Acts 11:26
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.
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(26) The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.—The term for “were called” is not the word usually so rendered. Better, perhaps, got the name of Christians. The Emperor Julian (Misopog., p. 344) notes the tendency to invent nicknames, as a form of satire, as characteristic of the population of Antioch in his time, and the same tone of persiflage seems to have prevailed on the first appearance of the new faith. The origin of a name which was afterwards to be so mighty in the history of the world is a subject full of interest. In its form it was essentially Latin, after the pattern of the Pompeiani, Sullani, and other party-names; and so far it would seem to have grown out of the contact of the new society with the Romans stationed at Antioch, who, learning that its members acknowledged the Christos as their head, gave them the name of Christiani. In the Gospels, it is true, however (Matthew 22:16, et al.), we find the analogous term of Herodiani, but there, also, we may legitimately trace the influence of Roman associations. As used in the New Testament, we note (1) that the disciples never use it of themselves. They keep to such terms as the “brethren” (Acts 15:1), and the “saints” (Acts 9:13), and “those of the way” (Acts 9:2). (2) That the hostile Jews use the more scornful term of “Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5). (3) That the term Christianus is used as a neutral and sufficiently respectful word by Agrippa in Acts 26:23, and at a somewhat later date, when it had obviously gained a wider currency, as that which brought with it the danger of suffering and persecution (1Peter 4:16). It was natural that a name first given by outsiders should soon be accepted by believers as a title in which to glory. Tradition ascribes its origin to Euodius, the first Bishop of Antioch (Bingham, Ant. II. i. § 4), and Ignatius, his successor, uses it frequently, and forms from it the hardly less important word of Christianismos, as opposed to Judaismos (Philadelph. c. 6), and as expressing the whole system of faith and life which we know as “Christianity.” It may be worth while to note that another ecclesiastical term, hardly less important in the history of Christendom, seems also to have originated at Antioch, and that we may trace to it the name of Catholic as well as Christian (Ignatius, Smyrn. c. 8). We learn from Tertullian (Apol. c. 3) that the name was often wrongly pronounced as Chrestiani, and its meaning not understood. Even the name of Christos was pronounced and explained as Chrestos (= good). The Christians, on their side, accepted the mistake as a nomen et omen, an unconscious witness on the part of the heathen that they were good and worthy in their lives, that their Lord was “good and gracious (1Peter 2:3).



Acts 11:26

Nations and parties, both political and religious, very often call themselves by one name, and are known to the outside world by another. These outside names are generally given in contempt; and yet they sometimes manage to hit the very centre of the characteristics of the people on whom they are bestowed, and so by degrees get to be adopted by them, and worn as an honour.

So it has been with the name ‘Christian.’ It was given at the first by the inhabitants of the Syrian city of Antioch, to a new sort of people that had sprung up amongst them, and whom they could not quite make out. They would not fit into any of their categories, and so they had to invent a new name for them. It is never used in the New Testament by Christians about themselves. It occurs here in this text; it occurs in Agrippa’s half-contemptuous exclamation: ‘You seem to think it is a very small matter to make me-me, a king!-a Christian, one of those despised people!’ And it occurs once more, where the Apostle Peter is specifying the charges brought against them: ‘If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf {1 Peter 4:16}. That sounds like the beginning of the process which has gone on ever since, by which the nickname, flung by the sarcastic men of Antioch, has been turned into the designation by which, all over the world, the followers of Jesus Christ have been proud to call themselves.

Now in this text there are the outside name by which the world calls the followers of Jesus Christ, and one of the many interior names by which the Church called itself. I have thought it might be profitable now to put all the New Testament names for Christ’s followers together, and think about them.

I. So, to begin with, we deal with this name given by the world to the Church, which the Church has adopted.

Observe the circumstances under which it was given. A handful of large-hearted, brave men, anonymous fugitives belonging to the little Church in Jerusalem, had come down to Antioch; and there, without premeditation, without authority, almost without consciousness- certainly without knowing what a great thing they were doing-they took, all at once, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, a great step by preaching the Gospel to pure heathen Greeks; and so began the process by which a small Jewish sect was transformed into a world-wide church. The success of their work in Antioch, amongst the pure heathen population, has for its crowning attestation this, that it compelled the curiosity-hunting, pleasure-loving, sarcastic Antiocheans to find out a new name for this new thing; to write out a new label for the new bottles into which the new wine was being put. Clearly the name shows that the Church was beginning to attract the attention of outsiders.

