When You Say You are a Christian, What Does it Mean?

Tuesday is for Preaching

Slave by MacArthurI am re-reading John MacArthur’s Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ (Thomas Nelson, 2010). It is such a powerful book and it starts in the preface with a compelling story of a brother in Christ who gave his life in testimony to the beauty and attractiveness of Christ in the late second century, probably around AD 177. His name was Sanctus and he knew who he was. He knew who he belonged to and he knew what to hold on to.

“I am a Christian.”

The young man said nothing else as he stood before the Roman governor, his life hanging in the balance. His accusers pressed him again, hoping to trip him up or force him to recant. But once more he answered with the same short phrase. “I am a Christian.”

It was the middle of the second century, during the reign of emperor Marcus Aurelius [AD 161-180]. Christianity was illegal, and believers throughout the Roman Empire faced the threat of imprisonment, torture, or death. Persecution was especially intense in southern Europe, where Sanctus, a deacon from Vienna, had been arrested and brought to trial. The young man was repeatedly told to renounce the faith he professed. But his resolve was undeterred. “I am a Christian.”

No matter what question he was asked, he always gave the same unchanging answer. According to the ancient church historian Eusebius, Sanctus “girded himself against [his accusers] with such firmness that he would not even tell his name, or the nation or city to which he belonged, or whether he was bond or free, but answered in the Roman tongue to all their questions, ‘I am a Christian.'” When at last it became obvious that he would say nothing else, he was condemned to severe torture and a public death in the amphitheater. On the day of his execution, he was forced to run the gauntlet, subjected to wild beasts, and fastened to a chair of burning iron. Through out all of it, his accusers kept trying to break him, convinced that his resistance would crack under the pain of torment. But as Eusebius recounted, “Even thus they did not hear a word from Sanctus except the confession which he had uttered from the beginning.” His dying words told of an undying commitment. His rally cry remained constant throughout his entire trial, “I am a Christian.”

For Sanctus, his whole identity–including his name, citizenship, and social status–was found in Jesus Christ. Hence, no better answer could have been given to the questions he was asked. He was a Christian, and that designation defined everything about him.

… As one historian explained about the early martyrs, 

They [would reply] to all questionings about them [with] the short but comprehensive answer, “I am a Christian.” Again and again they caused no little perplexity to their judges by the pertinacity with which they adhered to this brief profession of faith. The question was repeated, “Who are you?” and they replied “I have already said the I am a Christian; and he who says that has thereby named his country, his family, his profession, and all things besides.”

MacArthur’s preface to his book, p. 7-9.

And if you are looking for a shorter but kind of “cousin” treatment to who we are in Christ, …

… pick up a copy of my Settlers or Sojourners: Meditations in Christian Identity at Amazon in either paperback or kindle formats.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s