I commonly hear Christians refer to themselves either with that terms, "Christians," or as "believers". However, when I read the New Testament, particularly Paul's epistles, these do not strike me as the foremost terms that are used to refer to the people of God. In the New Testament, and particularly from the Acts of the Apostles onwards, what terms are used to refer to Christians, and with what frequency? Which are most prominent? I am particularly interested in the relative frequency of "Christian," "believer," and "saint," but an inclusion of other titles would also be helpful.
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Interesting question. From what I can tell 'brother' if the most common term, followed by saints and believers, far behind in second place. Christian is what outsiders called the believer so it is last.
Here are the hits based on the greek words;
Χριστιανός Christiania; Christian 3
πιστός pistos -believers,faithful 53
ἅγιος hagios - saints 61
ἀδελφός adelphos -brethren 226 (brother 113)
My take on these is we are to feel bound to one another as a close knit family. However we need not become legalistic about it, for in our Culture I think we have revised the meaning of Christian to hold that same proud bond we share with each other.
Right brothers and sisters?
My (limited) understanding is that many of these terms are relatively modern. The early Christians were known as followers of Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth. Our Western language Bibles have inherited the language of the later Roman and post Roman periods.
My NIV uses the term "The Fellowship of the Believers" as a heading in Acts 2 where v44 refers to "All the believers were together". "Believers" is referenced 14 times in Acts in fact so it is clearly a commonly used term - at least as translated to English. "Saints" on the other hand is only referenced 3 times, it seems to be more common to the book of Romans. I'm afraid I'm not enough of a scholar to analyse further than that.
In truth though, I'm wondering why you think this significant? As others have said, there are a number of indirect descriptors of Christians such as "the Faithful". It would help to understand your thinking.
For my own part, it is important for me to be associated with Jesus Christ (e.g. the Son of God, not just a man) since this is the significant difference of my faith. So I am happy to be called a Christian, a believer, faithful or a saint (notice not a capital S there!). Or indeed anything else that makes it clear that Jesus is the Earthly mark of my adoption by the Most High God. ("I Am the Way").