And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. Acts 11:26c
They Were Called Christian.
It is important that we note what was taking place in Antioch when “the disciples were first called Christians.” We read that the Christians, who were former Jews, were scattered because of the persecution that erupted over the testimony of Stephen before he was stoned (Acts 7). The Scriptures tell us that Paul was there at Stephen’s stoning giving his approval and that shortly afterward, he, Paul, was granted permission to imprison any follower of Jesus Christ.
At first, the gospel was only being preached to fellow Jews. That is, until some men from Cyprus and Cyrene spoke the gospel to the Gentiles. When word got back to Jerusalem about the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, Barnabas was sent to Antioch to see what was happening. While there, Barnabas saw how God was at work and exhorted the new believers to remain faithful to the Lord.
After this, Barnabas went to get Paul, who at one time persecuted the followers of Christ, and brought him back to Antioch. The two of them met with the church that had formed at Antioch for a year or more and began teaching them the things of God. It is in this context that “the disciples were first called Christians.”
Do People Call You A Christian?
I fear we are no longer being called Christians. Rather, I find that most people are self-proclaimed Christians. I am sure most of us have family members who claim to be Christian but they do not give any evidence of actually being one (see Gal. 5:22-24 and 1 John). Too often we judge others without looking at our own lives. Worse, still, is the seminary student who rarely examines his own soul.
When was the last time you were called a Christian? Have you ever had someone accuse you of being a Christian? Granted, we are not facing the persecution of the early church, but why should that stop us from living separate from the world to the point that we are readily called Christians by the world?
We are more than happy to flex our theological brain power in a debate, but what about actually living what we believe? I am the first to admit that I am a hypocrite in that I do not always practice what I preach, but that does not excuse me from behaving in a manner worthy of my calling. The same is probably true for most of us. How many of us would be found in compliance with the commandment given by Jesus in John 13:34, “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” The very next thing Jesus says is that “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
As Baptists we could probably learn a thing or two about loving one another. For example, though there are some that are able to discuss the subject of Calvinism and agree to disagree, there are many who cannot. This is antithetical to what Christ taught. I think we should strive to be called Christians rather than telling everyone that we are a Christian.
I am not saying that we should quit preaching the gospel with our mouths. This is the means by which God has ordained that His people will come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (see Romans 10:14-17). However, if we do not live out our faith in opposition to the world, then can we really preach the gospel effectively? It is my prayer that we who proclaim Christ with our lips will do so with our lives as well.