Thursday, 7/2, we'll continue our Bible Study discussion topic is what's a Christian, and how do you become one?
Join us, 7:30-8:30pm, on Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/703956236.
On Thursday we may discuss (depending on interest of the group):
- What does it mean to be a Christian?
- Is being a Christian a matter of behavior, belonging, belief, or a combination?
- By whose action/will does someone become Christian? (Is it God's doing, or ours?)
- Is being a Christian different than becoming a Christian (especially if you consider baptism as a part of how one becomes a Christian)?
- What do Christians look/behave like?
- Is a necessary part of being a Christian to belong to a church?
Scripture verses to consider:
- Depending on translation, the word "Christian" only occurs in the Bible <7 times. One of the first is here in Acts 11: "Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they associated with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians’."
- In Acts 26, Paul is in prison, and there's this reference: "Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?” Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am—except for these chains.”"
- Jesus never used the term "Christian" in scripture, and it doesn't appear in any of the gospels. Jesus spoke about "my followers" and also used other words to describe the relationship or state of being. Consider that Jesus also used a variety of terms like "children of God" and who he meant.
- Paul in many of the epistles (letters to parts of the early church) uses the term "servant of Christ" where we might use "Christian."
- Consider this verse: Galatians 1:10 "Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ."
- What scriptures or Biblical concepts come to mind or do you use to describe what it means to be a Christian?
From our Lutheran tradition/understanding:
- "What does it mean to be a church 'member'?" Book excerpt, brief read of one page, gets at larger questions above about being a Christian.
- From the Large Catechism, Martin Luther: "We do not put he main emphasis on whether the person baptized believes or not, for in the latter case baptism does not become invalid. Everything depends on the Word and commandment of God. This is a rather subtle point, perhaps, but it is based upon what I have said, that baptism is simply water and God's word in and with each other; that is, when the word accompanies the water, baptism is valid, even though faith is lacking. For my faith does not make baptism, rather it received baptism. Baptism does not become invalid if it is not improperly received or used, as I have said, for it is not bound to our faith but to the Word."
- My (Pastor Brett's) two cents just off the top of my head: there's a distinction here between being a Christian (baptized, God's doing), and actively participating/practicing (our response to the Spirit's movement within us). Baptism is the sign and promise of God that can never be taken away, an affirming promise, rather than God drawing a line of exclusion. In our confirmation and any time we affirm our faith, we remember these baptismal promises which we strive to keep ("I do, and I ask God to help and guide me.") - to me, this is what the Christian life looks like:
- live among God's faithful people
- hear the word of God and share in the Lord's supper
- proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed
- serve all people, following the example of Jesus
- strive for justice and peace through all the earth (From our Baptism/Affirmation of Baptism liturgy in Evangelical Lutheran Worship)
What do you notice about these promises? How is keeping these challenging? Do you think this describes what it means/looks like to be a Christian?