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Catechism Class: LD12B Q32, “Why Are You Called A Christian?”


Why Are You Called a ‘Christian?’

Read: Acts 11:25  

In this lesson we will be looking at Lord’s Day 12, Q32, which asks,  Why are you called a Christian?  Because I am a member of Christ by faith  and thus share in his anointing, so that I may as prophet confess his name, as priest present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to him, and as king fight with a free and good conscience against sin and the devil in this life, and hereafter reign with him eternally over all creatures. 

The actual word ‘Christian’ was originally a slur!   So, what does it mean to call yourself a Christian?  Stay with me, and we’ll learn together from the Heidelberg Catechism.  The catechist describes what it means to be a Christian in three respects.  Firstly, he speaks about the basis of my relationship with Christ, and the responsibilities that this relationship places upon me, and finally, my eternal reward, in Christ.  Let’s see firstly, 

1 My Relationship as a Christian.

In Antioch, where Christians were first so-called, the word Christian was a jest.  But in a more theological sense the word Christian describes some great truths about the Christian’s spiritual status in Christ.  Look at how the catechist describes this for us.  As a Christian I am:-

  • A ‘member of Christ.’ Now notice that he didn’t say that being a Christian is being a member of a church. There’s lots of people who think that they are Christians because they have been baptised, or because they have their names written somewhere on a church roll book, or that they attend weekly services.  Nothing like that will make you a Christian.  Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, and said in 1st Corinthians 12:1 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  To be a Christian is to be IN CHRIST.  His elect, and to have him indwelling us through his holy spirit. Colossians 1:27   We are IN CHRIST, yet simultaneously, Christ is IN US, and that is the work of God the Father, in election, chasing us, and ordaining us to be Christ’s body, the invisible church.
  • The basis of our relationship.  Our instructor is always careful in his wording!  Notice that he adds that our entry into Christ’s body the invisible church is by FAITH.  He needs to add nothing more.  It is only by faith that we can enter!  Romans 5:2.
  • The dynamics of the relationship. Our catechist says, “I share in his anointing.”  Being a Christian is NEW LIFE, not just an intellectual assent, but a relationship, an exchange of our sin for his righteousness, a new heart.  If anyone is in Christ, he is a completely new creation. Just as Christ was uniquely anointed by the Holy Spirit, we experience the Spirit’s anointing too, albeit in a different manner, working within us to draw us to God, to regenerate us, to implant that faith with which we appropriate Christ’s saving work, to sanctify us…   Acts 2:17  The indwelling Holy Spirit empowers us, comforts us, convicts us of our sins…. It’s a dynamic relationship. 

You can see from what our catechist teaches that to be called a Christian, is a wonderful thing indeed.  More than just a name, more than just a cultural designation. 

2 My Responsibilities as a Christian.

Being a Christian has consequences.  The Christian life is a life of discipleship, living for Christ, and becoming more like him.  But what does it mean to ‘be like Christ?’  After all, we are NOT at all like him!  He was perfect and sinless, and we are persistent sinners who need to live a life of humble repentance.  We won’t be truly like him until we go to be with him in glory.  So how then can we be ‘Christlike’ in this world?  The catechist helps us with a very practical solution to this enigma.   In our last lesson we learned of the three offices of Christ, as prophet, priest and king.  Our instructor suggests that to ‘be like Jesus’ in this life, we too must fulfil those three offices!  We must:-

  • Confess his name as his PROPHET. so that I may as prophet confess his name, My first responsibility as a Christian, is to reflect Christ into this lost and sinful world.  There should be a marked change in the way we speak when we have been born again. 1 Timothy 4:12.  
  • To sacrifice myself to him – as a PRIEST.  as priest present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to him,  We are all priests! 1 Peter 2:5  The Christian is someone who seeks to obey Christ, out of thankfulness for what Christ has done for him or her on the cross, we will lay down our lives for him. Matthew 16:24-25   Romans 12:1 
  • To wage warfare as a KING.  and as king fight with a free and good conscience against sin and the devil in this life, As Christians we have enemies. So who is the enemy?  The catechist gives us two pointers:-
    • Sin!  My greatest enemy is within me – it is my own sinful, deceitful heart!  We constantly wage a warfare within us.  Paul speaks of this in Romans 7:18 -20 Galatians 5:17   There is another enemy…
    • The devil!  Ephesians 6:11-12  

As a Christian, we will be engaged in this warfare, against sin in my own life, against the devil. We will acquit ourselves well, not shirking or avoiding the heat of the battle, but we will do battle with a good conscience, freely!

These three office of Christ, prophet, priest and king, are our offices too, as members of his body, the church.

3 My Reward as a Christian.

Being a Christian is not a bed of roses, it’s the narrow road that leads to life.  But we have something glorious in prospect Our instructor reminds us that we will reign with Christ for all eternity.  and hereafter reign with him eternally over all creatures.  We have a mansion in heaven, and we will be reigning, – with a responsibility, – governing the world and all in it.  In heaven we will not be idle, we will be fulfilling the  reason for our creation, to work, as Adam did in Paradise…. Only this time, it will never end!   

So let us take the name of Christ, and wear it as a badge of honour, no matter what scorn the culture may pour upon us.  

© Bob McEvoy September 2021

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