Clearly it shows, too, that there was a novel element in the Church. The earlier disciples had been all Jews, and could be lumped together along with their countrymen, and come under the same category. But here was something that could not be called either Jew or Greek, because it embraced both. The new name is the first witness to the cosmopolitan character of the primitive Church. Then clearly, too, the name indicates that in a certain dim, confused way, even these superficial observers had got hold of the right notion of what it was that did bind these people together. They called them ‘Christians’ -Christ’s men, Christ’s followers. But it was only a very dim refraction of the truth that had got to them; they had no notion that ‘Christ’ was not a proper name, but the designation of an office; and they had no notion that there was anything peculiar or strange in the bond which united its adherents to Christ. Hence they called His followers ‘Christians,’ just as they would have called Herod’s followers ‘Herodians,’ in the political world, or Aristotle’s followers ‘Aristotelians’ in the philosophical world. Still, in their groping way, they bad put their finger on the fact that the one power that held this heterogeneous mass together, the one bond that bound up ‘Jew and Gentile, barbarian, Scythian, bond and free’ into one vital unity, was a personal relation to a living Person. And so they said-not understanding the whole significance of it, but having got hold of the right end of the clue-they said, ‘They are Christians!’ ‘Christ’s people,’ ‘the followers of this Christ.’

And their very blunder was a felicity. If they had called them ‘Jesuits’ that would have meant the followers of the mere man. They did not know how much deeper they had gone when they said, not followers of Jesus, but ‘followers of Christ’; for it is not Jesus the Man, but Jesus Christ, the Man with His office, that makes the centre and the bond of the Christian Church.

These, then, are the facts, and the fair inferences from them. A plain lesson here lies on the surface. The Church-that is to say, the men and women who make its members-should draw to itself the notice of the outside world. I do not mean by advertising, and ostentation, and sounding trumpets, and singularities, and affectations. None of all these are needed. If you are live Christians it will be plain enough to outsiders. It is a poor comment on your consistency, if, being Christ’s followers, you can go through life unrecognised even by ‘them that are without.’ What shall we say of leaven which does not leaven, or of light which does not shine, or of salt which does not repel corruption? It is a poor affair if, being professed followers of Jesus Christ, you do not impress the world with the thought that ‘here is a man who does not come under any of our categories, and who needs a new entry to describe him.’ The world ought to have the same impression about you which Haman had about the Jews-’Their laws are diverse from all people.’

Christian professors, are the world’s names for each other enough to describe you by, or do you need another name to be coined for you in order to express the manifest characteristics that you display? The Church that does not provoke the attention-I use the word in its etymological, not its offensive sense-the Church that does not call upon itself the attention and interest of outsiders, is not a Church as Jesus Christ meant it to be, and it is not a Church that is worth keeping alive; and the sooner it has decent burial the better for itself and for the world!

There is another thing here, viz.: this name suggests that the clear impression made by our conduct and character, as well as by our words, should be that we belong to Jesus Christ. The eye of an outside observer may be unable to penetrate the secret of the deep sweet tie uniting us to Jesus, but there should be no possibility of the most superficial and hasty glance overlooking the fact that we are His. He should manifestly be the centre and the guide, the impulse and the pattern, the strength and the reward, of our whole lives. We are Christians. That should be plain for all folks to see, whether we speak or be silent. Brethren, is it so with you? Does your life need no commentary of your words in order that men should know what is the hidden spring that moves all its wheels; what is the inward spirit that co-ordinates all its motions into harmony and beauty? Is it true that like ‘the ointment of the right hand which bewrayeth itself’ your allegiance to Jesus Christ, and the overmastering and supreme authority which He exercises upon you, and upon your life, ‘cannot be hid’? Do you think that, without your words, if you, living in the way you do, were put down into the middle of Pekin, as these handful of people were put down into the middle of the heathen city of Antioch, the wits of the Chinese metropolis would have to invent a name for you, as the clever men of Antioch did for these people; and do you think that if they had to invent a name, the name that would naturally come to their lips, looking at you, would be ‘Christians,’ ‘Christ’s men’? If it would not, there is something wrong.

The last word that I say about this first part of my text is this. It is a very sad thing, but it is one that is always occurring, that the world’s inadequate notions of what makes a follower of Jesus Christ get accepted by the Church. Why was it that the name ‘Christian’ ran all over Christendom in the course of a century and a half? I believe very largely because it was a conveniently vague name; because it did not describe the deepest and sacredest of the bonds that unite us to Jesus Christ. Many a man is quite willing to say, ‘I am a Christian,’ who would hesitate a long time before he said, ‘I am a believer,’ ‘I am a disciple.’ The vagueness of the name, the fact that it erred by defect in not touching the central, deepest relation between man and Jesus Christ, made it very appropriate to the declining spirituality and increasing formalism of the Christian Church in the post-Apostolic age. It is a sad thing when the Church drops its standard down to the world’s notion of what It ought to be, and adopts the world’s name for itself and its converts.

II. I turn now to set side by side with this vague, general, outside name the more specific and interior names-if I may so call them- by which Christ’s followers at first knew themselves.

