Most Christians know that the word ‘Christian’ means ‘Christ-like’ and that the name was first given to the disciples of Lord Jesus at Antioch. But what did being ‘Christ-like’ mean to the residents of Antioch? Was it just another name to describe some unnamed religious zealots or was the name deserved because of the believers’ lifestyle? According to Lord Jesus, how were people supposed to identify a ‘Christian’ (disciple)?
The Apostles’ First Experiences
From the onset, the disciples noticed that the Master lived a life of unconditional love. He loved all and although some people felt that He was their enemy and treated Him so, the Master was never disturbed by that. He kept on loving because love was His life and nothing or no one could change it.
Jesus lived a life that was naturally impossible for any other man. His disciples watched Him closely.
Shockingly, the Apostles realized that working miracles, signs and wonders were the easy part of following the Master. The disciples worked miracles during the Master’s days on earth. They publicly cast out devils and healed the sick.
On two different occasions, the Master empowered them to preach the gospel and more than before, the demons trembled and obeyed the disciples when they commanded them in the Name of Jesus and the sick were healed in like manner (Luke 9:1; 10:1).
But all of these experiences could not make the Apostles stand beside the Master during His trial, condemnation and crucifixion. They fled for their lives on the day of His betrayal.
Shortly before then, Peter had a good idea, he wanted to follow the Master even to death, but something was not in place. He ended up denying ever knowing the Master, and three times at that. The cock crowed and Peter wept bitterly (Matthew 26:69-75).
John was an Apostle who was deeply loved by Jesus. With Peter and James, John was a very privileged disciple. He was with Lord Jesus on the mountain where He was transfigured into glory unconceived by man. But through the betrayal, John followed the Master quietly at at safe distance in the shadows.
Like others, He was full of fear. He later come up to behold His Lord at a time close to His death on the cross and the Master looked down on Him and His mother (Mary) in love (John 19:26-27).
John later learnt that “there is no fear in love but perfect love casts fear out…anyone who fears is not perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).
But before He had learnt this from experience, he had listened to the Master one of those days when he and other disciples had returned from preaching the gosple with power. It was at this time that Lord Jesus revealed to them this secret.
The Master’s Words
On the first occasion, the disciples returned from their evangelical trip with good news of how they had healed many sick people and cast out demons in Jesus’ Name. The Master listened to them and said “don’t rejoice because the demons obeyed you, rather, rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). There was more to Christ-likeness and the Master showed the Apostles the way.
On the second occasion, a period close to His journey to the cross, the Master spoke to His disciples and there, He told them the hallmark of being Christ-like. “By this all men will get to know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” He was sharing the Father’s heart with the Apostles: “Love is the hallmark of the Kingdom”, not as the world teaches love, but as Lord Jesus lived and taught.
A Tip From Two Lives
There are signs that follow those that believe but those signs are not a guarantee that God is pleased with the person or persons in question.
Judas Iscariot also cast out devils and healed the sick, but how did he fare in the Kingdom Race? Our Lord speaks of people who would speak to Him on the last day of how they prophesyied in His Name, cast out demons and did mighty works in His Name. The Master would then reject them as people who He never knew and who practiced lawlessness (workers of iniquity) (Matthew 7:32-23). [These words are so deep and would be looked into some other time.]
In addition, remember King Saul who suddenly began prophesying in the midst of a mission to capture David (1 Samuel 19:18-24). Saul prophesying did not mean God’s approval of his lifestyle. He was already rejected by God.
Spiritual gifts, signs and wonders among other experiences of the saints are wonderful expressions of God through the Church in the earth, but Christ likeness goes beyond these.
Lessons From Two Apostles
More than thirty years after Lord Jesus spoke those words of John 13:35 (“by this shall all men know that he are my disciples, if he have love one to another”), John the Be-love(d) wrote plainly: “Beloved, let us love one another, for Love is of God and anyone that Loves is born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not Love does not know God because God is Love” (1 John 4:7-8). What was the proof of having true knowledge of God? Love.
Paul wrote with deep understanding concerning the Kingdom of God. In 1 Corinthians 13, he states examples of impressive things people could do even without the Love of God possessing them. These are the sort of things that usually pull the crowd and get such persons on the news headlines . But it turns out that the things men usually hold in high esteem are abominations to God. While men are busy getting impressed by the outward, the Heavenly Father examines the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
Paul goes on to state three core life features in the Kingdom: faith, hope and Love, then He concludes by saying that Love is the greatest.
Continued in the next post.