Topic:A New Man and a New Name
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
It has been as much as ten years since we have seen Saul. Ten years ago he left Jerusalem with his tail between his legs and went to Tarsus, his home town, defeated and disillusioned because he had been trying to serve God in his own eager zeal. He had not yet learned the process of dependence upon the Holy Spirit, upon the life of Jesus within. But in those ten years he has learned a lot. He was not entirely idle, as he tells us in Galatians. He preached the word throughout the regions of Syria, and of Cilicia, the area around Tarsus.
But he has learned one great secret. He has discovered that what he had regarded as his credentials for activity, all that he had previously reckoned upon as useful in his life — his ancestry, his orthodoxy, his morality, his zeal — all has been wiped out. He has learned that they are not what make you an effective worker for Jesus Christ, but that only your dependence upon Jesus at work in you makes the difference. As he tells us in Philippians 3:8, he learned to count as manure all this other stuff, in order that he might gain Christ.
When he had learned that, the Lord sent Barnabas over to Tarsus to find him. Now God had his address all the time. Barnabas didn’t; he had to look for him. But when he found him he brought him to Antioch, ready to begin his great worldwide ministry, that marvelous ministry of the Apostle Paul that shook the world and has changed the course of human history time after time.
We then learn of another first: the disciples were for the first time called Christians. It is clear from this brief statement that it was not the Christians themselves, but the people of Antioch who called them that. The word means, those belonging to Christ, or Christ’s men. As these Christians talked about Jesus to men everywhere — Jesus the Christ, the Messiah — the Gentiles around them labeled them Christ’s men. At first it was a contemptuous term, a term of reproach. Look at these crazy people! They come into our city, they don’t worship our idols, they live lives entirely different from ours. So, contemptuously they called them Christ’s men, Christians. But the disciples thought it was wonderful to be called Christ’s men, so they adopted the name and called themselves Christians. That is why today we are called Christians.
Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of being called a Christian. May my life reflect all that you are as you live your live in me and through me.
Do we regard lightly the name ‘Christian’? Consider the words of Isaiah 43:7: ‘…everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made’. Are we honored, awed and humbled by the power of His life-changing Presence?