Summary: The believers were not called Christians in Jerusalem, but were called Christians in Antioch.
Text: “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26).
Who is a Christian? How would you define a Christian? I would say that a Christian is a person who believes in and follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. A Christian is one who proclaims, follows, and lives according to the words written in red.
There are some other words in the New Testament used to indicate followers of Jesus. For example, in 1Timothy 4:12 we find these word “believers”. Paul had written this letter to Timothy to encourage him concerning his leadership role in the church at Ephesus.
Paul knew that Timothy would have a difficult time because there was much false teaching going on in Ephesus. Paul considered Timothy “…true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). Timothy was one of Paul’s converts.
Also, Timothy was a young man and being so, Paul said, to him, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in the word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
A “believer in the word” would be one who believes in and follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. In this case, Paul uses the word “believer” to indicate a follower of Jesus, hence a Christian.
In Acts 14:2 the followers of Jesus are called brethren. This Scripture says, “But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren.” Some versions of the Bible use the word “brothers”.
There were unbelieving Jews who were causing trouble for the believing Gentiles by preaching in opposition to the disciples. The jealously of the Jews was the basis for their bitter anti-Christian propaganda they were using to create questions in the minds of the brethren.
The followers of Jesus were called “disciples” as indicated in Acts 6:2. The many followers are referred to as disciples. “Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables’” (v. 2).
“The twelve” referred to here are the 11 original disciples and the newly chosen disciple whose name was Matthias. The function of the twelve disciples was to preach the word of God, but in addition to preaching the Word, there were other things that needed to be done.
Verse 2 uses the words “serve tables”. The disciples chose others to carry on programs such as the distribution of food. This same thing should go on in churches today. The preacher or minister’s job is to preach the “Word of God”. This is the greatest job in the world. This is greater than being President of the United States.
The preacher must not try to run all the functions of the church alone. The people who are responsible for carrying out the various functions of the church must be: filled with the Holy Spirit; full of wisdom; possess the highest degree of honesty, and give themselves constantly to prayer.
The followers of Jesus are also referred to as “saints” in The New Testament. Paul uses this in his first letter to the Corinthians. Paul says, “…to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…” (1:2).
These are just a few different words used to refer to followers of and believers in the teachings of Jesus. It doesn’t make any difference which word is used to describe a follower of Jesus – bottom line is they are “called Christians”.
“The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch” (Acts 11:26). Let’s consider how these events all came together. What is the big deal about Antioch? Why did all this take place in Antioch?
Verse 19 talks about “…those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen….” Where did this scattering originate? What did Jesus say to them before ascending into heaven?
He said to the disciples, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about” (Acts 1:4). Jerusalem played a very important part in history. It was called the “royal city.”
Jerusalem was where the temple was erected. It was the city where our Lord was crucified, where He was buried, where the resurrection took place and the place of His ascension back to heaven.
This was the city chosen for the coming of the Holy Spirit which ushered in the beginning of the Christian Church. In 1 Kings 14:21 Jerusalem is referred to as “…the city which the LORD had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put His name there.”
Jerusalem is called Zion over 100 times in the Old Testament. It is also referred to as “the city of David” in 2 Samuel 5:7 as well as in several other Scriptures. Psalm 46:4 calls Jerusalem “the city of God”.