Christians have a number of names and titles afforded them on the pages of Scripture. A brief survey of a just a few of them serves to reinforce our identity and our function in the kingdom of God.
First, we are called Christians (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; 1 Pet 4:16). Antioch of Syria (Lebanon) was the place this name originated. It means, “little Christ.” A distinction must be made between true Christians and Christians in name only. Many claim Christ, but He must claim them. True Christians are “born again” of the Spirit (Jn 3:1–8), and adopted into God’s family (Rom 8:15, 23; Eph 1:5). People are encouraged to examine themselves to see if the Holy Spirit has indwelt them (2 Cor 13:5; Jas 4:5). Genuine faith is a gift of God (Eph 2:8–9; Phil 1:29; 2 Pet 1:1), and it is evidenced by the Holy Spirit working faithfulness in the heart of a Christian (Gal 5:22).
Second, we are children of God (1 Jn 3:1, 10). Paul wrote to the Romans, “It is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants (Rom 9:8).” Children of promise, like Isaac, are born according to the Spirit (Gal 4:28). And as many as received Him, He gave them the right to be called, “children of God (Jn 1:12).” We cry out, “Abba, Father,” when we pray (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). Jesus called God His Father, who is also the Father of His disciples (Jn 20:17). God is light, and Christians are children of light (1 Jn 1:5; Eph 5:8), sons of light and sons of the day (1 Thess 5:5). Children learn the ways of their father and mimic his thoughts, words, and actions.
Third, we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17; Tit 3:7). Men count it a privilege to be born into nobility and royalty. Christians are adopted children of God (Eph 1:5). We are grafted into God’s family tree (Jn 15). We are given legal right standing (justification). All the glorious riches of Christ belong to us as an inheritance. These were willed to us at the death of testator, meaning, Christ’s death at the Cross brought us all the spiritual blessings of the covenant of grace (Jer 31:31–34; 1 Cor 11:25).
Fourth, we are the beloved brethren (Phil 4:1) and holy brethren (Heb 3:1). If God is our Father, and Christ is our brother, then we are brothers and sister in Christ. Beloved is a name given to Christ by His Father (Mt 3:17; 17:5), and because we are positioned “in Christ,” we are in “the beloved.” Holy is a title ascribed to God. We have an imperative to be holy, even as God is holy (1 Pet 1:16). Holiness in God is perfect, but it is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies Christians as a process. We are positioned in holiness, but we are being made holy by His grace. The instrument employed by the Holy Spirit is the Holy Scriptures (Jn 17:17). Brethren, means brothers and sisters, and it speaks again of family. We are equal in status but not in gifting. There is a unity to the family of God, but there is also diversity.
Fifth, we are saints (2 Cor 8:4). As holy brethren, we are being set apart by God, for the purposes of God, and by the will of God (Phil 2:13). By His doing we are in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 1:30). We are created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph 2:10). All true Christians are saints. Men who set certain famous saints apart for “sainthood” act in error. God makes people saints, and all who are being re-made in the image of Christ, by God, are saints. We are His holy ones, and our destiny is to be holy and blameless in His presence (Eph 1:4).
Sixth, we are vessels of mercy (Rom 9:23). As a demonstration of God setting apart His people, we are distinguished from vessels of wrath, prepared for destruction (9:22). We are vessels of clay, fearfully and wonderfully made (Jer 18; Ps 139:14). All of us are ruined vessels, and it is reasonable to discard a ruined vessel. The ruination came at the fall of Creation when Adam and Eve sinned against God (Gen 3). In the mystery of God’s providence, He has chosen some to salvation (2 Thess 2:13). He has saved some vessels from the burning trash heap of hell (Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15). He says, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy (Rom 9:15).” Who are the vessels of mercy?
Seventh, we are the elect (Eph 1:4; 2 Tim 2:10). God predestined some to election. He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4–5). By decree, God sovereignly determined to call out a peculiar people, chosen for Himself, and given to Christ as a treasured possession (Jn 6:37; 17:2, 6, 24). Before Creation, He wrote their names in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 13:8; 17:8). He promises to drag them to Christ (Jn 6:44), and Christ promises to keep them in His shepherding care (Jn 10:28–29), never leaving nor forsaking them (Heb 13:5). Neither will He cast them out of the sheepfold (Jn 6:37). No one can separate them from God’s loving care and protection (Rom 8:39). In the end, they will be glorified (Rom 8:30).
