The name Christian appears 3 times in the New Testament and not until Acts 11:26 when Barnabas went to Tarsus to seek Saul in 43 AD. This was 14 years after the crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. “Disciple” appears in 220 verses in the 4 Gospels and in 20 verses in Acts. Today the word Christian has a cultural meaning rather than a person supernaturally transformed by the Holy Spirit. For these reasons and the facts below, I have generally replaced “Christian” with “Disciple” in my writing. I capitalize Disciple as is common with Christan.
In many instances in the 4 Gospels “Disciple” is used to refer to the 12 Apostles. But clearly all are not referring only to the Apostles including the following:
Luke 6:17 Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples,… 20 And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Luke 14: 27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
John 8: 31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;
John 15: 8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
Acts 6: 1 Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number… 7 The word of God kept on spreading, and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem,
Acts 9: 19 …Now for several days, he was with the disciples who were at Damascus
Acts 13: 52 And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit
The verses above and others convince me that in the 1st century before the word “Christian” was used; when a person was born again he was a Disciple. He might have been a weak Disciple who needed training, but he was a Disciple.
In Matthew 28:19 Jesus commanded His disciples to “go make disciples“.
In Acts 1 after the ascension, there were 120 Disciples, after Acts 2 there were 3,000 more. They were being discipled in Acts 2: 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 4: 4 many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.
Henry Luke June 23, 2015, revised 8/16/2018