Acts 11: The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

Acts 11: The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

The name “Christian” appears for the first time in today’s reading and only two other times in the New Testament. Agrippa spoke of being almost persuaded to be a Christian in Acts 26:28. Peter used the term in 1 Peter 4:16, “If anyone suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but rather let him glorify God in this name” (ESV).

Some commentators believe the name Christian was given in contempt by the Jews (JF&B). Others disregard this theory in favor of it given in derision by the citizens of Antioch (IVP, AT Robertson, Vincent). Albert Barnes argues generally in favor of the name being assumed by the disciples.

None of the commentators mention Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 62:1-2, wherein the prophet says Zion’s righteousness shall go forth like a burning lamp. After this, the Gentiles would see the righteousness of God. Finally, the prophet said that when the Gentiles saw God’s righteousness, (as revealed in the gospel – Romans 1:16-17), God’s people would “be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name.”

The Jews saw the righteousness of God in the gospel going forth from Jerusalem in Acts 2. The Gentiles became recipients of and heirs to the gospel in Acts 10. Thus, in keeping with Isaiah’s prophecy some 750 years earlier, God’s people received their new name, Christians.

Finally, the word rendered “were called” means to be given by God. It appears nine times in the New Testament, and seven of these appearances mean to be revealed from God (cf Matt 2:12, 22; Luke 2:26; Heb 8:5, 11:7, 12:25. It even appears in the context of this account in Acts 10:22.

“I am a Christian.” In the days of the first century, that statement was enough to tell any interested individual exactly what one believed and practiced. Tragically, religious division propagated by the doctrines of men has given rise to other names whereby men identify themselves by their own doctrines.

Christian is the name given by God for His people. It was sufficient in the first century. It should be sufficient today.

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