The American Heritage Dictionary gives the following definition of a Christian: “Professing belief in Jesus as Christ or following the religion based on His teachings.” As we shall see, the Bible clearly teaches that a “Christian” is “a believer in Jesus Christ and one who follows His teachings.” So, the short answer to your question is: They are one and the same, for a believer is a Christian and a true Christian is a believer.

In Acts 11:26 we read, “So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (NKJV). We learn here that it was “disciples” who were called “Christians.” What is a disciple? The word simply means “a follower,” and the obvious conclusion is that they were “followers of Christ.” We know this to be the case for we read of their conversion to Christ in verses 20-21, “But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, PREACHING THE LORD JESUS. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a GREAT NUMBER BELIEVED AND TURNED TO THE LORD.” Is this not plain? There were believers in Christ who traveled to Antioch with the gospel of Jesus Christ and they preached the Lord Jesus to those in Antioch and many BELIEVED. In other words, they became BELIEVERS in Christ. If we were to read verses 22-26a we would see that Barnabas and Saul learned of their conversion and they came to Antioch to establish these new converts in the doctrines of Christianity. Their hearts were open to this teaching and they quickly “grew in grace, and in the knowledge of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (see 2nd Peter 3:18). Their testimony for Jesus Christ in Antioch was so real and effective that their fellow-townspeople started calling them Christians. The word Christian literally means “belonging to the party of Christ.” When people saw them, they were reminded of Christ by the way they lived (their lives of sin had been transformed into lives of purity) and the way they spoke (their mouths now praised God and preached the gospel of Christ). So they labeled them “Christians” to signify that they were true followers of Jesus Christ.

Sadly, the significance of the word Christian has changed over time. I say this because there are many today who are “nominal Christians.” What do I mean by that? A “nominal Christian” is someone who “bears the name of Christ” but they have never truly believed on Him as their personal Savior. We have an example of this in Christ’s letter to the church in Sardis in Revelation 3:1 where He said, “I know your works, that YOU HAVE A NAME THAT YOU ARE ALIVE, BUT YOU ARE DEAD.” How solemn! There were those in Sardis who “professed the name of Christ” but they were still “spiritually dead.” Had they really believed in the Name of Christ for salvation, they would have been “spiritually alive.” John 1:12 declares, “But as many as received Him (Christ), to them He gave the right to become children of God, to THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN HIS NAME.” But the Lord knew that many in the church in Sardis had not put their faith in Christ for salvation…they “had a name indicating they were spiritually ALIVE, but they were actually spiritually DEAD.” Is my reader a TRUE BELIEVER in Christ? If so, you are a TRUE CHRISTIAN. (298.1) (DO)