“Unfaithful Christian” – A Contradiction of Terms

Glendol McClure

Often, without thinking, we use the phrase “unfaithful Christian” to refer to brethren who have turned away from the Truth. Frequently, we hear the word “miracle” used loosely to refer to occurrences that are, in no way, shape, or form, supernatural. Also, the so-called “wise of this world” have redefined the word “gay,” which Webster correctly defined as: “being happily excited or keenly alive and exuberant; having high, or inducing high, spirits,” to mean, “(a) homosexual, (b) of or relating to, or used by homosexuals.” Thus, the true definition of many words is virtually destroyed by improper or slang usage.

But what about the phrase, “unfaithful Christian.” Before going further, we need to look at definitions of these two words.

The text in Acts 11:26 says, “the disciples were called (chrematizo) Christians first in Antioch.” (Emphasis mine – GM) Who? The disciples! This name was of divine origin and was prophesied by Isaiah when he wrote, “And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name (Isaiah 62:2). Inasmuch as “the disciples were called Christians,” it would be beneficial to look at the definition of the word disciple.

Remember, a “Christian” is defined as one who is an adherent, a follower, an imitator; one who is loyal to, and a learner of, the Master, Jesus Christ. With the definitions of these key words before us as illustrations, consider these contradictory phrases:

Do you see how contradictory these terms are when used to describe an individual who has fallen away from the Lord? One who is unfaithful is just that—unfaithful and not abiding in the doctrine of Christ.

People often argue that Paul referred to brethren as saints. This is true, and no one who has read the New Testament would deny it. Albert E. Barnes, in his comments on 1 Corinthians 1:2, regarding the phrase, “called to be saints” says:

“The word “saints” does not differ materially from the word sanctified in the former part of the verse. It means those who are separated from the world, and set apart for God as Holy. The idea that Paul introduced here is, that they became such because they were called to be such. The idea in the former part of the verse is, that this was done by Christ Jesus; here, he says that it was because they were called to this privilege. He doubtlessly means to say that it was not by any native tendency in themselves to holiness, but because God had called them to it.”

In contrast, the word “Christian” refers to the nature of an individual’s service and adherence to the teachings of Jesus Christ, which when practiced and applied, result in the individual being Christ-like.

We frequently hear our denominational friends use contradictory phrases such as “Baptist Christian,” “Methodist Christian,” and “Catholic Christian.” Are these professed “Christians,” Christ-like? Do they adhere to the doctrine of Christ? Are they following the Master? Are they abiding in the doctrine of Christ? The answer is an emphatic, NO! They are doing none of these things! Nowhere in the New Testament do you see an adjective preceding the name “Christian.” Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matt. 12:10). Therefore, we can clearly see that the phrase, “unfaithful Christian,” falls into the same contradictory category as those used by our denominational friends.

All “Christians” should resolve to utter the word “Christian” in reference to those who are truly Christ-like; those who adhere to His doctrine and “walk in the light” (1 John 1:5-10). When a brother or sister becomes unfaithful, abiding outside the doctrine of Christ, he or she is in a lost state spiritually! How can these brethren be Christ-like when they are unfaithful?

How then, should we refer to unfaithful brethren? Why not follow the teaching of James who said, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:19, 20). The unfaithful are erring brethren or erring children of God. They are not, “unfaithful Christians.”

Let us strive to diligently serve Christ, being followers, imitators, adherents, and students of the Master. But, let us hold in high regard the Holy name “Christian,” which the “mouth of the Lord” did name. May all brethren strive to “be faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10).