When did the word “Christian” become an adjective?
When the disciples in Antioch were called “Christians” (Acts 11:26), it says they “were called”. It doesn’t say that they called themselves by that name. So who was it that called them that? Apparentely, those outside of their group, those who weren’t disciples. We don’t know if the term was meant to be complimentary or derogatory. It could have been the equivalent of “Jesus freak”, “fanatic”, etc. or perhaps a positive observation that they were acting just like Jesus. In either case it would have been a positive situation, because it meant that their lifestyle was radical enough to identify them with the Savior that they loved.
The definition of the word in the Greek dictionary doesn’t go into great detail, it just denotes a person who follows Christ. Yet many believers now are beginning to shy away from identifying themselves as “Christians” just because of the overuse of the term, watering it down to a lukewarm, religious meaning. So much wrong has been done in the name of Christianity that it is no wonder that many no longer feel comfortable associating themselves with that term. Tacking the suffix “-ity” onto the word has converted it into a philosophy, rather than a living relationship.
Now music, books, radio, television, games, social networks and more are referred to as “Christian”. But if a Christian is a believer and follower of Christ, that term would have to refer to a person, as these things cannot believe and follow. It would seem that the word has lost much of its meaning.
How can we restore the original strength of meaning to the word “Christian”?