Today’s Reading: Acts 11
In today’s reading we see a word that we use all the time but it’s used for the first time in the entire Bible. In fact, the word is used only three times in the entire New Testament. It is the word Christian.
That sounds impossible, but it’s true. Pastor Sam Pascoe once said, “Christianity started out in Palestine as a fellowship; it moved to Greece and became a philosophy; it moved to Italy and became an institution; it moved to Europe and became a culture; it came to America and became an enterprise.”
It’s time to see how the Bible uses the word Christian. The Bible is very careful with this word, and I think so we must be. Let’s build a description of a Christian with the three passages, starting with Acts 11: “He left for Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (verses 25-26).
The “he” in this verse is Barnabas, Paul’s mentor. The two men went to Antioch for an entire year. And it was in that city where Christian was first used.
Let’s build our description on this economy of words.
First, a Christian is a reminder. I love that the church did not make up this word about themselves and get T-shirts made. The word, which means, “little Christ,” was a derogatory, slang word made up by unbelievers. They were in essence saying that the believers reminded them of the man with the thorns on the cross whom was crucified a year before. A real Christian looks like Jesus, not like a church, a religion, a denomination, or a culture. Hopefully when an unbeliever sees us, they see Him.
The second time this word is used is in Acts 26:28. Paul was talking to a king who was not a Christian. Paul was not just dispensing knowledge and information but was trying to persuade and change: “Agrippa replied to Paul, ‘In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.’”
The second thing we need to understand about a Christian is that a Christian is a persuader. Christianity is not just right for me and you; it’s right for the planet. We are not inviting people to a place but to a person.
Finally, we leave the book of Acts to find the last use of the word. It’s in 1 Peter 4:16: “If anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.”
A Christian is a reminder, a Christian is a persuader, and a Christian is a sufferer.
What does that mean? It’s suffering for doing the right thing. There will be times when a Christian will not get an award for doing the right thing, will not get cheers for doing the right thing, and will not get a plaque for doing the right thing. Instead that Christian will get laughed at, mocked, reprimanded, fired, and even sued for living like Jesus. There will be moments when your only audience will be an audience of one—God Himself. But that is enough motivation for doing what’s right.
Christians are considered by many to be crazy, and, as A. W. Tozer suggests, with good reason: “A real Christian is an odd number anyway. He feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen, talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of Another, empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up, is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest. . . . He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible and knows that which passeth knowledge.”
May that be true of you and me always.