In the New Testament the believers are also designated as Christians. Acts 11:26 says, “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” In Acts 26:28 Agrippa says to Paul, “By a little talk are you persuading me to become a Christian?” In 11:26 “Christian” is a term of reproach. That the disciples in Antioch were given such a nickname as a term of reproach indicates that they must have borne a strong testimony for the Lord, a testimony that made them distinct and peculiar in the eyes of the unbelievers.
The designation “Christian” is used again in 1 Peter 4:16, where it denotes those who are adherents of Christ, bearing His reproach. The context of this verse concerns sharing the sufferings of Christ. Verse 14a says, “If you are reproached in the name of Christ, you are blessed.” “In the name of Christ” is actually in the person of Christ, in Christ Himself, because the name denotes the person. The believers, having believed into Christ (John 3:15) and having been baptized into His name (Acts 19:5), that is, into Himself (Gal. 3:27), are in Christ (1 Cor. 1:30) and one with Him (1 Cor. 6:17). When they are reproached in His name, they are reproached with Him, sharing His sufferings. After speaking of being reproached in the name of Christ, Peter goes on to say in 4:16 that if a believer suffers “as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this name.”
The Greek word for Christian is Christianos, a word of Latin formation. The ending -ianos, denoting an adherent of someone, was applied to slaves belonging to the great families in the Roman Empire. Those who worshipped the emperor, the Caesar—Kaisar—were called Kaisarianos, which means the adherents of Kaisar, the people belonging to Kaisar. When people believed in Christ and became His followers, this caused some in the Empire to consider Christ a rival of the Kaisar. Then at Antioch some began to call the followers of Christ Christianos (Christians), adherents of Christ, as a nickname, a term of reproach. Hence, 1 Peter 4:16 says, “as a Christian, let him not be ashamed”; that is, if any believer suffers from the persecutors who contemptuously call him a Christian, he should not feel ashamed but glorify God in this name.
Whereas in the time of Peter and Paul Christian was a term of reproach, today it should bear a positive significance, that is, a man of Christ, one who is one with Christ, not only belonging to Him but having His life and nature in an organic union with Him, and who is living by Him, even living Him, in his daily life. If we suffer for being such a person, we should not feel ashamed, but be bold to magnify Christ in our confession by our holy and excellent manner of life to glorify, express, God in this name.
As Christians, we have an organic union with Christ, an organic oneness in life. When we believed in Christ, an organic union took place between us and Him. By believing in Christ we believed into Him and thereby became one spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17). This is what we mean by the expression organic union.
Our organic union with Christ also involves our being baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27). God’s intention in His economy is to put us into Him and to come into us and live in us. Therefore, to be baptized into Christ is to enter into an organic union with the embodiment of the Triune God, which is able to transform our whole being.
In addition to believing into Christ, which is inward and subjective, we also need to be baptized into Him, an act which is outward and objective. We need both the inward action of believing and the outward action of being baptized. In this way we make one complete step to enter into Christ. In Galatians 3 Paul often speaks about faith and believing, but at the end of this chapter he speaks of being baptized into Christ. The step that begins with believing into Christ is completed by being baptized into Him. In this way there takes place in full an organic union between the believers and Christ.
Now as Christians, those who are of Christ and are one with Him, we need to live by Him, and even live Him, in our daily life. You may have heard of living for Christ, living out Christ, and living by Christ, but not of living Christ. To live by Christ and for Christ and to live Christ out are all somewhat different from simply living Christ. If we are living by Christ, we are still doing the living. To live Christ means that Christ is our life (Col. 3:4). When we live, He lives. When He lives, we live.
The central thought in the Bible is that Christ must be our life and that we must live Him as our living. The goal of being a Christian is to live Christ. Furthermore, the destiny God has ordained for us in His economy is that we live Christ. God’s economy is to dispense Himself into us and to work Himself into us that we may take Christ as our life and life supply in order to live Him. God’s desire is that we live Christ. If we are truly seeking the Lord, the day will come when we shall see that what God desires is not our doing, behavior, or virtues, but Christ. Christ is to be our life, our daily walk, our everything.
The key to living Christ is to realize that, as Christians, the life we have received is Another’s, yet it is not lived by Him but by us. There are two persons but one life to be lived. The life is Christ’s, yet He wants us to live it out. The two, Christ and we, have one life with one living. We should live Christ by Christ’s life. The life is His, and the living is ours. This is the proper Christian life.
Although we and Christ are two, we should not have two lives, nor should we have two livings. The one life that we both have is His, but the living is ours. Our living must be by His life, expressing Him, not ourselves. Therefore, the Christian life is a life involving two persons, but these two persons have only one life and one living. The life is the Lord’s, and the living is ours.
The Apostle Paul lived Christ. In Philippians 1:21 he says, “To me to live is Christ.” In Galatians 2:20 Paul declared, “Christ lives in me.” Paul could say not only that Christ lived in him, but also that to him to live was Christ. On the one hand, Christ lived in Paul; on the other hand, Paul lived Christ. Inwardly Christ was Paul’s life, and outwardly Christ was Paul’s living. Paul and Christ thus had one life and one living. Christ’s life was Paul’s life, and Paul’s living was Christ’s living. The two, Christ and Paul, lived as one. First Corinthians 6:17 refers to such a living. In this verse Paul says that we are one spirit with the Lord. The organic union that has taken place between us and Christ causes us to be so close and intimate with Him that we are even one spirit with Him.
To live Christ is not merely to live a holy life or to live holiness. To live Christ is to live a person. This is to live a life that is Christ Himself. Paul’s life was to live Christ. He lived Christ because Christ lived in him. He was one with Christ both in life and living. He and Christ had one life and one living. They lived together as one person. Christ lived within him as his life, and he lived Christ without as his living.
As Christians, we are privileged to have Christ as our life. Now He wants us to live Him. “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). This indicates that we and Christ may live together, having one life and one living. Day by day we need to practice living Christ, taking Him as our life and person. This is the Christian life. When we live Christ in this way, it will be our experience that we have been crucified with Christ and that it is no longer we but Christ who lives in us. Then we shall be able to say with Paul, “To me to live is Christ.”
(Conclusion of the New Testament, The (Msgs. 099-113), Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)