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. (Acts 11:26)
They Were Called Christians
The early disciples enjoyed the fresh beginning of the church learning its doctrines, messages and principles that were so different from the Law of Moses. Even the Gentiles would later discover how deeply the message of Jesus Christ would give them greater hope than worthless idols. From the first gospel sermons on Pentecost to the formation of churches throughout the Roman Empire, the saints of God began developing the patterns that would come from the mind of God as His new law of grace through His Son. Removing the trappings of the Law of Moses, early disciples began forming the basis of worship in a deeply spiritual relationship. Gentiles cast off their superstitions of pagan worship to embrace the one true God. As the first disciples united as a people, a wonderful thing happened – they were called Christians. The church in Antioch was a beehive of activity for the early disciples. Paul, Silas and Barnabas used this congregation as a starting point for their work in the mission fields. Antioch was on fire to spread the gospel to the whole world. And the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.
It is easy to see who people are by their character, demeanor, attitudes and disposition. A devoted sports fan wears memorabilia of their favorite team, puts logos on their cars, and knows all the teams, players, stats and games. We exemplify what we are interested in by our actions. If a man loves to do woodworking, you will find it in his conversation. A woman who has an artistic nature is creative in her love of the arts. Musically inclined people love music and express it in their life. A Christian is someone who takes Christ as their teacher and lives everyday learning about who He is, what He is and what He had to say. The disciples in Antioch were first called Christians because that was the way they were living. Everything about their life was from the rule of life given by Jesus Christ. It was unmistakable the disciples in Antioch loved the Son of God.
Why were they called Christians? What brought about this label to be placed on this group of folk that met in Antioch? The world could see the disciples of Jesus Christ lived with the devotion of His character in life and this was in opposition to the pagan world around them. Rome was a powerful empire casting its influence all over the world. The central theme of Roman power was a hedonistic philosophy of the ‘me principle’ that vaunted the image of self above all other things. Pleasure was the god of the Romans and they dressed the part, spoke the language and bathed in its glory. In the midst of all of this self-indulgence were a group of people that did not look and act like the rest of the world. They were called Christians because they were not of this world of Roman pleasure.
If there is a lesson from the saints in Antioch, it is for the pleasure driven people of God to take account of where they find themselves. So often Christians today are hard to distinguish from the worldly pursuits of a pleasure driven world. History is a hard mistress that reincarnates herself every few generations as new and exciting when in reality it is the same tired harlot of Satan redressing herself in regal gowns of pleasure. The disciples of Jesus Christ dress like the world so much those who see them would not call them Christians. Immodesty is rampant among God’s people as they undress more and more and wear tighter and tighter clothing. Dresses are worn so short there is little thread left to the imagination. Shoulders, cleavage, backs and thighs are exposed with great pleasure as women of God let the world stare at their bodies. Men present themselves in the form of Atlas gods who worship the body glorifying the physique of manliness. The speech of those who would profess to be a Christian is filled with cursing, immorality, and sexual innuendo. Life is about fun, frolic, recreation, and making as much money as possible. Social drinking, pornography, pleasure and the worship of self are the old gods of a new world.
The disciples in Antioch were called Christians because that is what they were. They lived it, dressed like it, spoke like it and thought like it. We have taken the name Christian and made a label out of it instead of what it was intended to be – the spirit of a life. Vance Havner said, “God knows His own. It is well that He does, for sometimes it would be difficult for us to determine who are His! Heaven will surprise us both ways.” They were first called Christians in Antioch. We must live so that people will call us Christians. Otherwise, what are they going to call us?