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The Scriptorium

The First "Christians"

The people of Antioch described what they saw. Acts 11.25, 26

Mission to the Gentiles: Acts 11 (6)

Pray Psalm 9.1, 2.
I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart;
I will tell of all Your marvelous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.

Sing Psalm 9.1, 2.
(Diademata: Crown Him with Many Crowns)
I will give thanks, O Lord, with all my heart to You!
I’ll tell the wonders of Your Word, so many and so true!
With joy to You I cry; Your glory I will raise;
Your matchless Name, O Lord on High, will I forever praise!

Read Acts 11.1-26; meditate on verses 25, 26.

Preparation
1. What did Barnabas do?

2. What were the believers in Antioch called?

Meditation

The church in Antioch was growing, and the need was great for excellent teaching, greater than Barnabas could fulfill by himself. How humble is that? A megachurch has sprung into life under his encouragement, and he heads off to find someone more capable than himself to continue this great work.

Whatever Saul had been doing in Tarsus prepared him for this ministry among the Christians in Antioch, which would become Saul’s – Paul’s – “home base” for nearly the remainder of his ministry.

We note that teaching was the focus of this whole year of ministry (v. 26). The Church can never receive too much excellent teaching. Nothing substitutes for good teaching to ground people in the faith and help them get on the growth curve with the Lord.

But good teaching alone won’t get the job done. Each believer needs time with the Lord in prayer and in His Word. Such discipline is part of what we must be taught. The great outreach to the Gentile world that will begin in chapter 13 would be the result of solid grounding in the Word of God. And we know that it took, because the believers in Antioch soon became so identified with Christ – by their words and works – that their neighbors took to calling them the “Christ-ones” – Christians. The people of Antioch observed the same grace of Christ that Barnabas did. These days, alas, many people have a different view of Christians.

Saul and Barnabas were doing the ongoing work of Christ, along with the believers in Antioch. But they were also preparing together for a great expansion of the work, which we will follow beginning in Acts 13. In the Kingdom of God, we’re always preparing for the ongoing work of Christ at the same time we’re doing the ongoing work of Christ. That work takes place in our individual lives, our churches, our communities, and our world. And it is a work that is noticeable by others.

Or should be.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11.26).

Sharing a name brings with it the responsibility not to defame it: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold” (Prov. 22.1).

People like to have a good name; but even more so, does God. He said, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Ex. 20.7; Deut. 5.11). “And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I AM the LORD” (Lev. 19.12).

There is another way to profane God’s Name besides cursing and swearing. It is to go by His Name, Christian, then besmirch it with bad behavior.

I would rather have someone call out my name in a fit of rage, than to have them impugn my character by acting poorly and then blaming it on me. Or saying that I had made them do it. Or that I had taught them to be that way.

How many people do you know, or have heard or read about, who turned away from the saving Good News of Jesus Christ because one of His followers had behaved badly?
How many unjust wars have been fought in His Name?
How much judgment has been dished out by hypocrites in the name of religion?
How many people have left the church because of a lack of love shown there?

All these are ways the Name of the LORD is taken in vain. The name Christian worn poorly.

When we are wearing that name correctly, here is what happens: “The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways. Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you” (Deut. 28.9, 10).

Better yet, they will gladly hear the message that we have to share with them of God’s love and goodness, because we have not turned them away from Him by our hypocrisy.

God says to us His children, “I have called you by your name, you are Mine.” (Is. 43.1)
And in turn, He wants us to bear His good Name in a loving and responsible way.

His very own Christ-ones.

For reflection
1. What does it mean to take the Lord’s Name “in vain”? Can we take the name “Christian” in vain? Explain.

2. What should we expect to see in the lives and communities of those who are known as “Christ-ones”?

3. How would you counsel new believers to make sure they live up to their new name?

Hitherto the followers of Christ were called disciples, that is, learners, scholars; but from that time they were called Christians. The proper meaning of this name is, a follower of Christ; it denotes one who, from serious thought, embraces the religion of Christ, believes his promises, and makes it his chief care to shape his life by Christ’s precepts and example. Hence it is plain that multitudes take the name of Christian to whom it does not rightly belong. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Acts 11.25-30

Pray Psalm 9.7-16.
Rejoice in the Lord for your salvation. Call on Him to revive His Church, to embolden Christians everywhere to live and speak for Jesus. And ask God to send a great awakening of faith among lost people over all the earth.

Sing Psalm 9.7-16.
(Diademata: Crown Him with Many Crowns)
Lord, You forever reign in judgment on Your throne.
The world in bitter wrath and pain Your righteousness will own.
All those who know Your Name, though in this life oppressed,
You shelter from the storms of shame and keep them ever blessed.

Praise then the Lord of Zion; declare His deeds abroad!
Praise Judah’s mighty saving Lion, the ever-blessèd God!
Whose blood has washed us clean, Who hears our plaintive cries,
Who good to us has ever been and lifts us to the skies!

Lift up your voice in praise before glad Zion’s gate!
Rejoice in Jesus’ saving ways; His glory celebrate!
The nations fail and fall, condemned by their own hands;
The Lord Who showed Himself to all o’er them in judgment stands.

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website, www.ailbe.org, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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