I have heard that Christians were originally called "people of the way," so I checked the Internet to see what information I could find. I was amazed at the number of sites referenced; there were over 350,000,000! Needless to say, I did not avail myself of the vast resources available. The reason I felt inclined to delve into the subject was from something said in The Shack written by William P. Young. In it, Jesus tells Mack He did not come to start a religion, but that He came to reestablish a relationship between Himself and His creation. If that is true, and I certainly believe it is, then how did Christianity become a religion? To the world, Christianity is simply one of a myriad of human religions, and to most of its proponents, it has become "a religion" due to their ignorance of the Word of God.
"Christians," as a name for members of the Body of Christ, is found only three times in the New Testament. From the founding of the Church on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1, it took approximately ten years before someone in Antioch first called the disciples of Jesus "Christians" (Acts 11:26). Obviously it caught on, because both Luke and Peter refer to believers as "Christians" (Acts 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16). However, the same two authors later in their writings, refer to the Church as "the way" (Acts 16:17; 18:25-26; 24:14; 2 Pet. 2:2, 15, 21).
Today's definition of the term "Christianity," means "the religion of the followers of Jesus Christ." But genuine Christianity is not a religion. A religion is a system of rules to follow so that one will find favor with a god and avoid incurring his or her wrath. The Bible teaches that by faith in the finished work of Jesus on our behalf, we become God's children (Rom. 8:16). When Jesus was crucified, was buried, and rose again according to the prophetic Scriptures, He removed the enmity between God and mankind (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Jam. 4:4). We can do nothing of ourselves to change our relationship with God; our salvation is a free gift (Eph. 2:8-9).
Picture yourself as an orphan living in an orphanage. You can do nothing to cause someone to come adopt you. However, you can reject an offer and refuse to be adopted. That is the way it is with us. We are offered an opportunity to become a child of Almighty God, and all we have to do is accept. An orphan cannot produce love in the heart of prospective parents; it is either there or it is not. God is love, and He loves us (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 4:8, 16). He wants to fill us with His Spirit and make us His heirs (Rom. 8:14-17).
So, whether we call ourselves "Christians," "believers," "disciples," "followers," "the way," etc., it doesn't matter; a rose is a rose. What really matters is that we have accepted His offer to be our God. Hopefully, those who have accepted God's offer will live their lives dedicated to loving and serving others, and will be seen as becoming more and more like the One the book, the Song of Solomon, calls "the Rose of Sharon" (2:1).