TEXT: ACTS 11: 26; ACTS 26: 28; 1 PETER 4: 16

 SUBJ: The biblical significance of the followers of Christ being called Christians along with all the implications of identity with Christ and His people.
AIM: That we might live up to all that the word implies and be willing to give definition to the distinction we claim as the disciples and followers of Christ.
INTR: The word Christian is used in a variety of ways and has come to mean less as a result of this in that, the more common a term and the laxer the distinction the less impact it has.
1. The word we read as "Christian" simply means "follower of Christ."
2. While that is simple enough, it follows that we should pursue the implications of "they were called," and to consider who applied the name.
3. The claim is often made of being a Christian while the things that define the term are missing from those who are making the claim. I will focus the texts and their implications.
THESIS: True Christians may be identified as such without calling themselves by any name. They will be identified by their devotion to Christ and the works they walk in as those things in which they were created.
I. First called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26)
1. It is agreed by most that the origin of this first action is uncertain - whether self-designated or so called by their enemies, the name has stuck.
2. There are plausible arguments for both in that,
1) Those assembling at Antioch were from a mixed group of Jews and Gentiles and the name may have been taken to assure a united approach to their ministry and fellowship.
2) But the fact that they bore the distinguishing marks of being the followers of Christ may have triggered the contempt for them in being identified with Him.
3) If that were the case, it would be more truth in the mouths of the enemy such as were uttered at the cross.
3. It is to be recognized that men are given to taking titles to themselves and when this is done in pride the result is never good. We might consider denominational issues.
4. It is when we note both the origin and the actions of these people that we see something of the genuine.
1) They had come from other areas and probably because of persecution.
2) They were in unity in following Christ and it would have clearly distinguished them from the culture in which they lived.
5. The term has, in many cases, become a term of convenience in the absence of demonstration. Why do we not say I am a follower of Jesus Christ my Lord.
II. Almost a Christian (Acts 26:28)
1. Paul had been incarcerated for a few years now and was given an audience with the Jewish King Agrippa (an appointment of Rome) and it was he who uttered these words.
1) Paul had related the account of his encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus (read Acts 26:14-19).
2) We note that therein was an account of the Gospel hope as well as Paul's personal commitment to the serving of Christ (he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision).
2. It is certain that Agrippa used the term in contempt while commending Paul's effort- Paul was both persuasive and succinct.
3. Again, we note the identity of Paul with Christ as well as his devotion to service that bore no appeal in the heart of this unbeliever.
4. Paul had earlier left Felix trembling and now he would leave Agrippa moved but not persuaded of the Gospel of our Lord.
III. Suffering as a Christian (1 Peter 4:16)
1. Jesus warned the Apostles that "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. (John 15:18)"
2. He continued in that context: "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (John 15:19)."
3. There was open rejection of Christ from the beginning and the accounts continue through the continuing story in the acts and with multiple confirmations in the Epistles.
4. The early "Christians" were open and vocal as to "whose they were and whom they served."
1) They were neither aggressive beyond declaring the message nor apologetic in displaying the life of Christ as the way.
2) Christ was seen in them and it was Him they hated. It was the believers that were visible to them and thus, their hatred for Christ was executed upon them.
5. We are given occasion thereby to rejoice: "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. (1 Peter 4:14)" S.F. "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. (Acts 5:41)."
6. We should be called Christians for a reason that is visible to all - we are followers of Christ. The result may be that we will be rejoicing with those of old that we have been with Jesus and He is with us and we are hated for it.


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