Summary: Acts 11:26 says that the disciples of Christ were first called “Christians” at Antioch. In fact, “Christian” is just 1 of many names for God's people in the New Testament. This sermon on the 1st and most fundamental name for God's people: “Believer."
Names for the People of God #1—“Believer”
Series: Names for God’s People
April 3, 2016
TEXT: Acts 11:25-26 – “Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”
What’s in a name?
Today names usually have little meaning or significance. We simply choose a name on the basis of how it sounds or its popularity or its novelty. Or we choose a name after someone we admire or in honor of someone.
For instance, our youngest son’s full name is Allen Matthew Sligh Allen is MY dad’s first name and Matthew was SUSAN’S dad’s middle name. It was our way of honoring both of his grandfathers.
In Bible times, the meaning of names carried greater significance than is usually the case today. To the Jews in particular, the meaning of a name meant a great deal. They usually gave their children names that had a special meaning.
Some people do that even today, as Susan and I did with our two older boys. We chose names based on their meaning, hoping they would live up to their names.
• CHARLES CHRISTOPHER, our oldest son’s name, means “strong and manly Christ-bearer.” – We wanted him to grow up and be STRONG and MANLY, and a bearer of the Good News of Christ, and he’s living up to his name.
• Our second son is JONATHAN ROBERT, which means “bright and shining gift from God,” and Jon has certainly been a special bright and shining gift from God to us.
Now, our text says that it was at Antioch that disciples were first called “Christians.” However, the term “Christian” is only one of a number names for God’s people in the Bible. Among these names are the following: Believer, Child of God, Disciple, Saint, Faithful, Friend, Beloved, Christian and several other names.
Each of these names has an important meaning. My question is, if you’re a follower of Christ, are you living up to your names?
Over the next few weeks I want us to look at some of these Bible names for the people of God and examine their significance is and see what we can learn from these titles.
The first one we want to look at is the name believers. Ultimately, above all else, God’s people are believers, so it makes sense to begin there. Let’s look at two ways that the Bible uses the term “believer.”
I. FIRST, THE BIBLE SPEAKS OF BELIEVERS FOR SALVATION
The cornerstone tenet in all of the New Testament is that one must be a believer in Jesus Christ to be a child of God. If you don’t grasp the idea of BELIEF in Jesus as your Savior, and the idea of FAITH in Him to save—then you can never understand New Testament Christianity.
• In Acts 4 we read that Peter and John were arrested for preaching the Gospel. – But it goes on to say, “...many of them which heard the word BELIEVED; and the number of the men was about five thousand.” (verse 4)
• When Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch in the desert, Philip told him of Jesus dying on the cross for his sins so that he could have forgiveness of sins and a relationship with God. Apparently, having already heard about baptism, this man said, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” (Acts 8:36) Philip, knowing that neither baptism, nor any other religious rite washes away sin said “If thou BELIEVEST with all thine heart, thou mayest.” (verse 37)
• Later, when Peter came to the home of Cornelius, the first Gentile ever to be saved, Peter preached Christ to Cornelius and all his house and he thundered out this message, “...that through His name [i.e., Jesus] whosoever BELIEVETH in him shall receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43)
• When the Philippian jailor came to Paul and Silas after an earthquake, he asked them: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”, and Paul was quick to answer…“BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved and your house.”
On and on and on we could go throughout the New Testament. Faith in Christ is the central, most fundamental element of biblical Christianity. Over and over again the New Testament thunders that faith—belief—is the SOLE means by which we can be right with God and have a relationship with Him.
Look at the verses on your Sermon Notes and follow along as I read them, and as I do, note how several of them not only proclaim faith, or its synonym, BELIEF, as the SOLE means of obtaining God’s grace, but how they strongly teach against things most people trust in to be saved—that is, works and religion.