Acts 11:19-26 “Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”
Matthew 18:16 “But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.”
We live in a day where grammatical terms are polluted with regularity! No longer carrying their original meaning they are used interchangeably with words of lesser significance. While this trend is true basically, it is especially true, biblically! One such word is found in our text and it is the word, “Christians.” There are two things to be noted about the designation for those at Antioch. The first being the defining; its basic meaning has the idea of follower of Christ. The emphasis is upon being a “disciple”, a learner or pupil and comes from a word meaning to learn in any way or to understand. The second thing is the declaration; “were called Christians.” The term was not usually used as a reference to self, but was the declaration of the Sovereign. “Were called” means to be directed of God as if by divine oracle. The same verb is used when the magi were divinely informed not to return to Herod. Thus the believers at Antioch were known as “Christians” not as a name of ridicule, as commonly taught, but by divine direction.
The question that calls for our attention is; “Was the exhibition and the explanation, one and the same?” If it is to be fact and not fiction, it will need to be established “in the mouth of two or three witnesses.” Because the title was instituted by God, we know that the Sovereign was a witness; he was the one that defined it and declared it upon that local body of believers at Antioch. Secondly, there was the witness of the scriptures; they exemplified its message, “preaching the Lord Jesus” (vs.20), its method, “spake unto the Grecians” (vs.20) and its manifestation, “hand of the Lord was with them” (vs.21). Thirdly, there was the witness of the of society; “Then tiding of these things came” (vs.22). It was not only the talk of the town; it was being talked about everywhere!
The second question that should concern us is; “What was the exhibition of the explanation?” There were at least three things being exhibited that clearly testified to what the Sovereign declared to be evident in the life of those worthy of being called “Christians.” There was the witness of their learning, “And the disciples were called.” They were pupils and learners of the Lord Jesus Christ; for an entire year they were taught by the servant, the Spirit, and the scriptures. There was the witness of their likeness, “called Christians.” In response to their learning, there was a conformity to His likeness in character, conduct, and conversation. Lastly, in response to their learning and likeness, there was the witness of their love; “and had seen the grace of God.” There was not just the acceptance of grace, but there was the exhibition of grace in their love for the Saviour and the saints. They measured up to what God calls “Christians.”
Society may have redefined and refined the term “Christian”, but God hasn’t! If the Sovereign, the Scriptures, the servant, and society are not witnessing your learning, likeness, and love; you may just not be one, and it’s a fact!