November 6 I Sunday
“The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”
The word “Christian” or “Christians” occurs about three times in the Bible. The first time is in Acts 11:26: “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” This was the nickname given to the disciples by other people who looked on at them. The second time is in Acts 26:28: “Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’” By then, the word “Christian” was in general usage. The last time we see “Christian” mentioned is in 1 Peter 4:16: “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” More than 2,000 years later, the name “Christian” stuck with followers of Jesus Christ.
The trouble, however, with the word “Christian” is that we hyphenate it in order to narrow down what we mean to our own specification of a Christian. We may tell others, “I am an evangelical-Christian,” or “I am a conservative-evangelical-Christian,” or specifically “I am a reformed-conservative-evangelical Christian,” or more defined, “I am a charismatic-reformed-conservative-evangelical-born-again Christian.” We will find an escalating list of adjectives to distinguish exactly what kind of “Christian” we are.
But what were “Christians” called before then? We find our answer in Acts 11:26: disciples. The word “disciple” or “disciples” occurs about 296 times in the New Testament. Before the believers were called “Christians,” they were called “disciples”—not “evangelical-disciples” or “conservative evangelical disciples”—but simply put, disciples.
Although Jesus never taught us what it means to be a Christian, He did tell us what it means to be a disciple. Jesus said, “‘If anyone comes to Me and does not…such a person cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not…cannot be My disciple….Those of you who do not…cannot be My disciples.” (Luke 14:26-27, 33). Jesus did not say, “Unless these things are met, you will not be a good disciple” or “you will only be a half-hearted disciple,” but “You cannot be My disciple.” The logic then follows if one “cannot be My disciple” then one “cannot be a Christian,” because the only valid Christian is a valid disciple and the only valid disciple is the one who lives on the terms laid down by Jesus Christ.
We are not at liberty to define our own brand of Christianity. We can only be a Christian on the terms of Jesus Christ. It does not matter how many adjectives we attach to our name “Christian” to define exactly the kind of Christian that we are. The only concern is, are we a disciple, a real disciple of Jesus? It was disciples who were first called “Christians.”
Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus Christ, please forgive me for the times when I am hung up on adjectives describing the kind of “Christian” that I am. Instead, may Your Word guide me in what it means to truly be Your disciple. Thank You, Lord.