“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 word “Christian” occurs only three times in Scripture and seems to have changed in its meaning from first to last. In the first instance, “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). The name merely identified them as followers of Christ with no reproach intended.
The second usage was some years later by which time the term was evidently well known, even among unbelievers. After Paul had witnessed to him, “Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28). A more literal translation which renders the sentence, “Do you try in such a short time to make a Christian of me?” indicates an air of superiority or incredulity in Agrippa’s voice. It would take more than a short testimony to make a Christian of him.
As the years went by, the church began to be plagued by persecution. Our text indicates that even the name “Christian” was by then regarded with contempt and reproach. But Peter tells us that there is no shame involved in the name “Christian” or in following Christ. Peter, no doubt, recalled the shame he felt for denying the name of Christ, but he also recalled with thankfulness how that even though the Jewish council had “beaten them” and “commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus” (Acts 5:40), he and the other apostles departed “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (v.41).
Furthermore, we can “glorify God on this behalf,” or “in this name.” This implies more than just praising the name. We can glorify God in what we do—in how we live in that name. We can certainly also bring dishonor to the title “Christian” by our actions. A solemn responsibility is then ours, to bring honor and glory to God through our lives. JDM