Summary: The meaning and origin of the name "Christian" and who has a right to wear it.
The New Testament Church: Its Name Acts 11:26
INTRO.: The Republican Methodist Church began on Christmas Day, 1793 in Manikintown Virginia. It was formed by several Methodist congregations who rebelled against the Methodist Episcopal form of government brought from England. Soon. There were several thousand members and whole congregations had joined them.
Representatives of the group met in August of 1794 in Surry County VA to make decisions as to how they would be governed and what they would be called. Since they had left the Methodist Church, they no longer wanted to be known as Methodists and they could hardly go around calling one another Republicans.
At a point in the meeting, a preacher named Rice Haggard stood up with the New Testament in His hand and said, "Brothers, this is a sufficient rule of faith and practice, and by it we are told that the disciples were called Christians, and I move that henceforth and forever, the followers of Christ be known as Christians simply." The motion was carried and from that time on they were simply called Christians. Their Church was, as a result, called the Christian Church. (The Stone-Campbell Movement by Leroy Garrett p. 80.)
The passage Rice Haggard referred to is the one before us. It indicates God gave His people a name by which they are to be known. Let’s examine the verse in some detail. There are three operative words; "disciples," "called," and "Christians"
I. The word "disciple" describes the folk to whom the name was given: Not everyone can wear this name.
A. A disciple of Jesus is one who holds to the teachings of Jesus. John 8:31
1. The word literally means "a learner," but when it is used it always implies agreement with and adherence to the teachings of the disciple’s teacher.
2. Those who learn from Jesus and adhere to His teachings are promised freedom from the bondage of sin and death.
3. When there was a thinning of the ranks, the real disciples of Jesus knew He is the only source of eternal life. John 6:66-68. A disciple of Jesus is one who "knows which side his bread is buttered on."
B. Becoming a disciple of Christ involves self-denial. Mark 8:34-38. Disciples of Jesus are those who realize this and are willing to "pay the price."
1. They are willing to put the Lord first in their lives, even ahead of self.
2. Then, they assume the responsibility to spread the Gospel to others. This is what Jesus means by "take up his cross."
3. There seem to be a lot of sacrifices required, but the reward for losing ones self in the Lord is eternal life.
C. Only real disciples are worthy to wear the name "Christian."
1. In a congregation I served years ago, the Church treasurer called an exterminator to spray the building. The exterminator asked, "What does Eddie have to do with this Church?" When I told him, he said, "If that man is a Christian, I’m a giraffe." The treasurer had a poor testimony for Christ. I later discovered he really didn’t have much right to call himself a Christian
2. No one who is not willing to learn about Jesus and follow His teachings has the right to call himself "Christian."
3. If one lives strictly for self, how can he say he follows Jesus?.
4. There is a standard to adhere to if we are to be disciples of Jesus.
II. The disciples were "called" Christians:
A. This is a brand new name. God has often given names to His people. He named Jacob, Israel, the son of Zachariah and Elizabeth, John. He gave His son the name, Jesus. He named Simon Peter and Saul, Paul.
1. This name had never before been used as far as we are able to learn from God’s Word.
2. It was a name created for the specific purpose of identifying God’s children under the New Covenant.
3. It is a name to be worn with pride and dignity. I Pet. 4:16. A name for which we should praise God.
B. The name came from God, despite commentators who claim it was a nickname given in derision. That is simply not true.
1. The verb translated "called" is not the Greek "kaleo" but "crematizo," a word that is translated 9 times in the New Testament as to indicate God is the One doing the naming. For example; Matt. 2:12 (ASV.)
2. The apostles did not regard this a term of derision. They accepted as a valid name for Christ’s followers.
3. The name signifies we are Christ’s people. The suffix "ian" means "belonging to."
C. In the book of Isaiah, the Lord predicted the destruction of rebellious Israel and predicted a new name for His faithful people: Isa. 65:15