“The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.” Acts 11:26
Chapter 11 of Acts was a fun chapter to read this morning! It starts out with Peter explaining to the church leadership about the vision of the sheet and his call to expand the preaching of the gospel to non-Jews. Leadership had been a bit critical of this non-traditional non-acceptable addition to their mission statement! But to their credit once Peter explained things they backed off and “had no further objections AND praised God saying, ‘So, God has even granted the Gentiles repentance unto life.’” I can just see them sitting their stroking their beards with this new ah-ha moment! To be a real leader one must sometimes take the lead, but the better part is when you have to sit back and be wowed by God and be big enough to see when HE is taking the lead! Way to go church leaders in Jerusalem!
The rest of the chapter is the story of branching out to the north, to the island of Cyprus, Phoenicia (currently like Lebanon) and Antioch (at the far NE corner of the Mediterranean Sea) with an attempt to be true to their calling to Jews but again ending up converting Gentiles. I love the way God works different than I plan, partially so I can be sure I am listening and partially to be sure that I am sufficiently impressed that He is in fact still leading! Again the church of Jerusalem (like the General Conference headquarters in Washington DC for Adventists!) sent Barnabas to check this situation out. He checked things out and “was glad and encouraged them.” Again, leadership big enough not just to be stretched but to proactively encourage what was happening. That takes amazing leadership who have a stronger connection to God than to their jobs! In fact Barnabas, leadership’s representative was described in this story as, “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” That’s the kind of description of my life that I live for!
The church, united around God and not around themselves, sensed a famine coming and they did what true church people “united around God and not themselves” would do—they rallied in support of helping those in need. They not only believed; they lived out what they believed. What an amazing group of believers. No wonder “The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.” The word is really two words; the Greek word for Christ and the Latin ending for “followers of.” It was the nickname used in a satirical way by the Romans of these unusual and unpredictable residents of Antioch. They meant it as a joke but it in fact describes us perfectly- we are Christ-followers. I believe it and I want to live it, just like the people in Antioch did.
Have a great day being a true Christian,