… from Bible class notes …
So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Acts 11:26 contain a very important message all pastors and church leaders must remember and never forget.
in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians
The word “Christians” here means “little Christ” and that name “Christians” was not something the disciples created themselves but members of public witnessed how they lived and called them “Christians”. Means to say, the disciples were being stereotyped as “Christians”.
Now in our days and society, we have our dislikes and ill-feelings especially when we had been stereotyped in a negative sense. Sometime we felt misrepresented, and we want to shout “that’s not me!”
Imagine back in the days of Acts, disciples were being targeted and highlighted as “Christians”.
They could be praised for their integrity and justice, reflecting godliness and righteousness of Christ but they could be hunted down as “trouble maker” like Paul and his mission team.
But these disciples had something in common with Stephen, known to be the first martyr after the formation of the New Testament church.
Let’s consider what members of public observed about Stephen –
(Acts 6:5) – … Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost …
(Acts 6:8) – And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.
(Acts 7:55) – But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
Stephen was a man full of faith, power and the Holy Spirit!
I believe the martyrdom of Stephen had an impact on Paul’s life before and after conversion. Paul many years after his appointment as apostle and being publicly persecuted and assaulted in Jerusalem gave his defense to the Jews in Acts 22 and said this
And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him (Acts 22:20)
The Jews were listening to Paul’s defense till his reference to Stephen and they reacted and condemn Paul to death.
Please bear in mind in those days there were already a growing community in Jerusalem headed by James who believed in Jesus. The name of Jesus was already magnified and many who believed were present in the city, but who were those who reacted against Paul?
Acts 11:26 …. in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians
Please understand a very important point why Paul was mentioned in Acts 11:25-26 and together with Barnabas they were instrumental when disciples were first called Christians. So what kind of Christians were these in Antioch?
People who set priorities for the kingdom of God
Consider well all the Epistles written in the New Testament. Every Bible Teachers and church leader who preaches the Gospel, and every Bible school students and scholars should know
Pauline Epistles are the only letters with contents references specifically and in details about gifts of the Holy Spirits and their functionalities.
We believe Jesus is the founder of the church and we know the Holy Spirit is instrumental in church planting and formation of new fellowship. Now if we are still in the process of church planting and starting new fellowship in Jesus name, why would the Holy Spirit stop dispensation of spiritual gifts and empowering?
4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
The same Apostle Paul who wrote that in Ephesian 4 was instrumental in what transpired in Acts 11:26 and that church in Antioch consisted of both Jews and Gentiles, a multi ethnic fellowship which is an ideal model of Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus said “Go make disciples of all nations …”
And how does Jesus bring together Jews and Gentiles, people of all race and background? Through our born-again experience and being filled of the Holy Spirit
26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
Our born-again experience, our personal encounter with Jesus is fundamental to our Christian faith.
The gifts and functions of the Holy Spirit are to help us become mature sons and daughters of God.