Acts 11:26 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.
Recently I read a blurb from a Chapter of a new book titled I DON’T WANT TO BE CALLED A CHRISTIAN. In that Chapter, the author said “I think it’s too late to try to redefine the word Christian for our world. That ship has already sailed. It isn’t my passion or interest to turn the strong tide of our culture away from what they think of Christianity. Rather than change people’s language, I want them to see Jesus in me. I want to live in such a way that my neighbors will remark, “There is something different about you.” I want to respond to conflict the way Jesus would respond. I want to treat my wife and kids the way Jesus would treat them. I want to run my business affairs with the highest integrity—no cut corners, no white lies, no manipulation tactics.”
Shouldn’t all born-again believers desire for others to see the Lord Jesus in them? However, what the author is doing is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In other words, one should not throw a good NAME like “Christian” out simply because you or others you know have not lived up to what you believe is the standard underlying the name Christian.
The fact is, the name Christian is a Biblical name given first to those believers in the local church at Antioch and it remained as a name for all who later trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour.
Allow a few quotations from three commentaries on this matter.
Barnes says that as the name Christian ‘…became the distinguishing name of the followers of Christ, it was worthy of record. The name was evidently given because they were the followers of Christ. But by whom, or with what views it was given, is not certainly known.’
‘It is, however, of little consequence whence the name originated. It soon became a name of reproach; and has usually been in all ages since, by the wicked, the gay, the licentious, and the ungodly. It is, however, an honoured name; the most honourable appellation that can be conferred on a mortal. It suggests at once to a Christian the name of his great Redeemer; the idea of our intimate relation to him; and the thought that we receive him as our chosen Leader, the source of our blessings, the author of our salvation, the fountain of our joys. It is the distinguishing name of all the redeemed.’
Barnes continues by saying ‘The name shall be had in remembrance when the names of royalty shall be remembered no more, and when the appellations of nobility shall cease to amuse or to dazzle the world.’
Adam Clarke’s Commentary states ‘It is evident they had the name Christians from CHRIST their master; as the Platonists and Pythagoreans had their name from their masters, Plato and Pythagoras. Now, as these had their name from those great masters because they attended their teaching, and credited their doctrines, so the disciples were called Christians because they took Christ for their teacher, crediting his doctrines, and following the rule of life laid down by him.’
Matthew Henry aptly says ‘…it is probable they called themselves so, incorporated themselves by that title, whether by some solemn act of the church or ministers, or whether this name insensibly obtained there by its being frequently used in their praying and preaching, we are not told; but it should seem that two such great men as Paul and Barnabas continuing there so long, being exceedingly followed, and meeting with no opposition, Christian assemblies made a greater figure there than anywhere, and became more considerable, which was the reason of their being called Christians first there, which, if there were to be a mother church to rule over all other churches, would give Antioch a better title to the honour than Rome can pretend to. Hitherto those who gave up their names to Christ were called disciples, learners, scholars, trained up under him, in order to their being employed by him; but henceforward they were called Christians.’
Matthew Henry continues ‘…they laid upon themselves, and all that should ever profess that name, a strong and lasting obligation to submit to the laws of Christ, to follow the example of Christ, and to devote themselves entirely to the honour of Christ–to be to him for a name and a praise. Are we Christians? Then we ought to think, and speak, and act, in everything as becomes Christians, and to do nothing to the reproach of that worthy name by which we are called; that that may not be said to us which Alexander said to a soldier of his own name that was noted for a coward, “Either change thy name or mend thy manners.” And as we must look upon ourselves as Christians, and carry ourselves accordingly, so we must look upon others as Christians, and carry ourselves towards them accordingly. A Christian, though not in everything of our mind, should be loved and respected for his sake whose name he bears, because he belongs to Christ.’
NOTE the above words in the second paragraph, “obligation” “submit” “follow” and “devote” are all directed to the Lord Jesus Christ after Whom the disciples were named Christians. Do these words fit into the lives of most professing Christians today? Matthew Henry sums it all up in the centre of that second paragraph by stating that our thinking, speaking, and actions should be befitting to that precious name Christian! Therefore, to be called a Christian is more than a simple profession but it is a life lived solely for Him!
Consequently, it must be said that IT IS NOT THE NAME “CHRISTIAN” THAT IS AT FAULT BUT THOSE WHO CLAIM THE NAME. Sadly, many born-again believers are not living as a born-again child of God should live and then there are some who claim the name but have never been born again!
The conclusion of the matter is that born-again believers should continue to use the name Christian but make sure ‘that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called”.