Eighth, we are believers (Acts 5:14). When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, he did not believe God’s Word to him. The reverse of this cursed unbelief is to believe in God’s Word, Jesus Christ. Adam’s children were separated into two distinct groups, represented by Cain and Abel, and then Seth. The family line of Adam has both wicked and righteous ones. Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Gal 3:6). All in the line of the righteous have this in common. They are justified by faith, not by the works of the Law. It was appointed for them to believe (Acts 13:48), and when the Word of God was preached to them, it opened their ears to hear (Rom 10:13–17), as the Spirit opened their hearts to respond (Acts 16:14). By grace, through faith, the elect are saved.
Ninth, we are members of Christ’s body (1 Cor 12:12–31). The body of Christ is a metaphor. We understand Christ is the head of the church, His body (Eph 5). Being a member of a body means a vital connection exists between the head and all members. There is also a connection between one member and all members. Membership has its privileges. We have the Spirit of Christ in our hearts (Rom 8:9, 11). We have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16). We have the promises of God’s Word. Members also have responsibilities. We are to accept one another, love one another, serve one another, pray for one another, and so on. Members are gifted for the building up of the body.
Tenth, we are living stones (1 Pet 2:4–5). The temple of God on earth, today, is the body of Christ. We are filled with the Holy Spirit, in the same way as Christ, and as typed in the shekinah glory in the tabernacle and Jerusalem temple. The temple of the Holy Spirit is where God dwells in glory, and each member of the body of Christ represents a living stone in the temple of the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:19–22). Again, there is a vital connection between the stones and the cornerstone, who is Christ.
Eleventh, we are slaves of Christ (1 Cor 7:22; Eph 6:6). Prideful man will declare he is no one’s slave, but in reality, all people are slaves. We are either slaves of sin or slaves of Christ. The difference is determined by whether we have been bought with a price (1 Cor 6:20; 1 Cor 7:23) and transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col 1:13). Slaves have their Master’s protection and provision; and they have responsible service. People do not choose to become slaves, they are constrained. Sin constrains the sons of Adam, and the love of Christ constrains the sons of promise (2 Cor 5:14). Our Master’s yoke is easy. His commandments are not too hard for us. His banner over us is love.
Twelfth, we are citizens (Eph 2:19). The citizens of this world hate Christ (Lk 19:14; Jn 7:7; 15:18). When the elect receive the regeneration of the Holy Spirit and convert to become Christians (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13; 1 Pet 1:3), their citizenship is changed from this world to heaven (Phil 3:20). Christians talk of heaven as their home. They speak of being “not of this world.” Paul said, “we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Christians are adopted into the household of God, but it is as if all the paperwork for the adoption is submitted and accepted, but now there is the time lapse between a legal status and a fully realized family encounter. Some of the other orphans were chosen for adoption, and they have received the same word of promise and assurance. We have been adopted, and we are simply waiting to go to our adopted family home. We wait for our new, Brother-by-adoption, to come back for us. “He is coming,” we tell others (Rev 22:20). What should Christians do while waiting for Christ to come again for us?
Thirteenth, we are called ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:9). An ambassador represents the authority of her home country. She speaks for her sovereign in the place He has positioned her. She does not exercise her own opinion or make up policy toward the foreign land she resides in as an alien. She obeys her King, as she obeys all that He has commanded her. She has His support. Because Christians are in a hostile country in the world, we have the comfort of knowing our citizenship is in a far better country. The work of an ambassador is challenging, because the peace she brings is not very well received by the citizens at enmity with her King. Her love for her homeland and her King constrains her to labor as unto her Lord. Her ambition is to please Him (2 Cor 5:9).
Fourteenth, we are witnesses (Acts 1:8). Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit, and He empowers them to go into all the world to bear witness of Christ Jesus. The content of our witness is Christ Himself, and the work He accomplished on the Cross of Calvary. What we truly know of our subject is revealed to us on the pages of the Holy Bible; therefore, we preach the Word of God to all Creation (Mt 24:15; 16:15). We also have the indwelling witness of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9, 11), who is laboring to conform us into the image of the sinless Son of God (Rom 8:29; Heb 4:15). We bear witness, through our own personal testimony, of God’s work of sanctification in our lives (Jn 17:17; 1 Thess 4:3). Sometimes, unbelievers can see Christ and maybe even glorify God for the witness of our good works. Christians are never not witnesses, so it is important to bear a good witness by words and lives of utmost integrity.
In summary, we have considered a brief survey of names and titles given to Christians by God’s Word. We have seen how some of these names pertain to our position, and how some of them point to our function.
In conclusion, for one to meditate on these names and titles serves as a strong conviction to practice the Christian life in light of who we are in Christ. The Christian life is lived by grace coming from God to us, to fulfill His will. He is the Potter, and we are the clay. He has made us, and He is re-making us into the image of Jesus Christ. We are witnesses to all of this, and it is marvelous in our sight.
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
January 12, 2021