Summary: What did it mean when the first believers were called Christians? What does it mean today?
What Does It Mean To Be Called a Christian?
If I were to ask you the question “What Does It Mean To Be Called a Christian?”, there would be many varied answers... even in this place, even among Christians.
Today, I want to answer that question for then, in Paul’s day, and now, in our modern world.
Our story takes place in the city of Antioch. Antioch is the capital of Syria, far north of Israel. It was a Gentile town, with very few Jews. We know that because there were 200,000 people in the city but there was NO SYNAGOGUE.
No synagogue meant there were not even 10 Jewish men there (required to form a synagogue.)
However, with the martyrdom of Stephen, many Christians fled north and many settled in Antioch. We don’t know how many, but they were not afraid to share their faith. As our scripture opens, there is a REVIVAL going on. The Christians who had fled had gotten revived, and were sharing. And the revival had spread to the lost who were getting saved in LARGE numbers.
Verse 21 says”a great number of the people (lost) believed and turned to the Lord.”
(((REMEMBER: Those two words..... together)))
The church at Jerusalem (First Baptist Church of the world) sent Barnabas to check it out and see if it was genuine revival---- blessed by Holy Spirit.
It was!!!! Barnabas knew he needed help.... went to find Paul.
ONE FULL YEAR.... they worked that area, doing follow-up, preaching, teaching.
Then verse 26 “THE DISCIPLES WERE CALLED CHRISTIANS FIRST AT ANTIOCH.”
What did it mean
To those who called them Christians?
To those who were called Christians?
1. IT WAS NO COMPLIMENT!!!!!!!
It was the “C” word, equivalent to calling a black person by the “N” word.
You and I wear the name with pride, but it was not a source of pride then.
It was a “put-down”... like “TV Evangelist” today
A term of derision... Like “born again” today
An insult!!!! Like “fundamentalist” today
It came from the Greek word Christos = Lord Christ
and the Latin suffix ian = slave in the household of
Christian meant slave in the household slave of Lord Christ.
That may excite you as much as it does me
I want that on my tombstone... A slave for Jesus Christ!!
But it was an insult then... by those people.
I love what Tacitus (1st Century Greek historian) wrote; “The vulgar call them christians.”
The great cry of that society was FREEDOM
They reveled in their freedom
They hated anyone who sought to take their rights and freedoms
They detested anything that would smack of restraint
It was the hay-day, and beginning of the end for the Roman Empire that was destroyed because of its insatiable hunger to be free from all restraints.
It fell into complete debauchery, and fell apart.
The great sin of our day is INTOLERANCE
The great sin of their day was RESTRAINT– DENYING FREEDOM
The great insult of our day is Intolerant, bigot!!!
The great curse word of their day was “slave” or slavery.
Perhaps Paul was the first to see it as a compliment when he wrote in 1 Peter 4:14, “Blessed are you if you are insulted because of the name of Christ...”