You guard your identity, your good name. How is your life different because of the name, Christian? Acts 11:19–30 describes the time the believers were first called “Christians.”
In Christ’s name tell the good news. Be willing to cross barriers with the gospel. Luke takes you back to Acts 8:4 and the scattering caused by Saul’s persecution of the church. What Satan intends for evil, God sovereignly uses for his good purposes. Greeks, Gentiles, began to hear the good news. The powerful Holy Spirit is at work, building the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“[I]n Luke-Acts, similar reference is made to the ‘hand of the Lord’ (e.g., Acts 4:30; 11:21; 13:11). In view in these occurrences, seen in their contexts, is the activity of God, his power either for salvation or in judgment, activity associated specifically with the Spirit.”Richard B. Gaffin Jr., In the Fullness of Time; An Introduction to the Biblical Theology of Acts and Paul, p. 84
Antioch, the third city of the empire, was known for its immorality and its worship of the goddess Astarte. But it was about to become, not just a center of Christianity, but a point from which the good news would go throughout the empire. The barrier crossing in Antioch continues to be the task of the church today.
“Antioch in Syria, which two centuries earlier had been the capital of that notorious temple profaner Antiochus IV, now became a site of the Lord’s new ‘temple.’ Christians from the Jewish Dispersion, from Cyprus and Cyrene, broke through the ethnic-religious barrier to announce God’s good news to uncircumcised Gentiles, and God’s power accompanied their announcement.”Dennis E. Johnson, The Message of Acts in the History of Redemption, p. 95
Appropriately, here believers were first called “Christians.” Live up to your name! The church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to check on what was happening. Barnabas proved to be a true son of encouragement.
Barnabas needed help, and sought out Saul of Tarsus. The seeking may indicate he had been disinherited and perhaps disowned by his relatives, see Philippians 3:8. The labors of this team were to bless the church in Antioch and then far beyond.
Here the name “Christian” was first applied to the followers of Jesus. It’s initial use may have been derisive, but it certainly indicated the frequency with which the people of the Way used the name of their Lord.
What distinguished the covenant people of God in the Old Testament? They were called by his name, Deuteronomy 28:10. God placed his name on them, Numbers 6:22–27. Now, in the New Testament, you have the name of the Messiah, Christ, on you.
“The employment of the term ‘Christ’ as a proper name of Jesus so far from losing sight of His claim to Messiahship, accordingly, bears witness to so complete an acquiescence in that claim on the part of the community in which this usage of the term was current, that the very official designation was conceived as His peculiar property and His proper designation” In a footnote: “The climax of this development was reached, of course, when the followers of Jesus were called simply ‘Christians’ — which occurred first, we are told, at Antioch (Acts 11:26).”B. B. Warfield, The Lord of Glory, p. 63
For Christ’s sake serve his church. Live by the Word of God. Prophets came from Jerusalem. In a time when the Scriptures were not yet complete, this is how God gave his Word to his people. You have a more sure, a more complete word of prophecy, 2 Peter 1:16–21. Live in its light! Agabus provided a specific prophecy of a coming famine, thus providing an opportunity for the church to live up to its new name.
Care for those who share your name. The church at Antioch, rather than seeing itself as isolated, recognized that it was part of a larger body. That concern for others who shared the name of Christ took tangible form. Bearing God’s name involves living that way, as Deuteronomy 28 pointed out.
What’s your name? Live up to the name, Christian!