“… and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). Luke records that disciples were first called Christians here some 13 years AFTER the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2. So what were Christians called during that period of time? Well the answer may be obvious, but the lessons from that answer may not be to most.
While we learn that they were first called Christians at Antioch… they were first called “Disciples”. The term disciple means “a follower of”. Therefore, if all Christians are disciples, that means all Christians are followers of Christ. This harmonizes perfectly with what I John 2:3-6 says, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” This also corresponds perfectly with what Jesus said as He preached, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8:31-32)
Learning that they were disciples we verify that one becomes a Christian by being baptized. According to the command of Jesus, one was to become a disciple by baptism, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” (Mt. 28:19-20) Furthermore, we know that being baptized is a following of Christ from death into a new life of service to God the Father, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Ro 6:4) The implication of the “new life” is not that we continue in sin that grace might abound (modernly referred to as “once saved always saved”), but instead is a call to godliness, “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Ro 6:10-13)
If one wants to be a Christian, a Disciple, a Follower of Christ, then they must by the very definition of the word, follow Him. They must follow His walk (Ro. 6:4-10), commands (Mt. 28:19-20), and example (Mt. 3:13-17). There is no such thing as an unbaptized Christian because there is no such thing as an unbaptized Disciple. Not according to the words of Jesus anyway. Remember John 8:31-32? If we are truly disciples of Christ then you will know the truth and it will make you free. What is the truth? “… the word of truth, the gospel” (Col 1:5) What is the gospel? “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved…” (Mk 16:15-16) And what does baptism free (save) you from? Sin (Acts 2:38; 22:16) and Death (Ro. 6:17-23)
When we understand what it truly means to be a “Disciple”, then we learn that we can’t be a Christian without being one.