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Sunday, September 26, 2010 am        Listen to this lesson 

CALLED CHRISTIANS 

                The term ‘Christian’ is one that we use frequently and proudly to identify ourselves with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We often talk about our conduct as Christians and must continue to do so as we grow in Him.                  But as much as we discuss what it means to be a Christian, it is interesting that the term is only found 3 times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26, 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16). In the New Testament, followers of Christ were frequently called disciples, children of God, servants, saints, the elect, brethren, and simply “the church” - all of these descriptive of our relationship with our heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ and with one another.  But the term, ‘Christian’ stands out and is used exclusively to identify us with Christ as opposed to anyone else (i.e. Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, etc.).

                 This morning I want to talk about the name Christian as it is used in the Bible making some applications as it is used.  Our focus will be upon Acts 11:26 where we read, “And the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.”

                The name Christian is term descriptive of one who believes in Jesus Christ, as the Son of God and our Redeemer.   The etymology of the word possibly means an adherent or partisan of Christ.  But it is clearly now used to describe a follower of Christ (much like Herodians were followers of Herod – cf. Matt:22:16, Mark 3:6).

 I.                    Acts 11:26 – a name given by God

a.        And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

b.       Origin? Derived by critics of the disciples of Christ.
Many scholars believe that the name Christian was coined by those outside the church to describe followers of Christ, possibly in a derogatory or negative light.  It is argued that this usage began in Antioch as recorded in our text.   Arguments supporting this include:

                                    i.         The word seems to be of Latin (Roman) style.

                                   ii.          When Herod used the term in Acts 26:28, he was an unbeliever and very possibly mocking Paul. In 1 Peter 4:16 it is associated with suffering.  These texts both deal with antagonists of Christians.

                                 iii.         The name began to be used positively in writings in the late 1st century and early 2nd century, being accepted and adopted by believers.

                                 iv.          HOWEVER, it is usually admitted that such is not the only possible derivation of the word.
While the word was used in a derogatory way by enemies of the cross, it does NOT mean that they originated the term. 

c.        Origin? A divine name.
I believe the term was given by God for us.  There are a number of reasons for this:

                                    i.         The context of the verse.  Luke records that Paul and Barnabas come to Antioch where they assembled with the church for a whole year and taught many people.  In this context we read, “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”  There is NOTHING derogatory mentioned in that text, either before or after.

                                   ii.         A new name was promised to believers.  Isaiah 62:2 says, “The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, And all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the Lord will name.” And Isaiah 56:5 says, “Even to them I will give in My house And within My walls a place and a name Better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name That shall not be cut off.
 Note WHERE this name would originate, “in My house and within My walls” and “Which the mouth of the Lord will name.”  That does not sound like a hostile name.

                                 iii.         The term “called” found in Acts 11:26 is a word that is often (but not always – see Rom. 7:3) associated with a message from God.  Found in Matt. 2:12 & 22 where Joseph was “warned by God” or “divinely warned”.    Acts 10:22, Cornelius was “divinely instructed” by a holy angel to call for Peter.  Putting it in context with the above points (i. & ii.) it seems that this name came from God.

                                 iv.         Every other name Christians used were descriptive and not exclusive to followers of Christ.  Brethren, sanctified, disciples, children, followers, servants, etc. could all find their usage in secular usage and false religions.  There is NO doubt who the term Christian was talking about.

                                   v.         It was a name that set them apart from the Jews.  Much of the Roman world saw followers of Christ as just another sect of the Jews.  This name Christian helped them to distinguish themselves from Judaism.

                                 vi.         From disciple to Christian.  While the idea of being a disciple is still very much important (we should never quit learning about Jesus), an interesting observation is how that word is used in scripture.  The term disciple is found some 270+ times in the four gospels and Acts.  It is NOT USED ONCE in the rest of the New Testament.  This includes John who used the term 77 times in his gospel, but not once in his 3 epistles or Revelation.  The point being they were given this name IN ADDITION to being disciples.

                                vii.         In 1 Peter 4:16 it is a name with which we are to “glorify God.”  This demonstrates a positive usage of this term. In fact, some versions actually say, “but let him glorify God in this name.” (ASV, NASU).  I cannot think of any other term about which similar language is mentioned in the New Testament.

II.                  A name we need to wear

If this name is one given to us by God, we must freely and proudly wear it.  Let us notice HOW we ought to wear this name.

a.        Wear it! - First, we need to put on the name of Christ.
Acts 2:38 – we need to become a Christian first of all.  We are to be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.”
Galatians 3:27 reminds us that “as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

