A Brief Meditation for the Month

May 2018

Luke, in the Book of Acts, relates an interesting historical fact to us: “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26). There was a time and place in history when those who were followers of Jesus Christ became known as “Christians.” Since then the designation continues in universal usage to identify those who claim to believe in the Christ of the Bible. The term Christianos, which is only used on two other occasions in the New Testament; Acts 26:28 and 1Peter 4:16, should not be considered, as it often is, a derogatory term, thought to be used by critics of Christ’s followers. The verb used by Luke in Acts 11:26, is chrematisai, often used when referring to some direction given from God. On occasions it is translated “being warned of God,” or “was admonished of God.” The same word is used In Matthew 2:12, regarding the wise men from the east who were seeking the newborn King of the Jews. They were “warned of God in a dream,” and in verse 22 of the same chapter, Joseph was “warned in a dream.” Moses, in Hebrews 8:5, was “admonished of God”. As we see, the term was used with reference to divinely given instructions, or directions via an oracle. Thus, Luke’s manner of recording the introduction of this designation “Christians,” at Antioch, is to give the impression that God’s purpose was behind it. Whatever the original reason for its use, we believe that as in Acts 2:23, and 4:28, “the determinate counsel” of God was behind it. Whoever used the term initially, did so according to “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” Prior to this, it appears that the Jews referred to Christ’s followers as “the sect of the Nazarenes, (Acts 24:5). God, however intended them to be known as “Christians.” They might be Jews or Gentiles by birth, but they are all Christians by grace. There is no longer a wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles, under the gospel. Those who believe in Christ, as their Saviour, are all one in Him, (Galatians 3:28). Whatever their history, culture, status in society, intellectual powers, or lack of them; however diverse and different they are, all Christ’s followers are to be called Christians.

The verb used by Luke in Acts, normally applied to one’s calling in life, or one’s everyday occupation—what one was called to do for a living. As in the New Testament we have John the Baptist (the baptizer); Luke the beloved physician; so later in our own more recent society, someone who was John the smith became John Smith, or William the butcher—William Butcher, or Henry the baker—Henry Baker. Likewise, in Antioch, we might have had Peter the Christian, or Luke the Christian, or Epaphras the Christian. Their daily business was to be a Christian—“a little Christ.” Those around them were to know they were devoted to Christ; their lives were lived for Him. Their real profession in life was to be a Christian.

This remains the duty of everyone today, claiming to be a Christian. It is their calling in life. They work full-time at being Christ-like, every day of the week. Many today, want to be part-time Christians whenever it is convenient for them. They want God on Sunday and the world on Monday. They worship on the Lord’s Day, and all other days belong to them. This is not how it was in Antioch. Christ’s followers there, were genuine Christians, and those around them knew it. Child of God, work and pray for grace to be consistently more and more like Christ.

G. G. Hutton.