In Name Only

Throughout my childhood, I heard the term “nominal Christian,” and I thought I knew what it meant. I always assumed “nominal” meant “on the fringes,” out on the edge of a community. Barely counts as a member of. Like, they are a member of this group, but hardly participate at all, therefore you’d hardly know they belong here. Applied to Christians, it tended to be used for those who were believers, but hardly ever showed up at church, had a barely-existent prayer life, and hadn’t cracked open their Bible in months. 

In fact, “nominal” means “in name only.” You don’t have the character of the thing, the essence of the thing, the occupation of a thing. You just have the name of the thing, slapped on your exterior without changing anything else.

Don’t quote me on this as I don’t actually know how knighthoods work in England, but back in the day, if you were a knight, you had a horse and a helmet and a sword and you fought for the people who couldn’t fight for themselves. Today, you don’t have to own a horse or know how to joust. You can be a pop star or an author and they can name you as a knight. It doesn’t change a single thing about you; you don’t suddenly wear armor and defend the law and the peasants on behalf of your lord. It just slaps “sir” on the front of your name. Perhaps it gets you respect or popularity, but nothing more than, in essence, a name.

There is no such thing as a nominal Christian. It’s an oxymoron. You cannot both be a believer in Jesus and “in name only.” When Jesus names you, it changes you. Everything about you. What occupies your heart and mind, your character, your essence, and yes, your name. It isn’t about what people see when they look at your exterior. It is about what God sees when He looks inside you. Jesus’ character becomes yours. What matters to Him matters to you. You wear the armor of God and defend God’s Word and His people on behalf of your Lord. If I am to be His in name, I must be His in essence. In everything.