Acts 11:26c (ESV) — 26c And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
What is a Christian? In our day that can mean almost anything. If one is not Jewish, Muslim, or an adherent of some other major religion, they are most likely to be lumped in with “Christians.” In fact globally, being non-Jewish or non-Muslim, “Christian” is probably the default label – at least in Western nations.
But if we are to understand what the Bible means by that term, we can come to no better place than this text. This is where the term had its origin, and it may be a wake-up call to some who would take this name to themselves, without considering its origin.
So, how did this name come to be given to them in Antioch?
There seem to be 3 elements in the text.
Christians were given that name by outsiders because:
1. (20) Tho they were persecuted for it, they persisted in PREACHING Christ Jesus as Lord.
In other words, they were known first by their message. And make no mistake, their message was not about being nice moral people so that they might go to Heaven someday. It was no message of good works earning one favor with God. It was about the person and work of Jesus Christ – and Him as Lord. His right to rule and reign in our lives as God. Where that message is wanting, so is genuine Christianity.
2. (23) They remained FAITHFUL with STEADFAST PURPOSE. They were not aimless, as though they became Christians and then became self-styled. They were God’s people on God’s mission to spread the Gospel. And they were committed to it. It was not a bare belief but a life governing purpose which was not to be deviated from.
3. (26) They gave themselves to LEARN of Him. They PURSUED Him. They sat under the teaching of the Apostles. They did not assume they could make things up on their own. They knew they needed to hear, understand and know a body of truth which would be common to them as this newly constituted people.
And so we might ask ourselves today – based upon these 3 criteria, would anyone call ME a “Christian” today? Are these the telltale signs in my own life which might bring – what was then – this derisive term upon me?
Oh, may it ever be so. Now and throughout all the generations until Jesus returns.