Ephesians 4:3 says that we are to preserve the unity of the spirit. We are not to invent unity with any who would not follow.
If you do not believe the foundational doctrines that Jesus is God, and that Jesus is the Son of God, then you have a valid point; you should not call yourself a Christian. If you reject what is said in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Hebrews, and the writings of Paul, Peter, and the other writers, you are not only not a Christian, but you are not following the same Jesus that Christians follow.
If the gospel you are sharing is not on the foundational Christian doctrine, your converts would be as close to Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, or Christian Scientists as to Christians.
But if you do not accept these foundational Christian doctrines, then you must agree that you cannot ethically or honestly solicit money to evangelize from Christian churches who hold to Christian foundational doctrines.
Let us look to the faith of the early followers of Jesus
Jesus knew He was going to die, and He chose apostles to preserve His message after Him. Not only did he choose twelve, but He also had seventy disciples and others. God ensured that His message and the key doctrines were preserved in the community of faith. And besides the Bible, 35 pre-Nicene Christian writers wrote how Jesus was the Son of God. Some of these writers have many volumes preserved, and some only a page or two. 31 pre-Nicene writers wrote on the deity of Christ.
You can read what they said on these at www.BibleQuery.org/History/ChurchHistory/WhatEarlyChristiansTaught.html.
Above all, let us look to Jesus
Jesus could have skipped the crucifixion; all He had to do was either run away in the Garden of Gethsemane, or else deny that He was a king and the Messiah. Jesus went so far as to pray that the cup be passed from Him. We too will have temptations to take the easy way out.
We must pay more attention, therefore to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away, like the audience of the Book of Hebrews might have wanted to do. Today some Christians can be tempted to lose heart and turn back from bearing Christ's name, but like the early Christians of old, we must take courage and bear the name of Christ.
All Bible verse quotations are from the NIV.
For more info please contact Christian Debater™ P.O. Box 144441 Austin, TX 78714 www.BibleQuery.org
by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.