Monday, October 10, 2016

For a whole year they met with the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians. Acts 11:26 (RSV).

However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 1 Peter 4:16 (NIV).

im-a-christianThis first reference to the expression “Christian” took place around 44 A.D.  The second quote, by Peter, was about 62, some 18 years later.  Some believe the name was given in derision by non-believers and accepted by believers, especially after Peter’s statement.  Others believe it had a divine background based upon the following:

You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. Isaiah 62:2 (NIV).

Why did it take from Acts 2 until 11, a period of 14 years, for the description “Christian” to make its appearance?  The more prominent “disciple” is used 269 times.  The word “Christian” is never translated in the English Bible.  Why?  If it was, we would not say, “I am a Christian,” but “I’m a Christ follower” or “I am a follower of Christ.”  When translated, it appears more as a description of one’s actions rather than  a title.

In Acts 11:26 the word “called” is from a Greek word that could mean “God did the calling.” However, the major English versions do not translate it as such.  A Greek rule may be why it is rendered as it is.  The Isaiah passage is one referring to the return of the remnant from Babylon and the name given to those returnees.  Some believe Isaiah’s statement is a twofold fulfillment with the remnant being the first and the second taking place 14 years after the church was established.  In today’s conversation, one might accuse the disciples of not being “Christians” for the first fourteen years of the church’s history!

Some assume that the expression, “Christ follower” or “Christian,” was employed multiple times after that first introduction in Antioch, but not recorded in scripture.  When Herod Agrippa used it in Acts 26:28 around 62 A.D., it indicates he had heard the expression before.  Whether this is sufficient proof to build a case for a wider use of the term may be circumstantial.

Apparently, from Peter’s statement in 4:16, it was well circulated by that time  in spite of the three brief uses in scripture.  Due to this wide use, whether given by God or in derision, Peter informed his readers to “praise God that you bear that name” (NIV).  Not only is the expression “Christian” never translated in our English Bible, but the name “Christ” seldom is.  This has caused some to mistakenly accept it as Jesus’ last name.  It isn’t!  It means “anointed” or “the anointed one.”  It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “Messiah.”  His name is Jesus (Matthew 1:21, 25).  Paul refers to the assemblies by Jesus’ title, not by his name (Romans 16:16 “churches of Christ”).  What Paul originally wrote in Greek, if translated, would be “the assemblies of the anointed one salute you” or “the assemblies of the Messiah salute you.”  Not translating biblical words, can supported misunderstanding.

Some display the cross by wearing it around their neck.  Does this mean they are a “Christ follower”?  Peter said, “If you suffer as a Christ follower, do not be ashamed, but glorify God in this respect.”  Do we live it, or just wear it?