The First Christians

David Bast

Read: Acts 11:19-30

In Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. (v. 26)

Despite Jesus’ instruction to go out in the power of the Spirit as witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), the apostles seemed quite content to hang around Jerusalem. Things were going well for the church there. They had a few problems, to be sure, but they saw great growth as well. It took the persecution that broke out with Stephen’s martyrdom to get the church moving outward. Those who fled Jerusalem began to witness wherever they went, though at first they only shared the gospel with their fellow Jews. But then some anonymous believers from Cyprus and Cyrene took the momentous step of speaking directly to Gentiles about the Lord, in the city of Antioch in Syria, one of the major urban centers of the Mediterranean world. As a result a church sprang up there and began to grow rapidly.

The clue to this success is found in a nickname. Antioch was where the disciples were first called “Christians.” Christos is the Greek word for “Messiah,” or “Anointed One.” In Antioch these early believers kept talking about Jesus, their Messiah. Jews knew all about the Messiah, but it was a foreign term for Gentiles—so much so that they took it as a proper name. So Jesus the Messiah became Jesus Christ. And his followers became known as the Christianoi—the Christians. They talked so much about Jesus that his title became their name. And so the church increased. —David Bast

Prayer: Lord, I claim your title as my name. Anoint me with your Spirit to live for you.