Who do people say we are? How do family, friends, and coworkers describe us to others?

According to a 2016 Barna Research Group survey, about three out of every four Americans identify themselves as Christians.[1]

Have you ever wondered how the term “Christian” came into being –– what it meant during the culture of the early church –– and what it means in our culture today?

In Matthew 16:13-16, we read of Jesus traveling with His disciples in the district of Caesarea Philippi. During their time together, Jesus asked His disciples two important questions:

  1. Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (16:13)
  2. Who do you say I am?” (16:15)

Throughout the Gospels, we read numerous accounts of Christ displaying His identity rather than merely telling followers “who He is.” In Matthew chapter 16, Jesus wanted Peter, other disciples, and all followers to come to the conclusion that He is the long-awaited Messiah, God in the flesh –– based on His life, His teaching, and the overwhelming evidence of Scripture –– not merely by self-identification.[2]

In Acts 11:26 we find that “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”

Antioch was the location of the very first Gentile church, it was where the Apostle Paul began his three missionary journeys, and it was where Christ’s followers were first called Christians. The term “Christian” only occurs in three verses throughout the entire Bible: Acts 11:26Acts 26:28 and 1 Pet 4:16. In all three verses, the term is used by outsiders, referring to Christ followers and not by Christians referring to themselves.[3] Therefore, being called a Christian has much more to do with how others perceive us, rather than how we perceive ourselves.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t identify ourselves as Christians. On the contrary –– it’s important we always stand up, speak up, and proclaim our allegiance to Christ with courage and confidence. All-the-while, outwardly displaying behavior in keeping with the character of Christ. Consider the following passage and join me in striving to “show” others “who you are” and “whose you are!”

“Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.” Philippians 2:12-16

Who do people say you are?

[1] The State of the Church 2016, Researches Released in Faith & Christianity, September 15, 2016, accessed 0-1-2017,  https://www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016/

[2] Bible.org article, Does Jesus in fact say that He is God’s Son, not just infer it? https://bible.org/question/does-jesus-fact-say-he-god’s-son-not-just-infer-it, accessed 2/17/2015.

[3] John B. Polhill, Acts, vol. 26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 273.