They didn’t choose the name, it was given to them. When the Good News of salvation and forgiveness was preached at Antioch a new large church was formed. These new believers came from both the Jewish, non-Jewish and various other national backgrounds, but they came together as one in Christ. It was their fellowship, joy, and love for each other that made them distinctive; and their unshaken belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour that gave rise to them being called ‘Christians’.
What does it mean to be a Christian? What makes the difference? What is it that breaks down social and cultural barriers and makes Christians unique, noticeable and effective in their witness? Surely it is that when by faith in Christ we become God’s children and His ‘family’, our hearts are filled with His love. 1 John 3 v1 says “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called children of God”. What an encouragement and what an experience. In Romans 5 v3 Paul says that the love of God has been “poured into our hearts”. That alone makes a dramatic difference to our lives. In Christ, fellowship and friendship that was almost impossible before, become possible now.
Reading in Acts 13 we find that the Church at Antioch became the centre of missions and evangelism. Love and grace overflowed from that centre. It has been seen by many students of Scripture as a ‘model’ church. It was when the leaders were “ministering to the Lord” that the Holy Spirit spoke to them concerning the future ministry of Paul and Barnabas.
They were first called Christians at Antioch because they lived and breathed new life, new love, and Christ centred Holy Spirit filled fellowship. Whatever the name a congregation chooses to be known by, it can be an “Antioch” church filled with people whose lives have been radically changed by the power of God, whose love for each other is contagious, and whose message is one of hope and salvation for all who believe. Praise God! May that be our vision as we move forward into a new chapter of ‘New Life’.
Be blessed, as our lives together show to the world the love, grace, and power of God the Father as it is revealed in Jesus Christ His Son.