25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:
26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. Acts 11:25-26
Let us read that last line once again.
“And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”
Now, please don’t tell me, “Oh, Mwita, you just wrote on this a few days ago.”
Actually, I am surprised we do not talk much on this particular scripture. No. On the contrary, this scripture needs to be turned into a mantra that every believer should be chanting every minute of their lives.
The disciples were called Christians. Oh. I cannot imagine the price that these believers in Antioch paid to be called so. When I see the defeat in the church today, I just cannot imagine what kind of people these believers were. Once again, I salute them.
Today, Christianity is, to a large degree, just a label, for there is everything in church except victory over sin and over the flesh. There is very little victory in church over these things. But there is so much of everything else: knowledge, signs and wonders, high class sermons, music. The church today is very much like the Corinthian church was in Paul’s day, for Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:4-7 writes them:
“4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; 6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
The Corinthians had all the wonderful things listed here but they lacked the singular thing that would make then Christians. They lacked the cross in their lives. They had lost the revelation to deny themselves and living a life of daily crucifying their flesh. And therefore the Apostle Paul told them pointblank,
“1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ… 3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Cor. 3:1-3)
You could not possibly call such people Christians, for a Christian is one who reflects the character of Christ in their lives.
But, in Peter 2:21-23 we read of the example that Christ left us.
“21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously”
What exactly is verse 23 trying to tell us?
It is telling us that Jesus did not do anything to defend Himself. On the contrary, He allowed His flesh to be crucified.
The word “reviled” means “insulted”. When people insult us, it hurts. Our gut reaction therefore is to insult back; or, at the very least, answer back. We want to hit back!
But Jesus stood still and let the wave of insults ride out its full strength on Him. He did the same with all the other sufferings that were meted out on Him.
And the Bible says that this was the example that He left us. This is one of the most difficult things for us to do, our religious exterior notwithstanding.
The believers at Antioch portrayed this same resilience in the face of the opposition against their faith.
But they did more than that. They lived the life of Christ to the full. Verse 22 says of Jesus:
“Who did no sin”.
This means that Jesus lived a perfectly holy life. He did not give in to the unclean lusts of the flesh but, on the contrary, He crucified them.
The believers at Antioch depicted this same sacrificial character of Christ in their lives. They saw the believers sacrificing their bodies. And all who saw them saw Christ revealed in them. And they said of them, “There are of Christ. These be Christians.”
In our second part we shall see what it was that the Antiochian believers proved to be such a testimony of the life of Christ in them.
[“And be ye kind one to another…” Eph. 4:32]