b.       Wear it properly – in the 3 passages where the word is used in the New Testament, they ALL have reference to individuals who have put on the name of Christ and are His followers.
The term is not used as an adjective, that is a qualifier for something – such as a “Christian home”, “Christian school”, “Christian nation”, “Christian bookstore”, “Christian politics”, etc.  Though we might understand what is meant by using the term in this way, (i.e., a thing that is motivated or governed by the principles consistent with one who is a Christian) we need to be careful in how we use this word.  There are a couple of reasons WHY this is so.
1) It is NOT how the term is used in the Bible. In all 3 passages the word is a NOUN! 
2) There are many misunderstandings about what it means to be a Christian. Often when the term is used as an adjective, there is the idea that we can take some thing, some action or some lifstyle and throw a little “christian” into it and it becomes pleasing to God.   At least we feel good about it. 
In researching this, I came across a blog that I believe correctly observed, “God gives us particular VERBS that transform us into particular NOUNS.”  Think about this: We are given all different types of actions to do [VERBS] (i.e. believe, repent, confess, be baptized, obey God, love one another, serve on another, etc.) which transform us into a set of NOUNS (i.e. children of God, believers, brethren, saints, disciples, etc.). 
http://for-the-time-being.blogspot.com/2007/05/christian-is-not-adjective.html
In other words, as you do what you ought to do, you become who you ought to be!
The term Christian describes WHO YOU ARE! It is demonstrated by WHAT YOU DO!
3) Furthermore, the term “Christian” is outright misunderstood by most in the world.  The term is used loosely to describe nations that have more believers in Jesus (or a Biblical foundation) than against Jesus (i.e. Christian nation” vs. “Muslim nation”). 
It is used to describe anyone who believes in Jesus even though he has not submitted to His will.
It is used to describe what is perceived as decent or respectful behavior, regardless of the source.

c.        Wear it with priority – We must never forget that we are NOW servants of Christ and must live for Him.  He is the center of our life.  Everything we do and are is influenced by our relationship with Him.
Galatians 2:20 is descriptive of this attitude.  “I have been crucified with Christ…”
Romans 13:14 says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.
Gal. 5:24 says, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Philippians 3:7-11 notes that Paul gave up everything to gain Christ, “and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith…”
Does our life as Christians demonstrate a willingness to give up whatever stands in our way of serving Him?  (Mark 10:29-30)

d.       Wear it proudly – Being a Christian ought to be something that brings us great pride (not arrogance).  We should NEVER be ashamed to belong to Him.  It is no secret that many are hostile to the name of Christ today, but that does NOT excuse us from confessing Him and professing Him.
1 Peter 4:16, the third use of the term Christian says, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
Romans 1:16, Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ...”
Matthew 10:32-33, Jesus said that whoever confesses Him before men will be acknowledged by Him before the Father.  Conversely, whoever denies Him… (cf. Mark 8:38)
Sadly, John 12:42 describes how many, even among the rulers, believed in Jesus, but because of the Pharisees they would not confess Him, lest they be put out of the Synagogue.

e.       Wear it publicly – we are not to hide our light under a lamp (Matt. 5:14-16).   Note again our last point, esp. Matt. 10:32-33.  In fact, one of our great responsibilities is to seek others to share the gospel with, cf. 2 Tim. 2:2. 
Consider Acts 26:28, the 2nd time the word Christian is used in scripture.  When Paul stood before Agrippa and proclaimed to him the message of Christ we read, “Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian.’”  Whether or not this was spoken sarcastically, there is an unavoidable point – Paul publicly professed his Lord.   In fact, not his response to Agrippa, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.” (Ac. 26:29)
Friends, if we are truly proud to be Christians, we will tell others about it.  In fact, we will not be able to contain it before others – 2 Cor. 5:11.  Like Jeremiah the prophet who said, “’I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.’ But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and could not.” 
2 Corinthians 5:14 says, “For the love of Christ compels us…”

f.         Wear it piously – the word “pious” means first, “having or showing a dutiful spirit of reverence for God or an earnest wish to fulfill religious obligations.”  When it comes to wearing the name of Christ, we ought to show due reverence for His name.  We should NOT do anything to bring shame upon His name.  In scripture there are several passages that make reference to the name of God being blasphemed or made common by improper conduct. 
Romans 2:24, Paul rebuked the self-righteous Jewish brethren for their arrogance and hypocrisy.  He said, “For ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,’ as it is written.”
1 Tim. 6:1, bondservants were commanded to obey their masters; Titus 2:5, younger women exhorted to live chastely, etc. all so that God’s name not be blasphemed. 
IF the name of Jesus means anything to us, we will not do anything that would bring reproach to it.

g.        Wear it progressively – as Christians we need to keep growing.  This is continually emphasized throughout scripture.  1 Pet. 2:1-2, 2 Peter 3:18, Heb. 5:12-14, 1 Cor. 3:1-3, etc.
There are many who see being a Christian as a one time act with no further obligations.  God is NOT pleased with us, if we are not growing in Him.

h.       Wear it permanently – Our final observation.  We need to be a Christian to the end. 
Rev. 14:13 says, “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’  ‘Yes’, says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’”  We must take seriously the need to die “in the Lord”.  Cf. Rev. 2:10
One of the mistakes we sometimes make as Christians is to assume that we cannot lose our identity with Christ.  But we are frequently warned that not only can we loose that identity, but also our salvation.  Galatians 5:4 speaks of falling from grace.  2 Pet. 2:20-22 warns of this falling away.
Hebrews 2:1 says, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.”  Heb. 3:12 says, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God…”  Heb. 4:1, “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.  Heb. 4:11, 6:4-6, 10:26-31, etc.
Surely, we are aware of these passages, but do we really believe what they say?  Do we deep down rationalize that God will overlook our shortcomings even if we do not exert due effort to overcome them? 

                And thus we can see the significance of the name Christian as it is used in scripture.  May we wear it proudly and may it TRULY identify WHO we are.  So how are you wearing His name?