Reverend Dr. William H. Curtis

Are You an Acts 11 Christian?

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.
Acts 11:26 (NIV)

What made Luke, the writer of Acts, decide that it was important for later generations to know that it was in Antioch, after a year of Barnabas and Saul’s teaching, that the disciples were labeled as Christians?

Prior to this, those that were now called Christians were simply called disciples, brethren, believers, those being saved, or people of the way. Now from Acts 11 on, they are called Christians. And, interestingly, they are called Christians not by naming themselves. They are called Christians by an unbelieving public in Antioch.

This means to people in Antioch, Christ gave them the frame for coining the epitaph “Christiano.” It simply became the familiar way of talking about the peculiar change that had taken place over the last year for those who had surrendered themselves to the teaching of Barnabas and Saul.

They were called Christians because in that one year, they had convictions about a belief that Jesus is the only God and savior and teacher and model that can be imitated and emulated to ensure a person can live out God’s perfect will for their life. You don’t become a Christian and then go out and live however you want. No, when you’re a Christian, it is a very deliberative devotion. 

So what is a Christian today? What does that label mean? If you interact with a Christian, what do you think you ought to hear and what should you encounter?

The tension we have when holding Acts 11:26 next to Christianity today is that there is very little resemblance between the two. There are so many lesser, lower, lighter, ludicrous definitions attached to what it means to be a Christian today. In our culture, the definition of a Christian can sometimes be dangerously different than what it meant originally to those describing the disciples in Antioch. What does it mean to you to be a Christian?

The power of being a Christian is the change, the behavior, the lifestyle, the interaction that you have with others that forces them to describe you amidst all the descriptions they use, as Christian. They come away saying, “I interacted with a Christian, and I know I interacted with a Christian because we couldn’t get through the conversation without Jesus coming up! They could not talk to me without pointing to what Christ has done, who Christ is, and the significance of Christ for our human salvation!”

Are you behaving, speaking, and thinking like an Acts 11 Christian?