“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (I Peter 4:16).
The term “Christian” has become so nebulous today as to mean almost anyone except a Jew, or Moslem, or atheist. When it was first used, however, its meaning was quite specific: “The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).
Thus, a Christian was a disciple (i.e., a “learner” or “follower”) of Christ. The term is transliterated directly from the Greek, “Christ” being Christos in the Greek, and “Christian” being Christianos. It was probably used in mild derision by the unbelievers of early New Testament time.
This name is used only two other times in the New Testament. When Paul gave his testimony to King Agrippa, the king retorted: “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28), the sense of the reply (according to Greek scholars) being something like: “With this little bit of persuasion, are you trying to turn me into a Christian?”
What was perhaps mild sarcasm, on the part of the citizens of Antioch and King Agrippa, soon turned into open persecution, and it became quite dangerous, in many places, to be called a Christian. A term of ridicule became a term of scorn and condemnation. The Christians to whom Peter wrote his first epistle were being “reproached for the name of Christ” (I Peter 4:14), and this persecution would soon become a “fiery trial” (v.12). Therefore, Peter sought to encourage them, by reminding them that they would thereby be fellowshipping in “Christ’s sufferings” (v.13).
Then, in the final use of the word in the Bible, he reminds us, even today, that suffering “as a Christian” (v.16) is not a cause for compromise or complaint, but for rejoicing and praising God! We can even “glorify God on this behalf.” HMM