IS A CHRISTIAN THE SAME AS A DISCIPLE OF CHRIST?

SCRIPTURE TEXT: “If you forgive others the wrongs, they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you.” – Matthew 6:14 (GNB)

The term Christian has become a common usage. Those who do not belong to other religions profess to be Christians in this country yielding a handsome percentage of almost 70%. The way many who profess to be Christians live actually deny the name of Christ. So, the question is whether there is a difference between being a Christian and a disciple of Christ is not moot but very opposite. The dictionary defines Christian as a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and a disciple as students of Jesus charged with proclaiming the Good News.

The terms disciple and Christian are related but not synonymous.

The Greek term for “disciple” in the New Testament which means more than just “student” or “learner.” A disciple is a “follower,” someone who adheres completely to the teachings of another, making them his rule of life and conduct. The Pharisees prided themselves in being disciples of Moses (John 9:28). Jesus’ followers were called “disciples” long before they were ever called “Christians.” Their discipleship began with Jesus’ call and required them to exercise their will to follow Him (Matthew 9:9).

Biblically speaking, a Christian is a disciple of Christ. A Christian is someone who has placed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:12). A Christian has been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3). A Christian “belongs to Christ” and is daily being transformed into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).

A true Christian (and not one in name only) will have to be a disciple of Christ as well. That is, he has counted the cost and has totally committed his life to following Jesus. He accepts the call to sacrifice and follows wherever the Lord leads. The Christian disciple completely adheres to the teaching of Jesus, makes Christ his number-one priority, and lives accordingly. He is actively involved in making other Christian disciples (Matthew 28:19–20).

A true Christian disciple is a believer in Christ and possesses new life through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Because he loves Christ, a Christian will also be an obedient disciple (John 14:15).

Paul describes the reality of being a Christian disciple: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

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