The name “Christian” is used only 3 times in the New Testament in referring to believers in Jesus (Yeshua), and all three were in connection with Gentiles. We refer to ourselves as Messianics instead of Christians. However, the root of the word Christian is the same as Messianic, and means “anointed one.” Yeshua is the Anointed One, but we are also anointed ones, following in His footsteps.
Believers in Yeshua are called “disciples” 292 times in the New Covenant. The word in Greek is mathetes, from the same root as “mathematics” (indicating a more structured set of disciplines than we charismatics are used to). However, “disciple” is found only in the Gospels and Acts, not in the Epistles or Revelation.
Believers are called “saints” 64 times in the New Covenant; however, only in Acts, the Epistles and Revelation, not in the Gospels. The word in Greek is agios, the equivalent of the Hebrew kadosh. Both these words mean “holy,” and are the same words used referring to God as “Holy, Holy, Holy.” The New Covenant refers to us as in the “process” of being sanctified or “called” to be saints.
In Leviticus 19:2, God says, “Be Holy, for I am Holy.” Actually the Hebrew is in the future tense, not the imperative. Thus the original literally says, You will be Holy because I am Holy. It’s not just a command; it’s also a wonderful promise. Yes, you will be holy, because His holiness is transferred to those who trust Him.
We are called disciples in the Gospels, and saints in the Epistles. We are never called saints in the Gospels, and never called disciples in the Epistles. In Acts there is a mixture of the two. A believer in Yeshua is supposed to go through a transition. Our position and personality change.
We are to be transformed in consciousness, moral character, and self-image. We are trained by Him and then we become like Him. We go from being servants to being friends (John 15:15). We are created anew in His image (Genesis 1:26, II Corinthians 3:18, 5:17). Yeshua said it would be better for us if He “went away,” so that we would not only believe in Him, but also be filled with His Spirit (John 16:7).
There are stages to our faith and in our understanding of who we are in Him. The purpose of a student is not to stay being a student, but to get a degree, to acquire a skill. A student is to become like his master (Matthew 10:25). We are partakers of the divine nature (II Peter 1:4).
Interestingly, the revelatory transition from disciples to saints came at the same time as the transition from a local Israelite gospel to an international, universal one. The holiness of the Holy Spirit is available to everyone. Anyone can become a sanctified “saint” of God. We don’t believe in dead Catholic saints, but in living believers, sanctified by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:11).
Let us make this transition from discipleship to sainthood. Don’t skip over discipleship, and claim a cheap, phony spirituality. Go through all the divine disciplines. But do go through them. Get to the divine potential of a pure heart. Go on to sainthood. Don’t try to skip a grade, but don’t be left behind either.
Asher serves as president of Tikkun Global family of ministries and congregations, dedicated to the dual restoration of Israel and the Church. He is founder of the Revive Israel five-fold ministry team, and oversees both Ahavat Yeshua and Tiferet Yeshua congregations in Israel.
He and his wife Betty share a passion for personal prayer and devotion, local evangelism and discipleship in Hebrew, and unity of the Body of believers worldwide.
Asher was raised in a conservative Jewish home and holds degrees from Harvard University, Baltimore Hebrew College and Messiah Biblical Institute. He has authored numerous books, tracts and articles.