The report of the church in Antioch growing (v.21) came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. We saw Barnabas before behaving generously (4.36-37) and graciously (9.26-28) and he seems to be the perfect person to encourage this new and growing church community (v.24). As he reaches Antioch, he sees the grace of God in action and this made him glad, and he leads and teaches them to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.
The work must have been plentiful as Barnabas takes a break to diligently search for Saul (v.25) and when they return together they spend a whole year [meeting] with the church and [teaching] a great many people.
We then read that in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians (v.26). For those of us that would identify as Christian this might not seem like a big deal. But, consider this:
· They had been called disciples (Acts 1:15).
· They had been called saints (Acts 9:13).
· They had been called believers (Acts 5:14).
· They had been called brothers (Acts 6:3).
· They had been called witnesses (Acts 5:32).
· They had been called followers of the Way (Acts 9:2).
· They would be called Nazarenes (Acts 24:5).
· Now they would be called Christians.
The world didn’t know how to refer to this group and called them a great many names. In Latin (common in the ruling empire of the day) the suffix –ian means ‘to belong to’ so Christian means to belong to Christ, to be a Jesus follower. Quite possibly used to mock the believers who were seen to be devoted to a man they brazenly admitted had been crucified, the name stuck and is still the main designation those who believe the truth of Jesus use to identify.
This identity should be first and foremost in our minds and on our lips when describing ourselves. More than national identity, job title, or self-perception, the truth that our lives are first and foremost dedicated to Jesus is the level of identification that we are called to.
Today, as you go about doing all the many things that fill your time just think:
‘Is this what a Christian does?’,
‘Am I doing this like a Christian?’ (1 Corinthians 10.31, Colossians 3.17, 1 Peter 4.11).