Monday, May 1, 2017

Acts 11: The First "Christians"

Interestingly enough, it is when the Gentiles begin streaming into the Church that the followers of Christ pick up their most widely-used name: "Christians."  The disciples of Jesus Christ were first called Christians in Antioch.  The Bible uses the word "Christians" three times: in Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and I Peter 4:16.  Each time, the context suggests that it was simply a label applied to believers - and quite possibly a negative one, used as an insult! 

The form of the word "Christian" denotes adhering to Christ, or even belonging to Christ, like a slave.  The original meaning in the Greek language was to conjure up the image of a "little Christ."

Nowadays, there is a movement afoot for those who follow Jesus to call themselves "Christ followers" rather than "Christians."  It is believed (by some) that the word has been ruined and that people of the world automatically assume the worst of those being called Christians.  The more neutral term, "Christ follower," however, has a chance to be different and disarming.

{For more on this topic, check out:}

Regardless, I find several interesting aspects to Acts 11.  Peter, a great leader in the early church, the one who has been working miracles and speaking with tremendous authority, gets called on the carpet here for daring to fellowship with Gentiles!  If even Peter can draw criticism for eating with non-Jews, you know that this is a big issue for the Jewish Christians.  It will continue to be a controversy for the next several chapters in Acts at this point in church history.

Thank God for Barnabas!  As a Gentile Christian (or Christ follower) myself, I am relieved that Barnabas was dispatched to Antioch to investigate these reports reaching the ears of the church in Jerusalem about Gentile converts.  Barnabas, that Son of Encouragement, enthusiastically approves - so much so that he rounds up Saul (good move!) and stays in Antioch for a year to teach the young church.  

Keep an eye on Antioch - good things are happening there!

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