Summary: Believers were called Christians first at Antioch. What are the characteristics that made this church great.
A Study of the Book of Acts
Sermon # 22
“Living Up to the Name”
“Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. (20) But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. (21) And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. (22) Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. (23) When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. (24) For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. (25) Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. (26) And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. (27) And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. (28) Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. (29)Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. (30) This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul”. (NKJV)
Prior to this believers had been called several things. The first word used to describe them was “disciples.” They were disciples of their Master. They were disciples or “learners” after their master Jesus. That name prevailed throughout the ministry of Jesus.
Afterward they were called “saints.” Jesus gave them this word, calling them literally “the holy ones, or the set apart ones.” A saint is not one who is perfect. Not one who has been credited with so many miracles as in the Catholic understanding of the word. A saint is one who is committed to or devoted to God, which are all the followers of Jesus Christ.
They were called “believers.” This does not refer only to an intellectual adherence to a set of facts, but to a joyous reception to the gospel.
They were called “witnesses.” Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses..” (Acts 1:8 (quickview) ). They were to be witnesses of what they had seen and heard, of the truth about Jesus Christ to the rest of the world.
It is in Antioch that for the first time the followers of Jesus are called “Christians.” The word means “Christ’s ones’ or “Christ’s people” or “belonging to Christ.” Some believe that it was intended as a sneer, an insult. But once given to them, it was felt to be too appropriate, too beautiful, too dear, to be ever allowed to die.
Here for the very first time these, disciples, saints, believers, witnesses, are called Christians. No longer is the church considered a sect of Judaism. The church is recognized as being distinct from Israel