Why Are You Called a Christian?

Our world is full of questions, most of which we find to be utterly trivial. But others are of such vital importance that their answers contain life-altering consequences. Some answers are the absolute highpoints in our lives, “It’s a boy!” or “She said YES!”. But others are far graver. Jesus put forward a question to His disciples. It is the most important question any of us will ever have to answer. And mark my words dear friend, you will have to answer it honestly. Jesus asks, “who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15 ESV)

As mentioned, all of us will someday have to give an account for how we answer this question. Our hearts cannot simply make empty declarations. Our hearts must burst open in raptures of joy in the knowledge of Christ, and His work for us in dying upon the cross for our wretched hearts. From the deepest recesses of our souls, praise must come. And this praise comes principally in the admission of who Jesus is. We declare alongside Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16 ESV) And in this title, Christ, we learn something about the Lord Jesus.

One of the common misunderstandings is that Christ is the last name of Jesus. We must recognize that “Christ,” is a title, much like our use of “Mr. President,” or in England “Your Majesty”. The title “Christ,” simply means “Anointed”. Therefore, when we look at Peter’s declaration in response to Jesus’ question of identity he is declaring: Jesus you are our long-awaited King! You are the promised Mediator that we’ve been waiting for! You are the Anointed One of God!

When we look at the Scriptures, we find the ceremony of anointing (pouring out oil on someone’s head) used for three particular offices: Prophet (1 King. 19:16), Priest (Leviticus 8:12), King (1 Samuel 16:13). The anointing symbolized that the individual is being set apart for their special office, and that they were being gifted with God’s Spirit to strengthen them to accomplish their tasks. The oil then is a symbol or sign of God’s Spirit coming upon them. When we see the Old Testament prophets, priests, and kings we find in those who were faithful, foreshadows of Christ’s future work. When those individuals failed to execute their offices in accord with God’s Word they demonstrate the need for the Christ to come. In Christ alone do we find these three offices coming together. But where was Christ anointed?

Peter informs us in Acts 10:38 that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.” (ESV) His anointing was accomplished at Jesus’ baptism at the hands of John the Baptist when the Holy Spirit came upon Him “like a dove” (Matthew 3:17). At this moment, Jesus received the Holy Spirit “without measure” (John 3:34). In this decisive moment Jesus was set apart for His public ministry, anointed as the climactic Prophet, Priest, and King. In other words, Jesus is the anointed Mediator.

As the name “Christ” means Jesus is the anointed one, so we as “Christians” bear the anointing of the Holy Spirit. By the work of the Holy Spirit, we have been united to Christ forever. As a unique gift to believers alone, the Father, Son, and Spirit have come to make their dwelling within us as His people. God Himself dwells in our hearts because of Christ’s Spirit-wrought victory over sin. We have a great privilege and responsibility for God’s name is sealed upon us! Paul reminds the Church at Corinth, “it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put His seal on us and given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22 ESV) Just as the Spirit was a promise of the Father’s love and call on Christ, so for us – the Holy Spirit reminds us that we belong to Christ and this is imaged in our baptisms.

Therefore, we must live echoing Christ to the world. We must no longer live as those who know nothing about God. We bear the family crest of Christ. We must abandon everything that would bring shame upon the Name. We must be empowered by God who dwells in us. We must wage spiritual battles with the Devil as Christ did, relying on the Spirit and Word in prayer. Beloved we have been united to Christ forever, and that must be our constant source of hope and joy. Despite our frailty the Spirit is at work in those of you who believe. Believe in God. Rest in His Spirit.

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