Summary: Choose your colors, just not plain brown.
Christian = Plain Brown Wrapper
I preach at a local rescue mission and I used most of this message there one night. I wanted to warn them because desperate people are very vulnerable to deception in the name of Christ. I have added some verses because I want to approach the same subject but from a different facet of the same diamond.
I was raised sort of off and on a United Methodist and my wife was an occasional Lutheran. Actually, my maternal grandparents raised their kids in an Evangelical Brethren Church that at some point merged with the UMC. My Dad was a Methodist from the beginning. Unfortunately, neither my wife nor I knew very much about our “faith” or the denomination our family was affiliated with until we were saved in 1975 and really not until I went to bible college in 1978. My experience has shown that the majority of folks in any denomination are as ignorant as we were.
When I was first saved I had some struggle swapping over to being a Baptist because of family tradition. I was pretty much a rebel in my family and the black sheep but I did have some nagging guilt about leaving the UMC. It took four months for me to be baptized because I had been “baptized” as a child. Finally, the Lord asked me if I was saved in the UMC and of course, I replied no. Then He asked me what I owed them. I had to reply, nothing and told the pastor I was ready to be baptized. I thought he would have a stroke from unbelief or shock. My wife followed suit for she would have had to answer the same way about her Lutheranism. We had nametags but would have busted Hell wide open.
I once asked one of the lads at the church where I was saved how long he had been a Baptist and he replied that he was Christian that attended a Baptist Church. As a new Christian, let alone a Baptist, I nodded my head and rolled on. At the time, it was a question kind of like the ones a five-year-old might fire off at you. You start giving a detailed answer and he was only remotely curious so he toddles off to his toys while you are in the middle of your explanation. I was slightly curious but it wasn’t a burning issue at the time. I called myself a Christian when I attended YFC, MYF and the spaghetti suppers so I knew I was more than what I had been so just Christian didn’t seem exactly right. Years after I learned why I felt that way.
Acts 11:26 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. (KJV)
Up unto this point they were known by at least nine other names that they either took upon themselves or were given to them by their enemies. There is some debate it seems as to if they called themselves Christians or were called that by outsiders in Antioch and one suggestion is that God may have told Paul to call them that.
I don’t think the disciples would have picked this up for themselves because while they wanted to be identified with Christ they may have thought it disrespectful to use His name in a somewhat common manner. Many were converted Jews who would have only spoken the name of Jehovah reverentially and used the abbreviation YHWH when they wrote it. True, they did use portions of God’s name in their names like Dani-EL and Joshua meaning Jehovah saved but they usually called themselves Israelites, Jews, Hebrews, sons of Abraham, servants of the Most High/Jehovah but not Jehovahites, Yahwehists or Elohimists. Even Gentiles did not call themselves Zeusites, but worshippers of Diana or whoever. Disciples, brethren, and things like that seem more likely names chosen by the followers themselves.
Did God give them the name? Well, Paul speaks more of the Church, the Body, and the Bride so if God were giving them a name it would seem like one of those would have been used. Christian is only used three times in the New Testament so I don’t think it was given to them by God or it would have come much sooner and have been more widely used in Scripture.
As the Gospel spread it is easy to imagine that outsiders might call them Christians since Christ was their primary message and their leader or mentor as an outsider might see them. The second time it is used is by Agrippa saying that he was almost persuaded to become one. Followers of Plato were call Platonists so followers of Christ called Christians by outsiders is more than reasonable and more often than not it was probably snarled than clearly spoken. Thus I believe that they took on the name after outsiders had used it predominantly. The last time it is used in Scripture is by Peter in reference to suffering because of the faith. When persecuted they were probably asked if they were a Christian and knowing the meaning they replied yes. Thus it became a badge of honor and adopted by the believers.