And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. (Acts 11:26)
They Were Called Something Special
After two-thousand years, the name Christian has lost some of its luster. There are so many ways to use the name describing a nation, people or cause. If a person is a good person, they can be described as a Christian. Many non-religious people are called Christians because they pay their taxes, work hard and seldom get a speeding ticket. America is considered by some to be a Christian nation because of certain values that founded the nation and “made this nation great.” Schools can be Christians, families, groups, organizations are labeled as Christian. There are more Christians walking about who have little idea who God is, Jesus Christ and the value of authority in scripture. A Christian is just an adjective for nobility and being kind.
During the New Testament first century, many were good and noble. The common man embraced a simple lifestyle of doing the best he could do in a harsh environment of Roman dominion. They faithfully paid their taxes, worked hard, enjoyed a moral life of peace within their family and seldom found themselves at odds with the authorities. The Jews were not the only ones who feared God. There were Gentiles who honored the one true God as Lord along with all their household. They were generous and prayed fervently to the Lord. From time beginning there have always been good people believing in God who exemplified a noble life of honesty. What separated these honest people in the New Testament was that being good and noble did not make them a Christian. What happened in Antioch of Syria was a line was drawn of demarcation.
The disciples in Antioch were called Christians because they clearly defined their lives in a different way. Being called a Christian was a name of distinction, clarity, derision, identity signifying something very different from anyone else in the world. It was not because they were good people; although they were good people. The name was not given because of a general perception of how nice these people were. These people were followers of Jesus Christ and everyone knew it. They were not ashamed to be known as a disciple of the Son of God. The disciples at Antioch were first called Christians because they stood out like a beacon of light in a world filled with darkness. Kings would recognize the value of the name Christian as the apostle Paul pressed hard the message of truth in their hearts. Peter would proclaim that to suffer as a Christian was a blessing from God. In the early church, the term Christian was a name bathed in the blood of Jesus Christ and evidenced by a life devoted to righteousness and truth.
It seems that among the people of God, the name Christian has lost its luster. If they come to worship once in a while and have their name on a roll somewhere, they are a Christian. They pay their taxes, obey the laws, and work hard. No one sees them as different from the world because they dress like the world, talk like the world and play like the world – but they have their name on a roll they are a Christian. The saints in Antioch were not like the modern day actors who ply their trade of mediocrity. They were called Christians for the first time because something dramatic stood out in their lives. These people were sanctified, holy, righteous, marching soldiers of the King of Kings who let everyone know they were not going to live like the world. The Christian was a person who declared to all there was one truth, one God, one faith and one Way. They did not drink, smoke, curse and imbibe in worldly pleasures. Their lives were purified from the trappings of the flesh. A Christian in the city of Antioch was a person who identified his family with Jesus Christ and nothing less.
It would do well for many in the church today to look again at what it means to be a Christian: in terms of the Biblical meaning. The Lord demands that all who wear the name of HIS SON are separate from the world. Do not forget that when you call yourself a Christian – you wear the name of Christ. Live each day with the name of Jesus Christ as your banner so that others can see God living in you.
Most church members live so far below the standard; you’d have to backslide to be in fellowship. We are so subnormal that if we were to become normal, people would think we were abnormal. (Vance Havner; 1901-1986)