The world said, ‘You are Christ’s men’; and the names which were self-imposed and are now to be considered might be taken as being the Church’s explanation of what the world was fumbling at when it so called them. There are four of them: of course, I can only just touch on them.

{a} The first is in this verse-’disciples.’ The others are believers, saints, brethren. These four are the Church’s own christening of itself; its explanation and expansion, its deepening and heightening, of the vague name given by the world.

As to the first, disciples, any concordance will show that the name was employed almost exclusively during the time of Christ’s life upon earth. It is the only name for Christ’s followers in the Gospels; it occurs also, mingled with others, in the Acts of the Apostles, and it never occurs thereafter.

The name ‘disciple,’ then, carries us back to the historical beginning of the whole matter, when Jesus was looked upon as a Rabbi having followers called disciples; just as were John the Baptist and his followers, Gamaliel and his school, or Socrates and his. It sets forth Christ as being the Teacher, and His followers as being His adherents, His scholars, who learned at His feet.

Now that is always true. We are Christ’s scholars quite as much as were the men who heard and saw with their eyes and handled with their hands, of the Word of Life. Not by words only, but by gracious deeds and fair, spotless life, He taught them and us and all men to the end of time, our highest knowledge of God of whom He is the final revelation, our best knowledge of what men should and shall be by His perfect life in which is contained all morality, our only knowledge of that future in that He has died and is risen and lives to help and still to teach. He teaches us still by the record of His life, and by the living influence of that Spirit whom He sends forth to guide us into all truth. He is the Teacher, the only Teacher, the Teacher for all men, the Teacher of all truth, the Teacher for evermore. He speaks from Heaven. Let us give heed to His voice.

But that Name is not enough to tell all that He is to us, or we to Him, and so after He had passed from earth it unconsciously and gradually dropped out of use by the disciples, as they felt a deepened bond uniting them to Him who was not only their Teacher of the Truth which was Himself, but was their Sacrifice and Advocate with the Father. And for all who hold the, as I believe, essentially imperfect conception of Jesus Christ as being mainly a Teacher, either by word or by pattern; whether it be put into the old form or into the modern form of regarding Him as the Ideal and Perfect Man, it seems to me a fact well worthy of consideration, that the name of disciple and the relation expressed by it were speedily felt by the Christian Church to be inadequate as a representation of the bond that knit them to Him. He is our Teacher, we His scholars. He is more than that, and a more sacred bond unites us to Him. As our Master we owe Him absolute submission. When He speaks, we have to accept His dictum. What He says is truth, pure and entire. His utterance is the last word upon any subject that He touches, it is the ultimate appeal, and the Judge that ends the strife. We owe Him submission, an open eye for all new truth, constant docility, as conscious of our own imperfections, and a confident expectation that He will bless us continuously with high and as yet unknown truths that come from His inexhaustible stores of wisdom and knowledge.

{b} Teacher and scholars move in a region which, though it be important, is not the central one. And the word that was needed next to express what the early Church felt Christ was to them, and they to Him, lifts us into a higher atmosphere altogether,-’believers,’ they who are exercising not merely intellectual submission to the dicta of the Teacher, but who are exercising living trust in the person of the Redeemer. The belief which is faith is altogether a higher thing than its first stage, which is the belief of the understanding. There is in it the moral element of trust. We believe a truth, we trust a Person; and the trust which we are to exercise in Jesus Christ, and which knits us to Him, is our trust in Him, not in any character that we may choose to ascribe to Him, but in the character in which He is revealed in the New Testament-Redeemer, Saviour, Manifest God; and therefore, the Infinite Friend and Helper of our souls.

That trust, my brethren, is the one bond that binds, men to God, and the one thing that makes us Christ’s men. Apart from it, we may be very near Him, but we are not joined to Him. By it, and by it alone, the union is completed, and His power and His grace flow into our spirits. Are you, not merely a ‘Christian,’ in the world’s notion, being bound in some vague way to Jesus Christ, but are you a Christian in the sense of trusting your soul’s salvation to Him?

{c} Then, still further, there is another name-’saints.’ It has suffered perhaps more at the hands both of the world and of the Church than any other. It has been taken by the latter and restricted to the dead, and further restricted to those who excel, according to the fantastic, ascetic standard of mediaeval Christianity. It has suffered from the world in that it has been used with a certain bitter emphasis of resentment at the claim of superior purity supposed to be implied in it, and so has come to mean on the world’s lips one who pretends to be better than other people and whose actions contradict his claim. But the name belongs to all Christ’s followers. It makes no claim to special purity, for the central idea of the word ‘saint’ is not purity. Holiness, which is the English for the Latinised ‘sanctity,’ holiness which is attributed in the Old Testament to God first, to men only secondarily, does not primarily mean purity, but separation. God is holy, inasmuch as by that whole majestic character of His, He is lifted above all bounds of creatural limitations, as well as above man’s sin. A sacrifice, the Sabbath, a city, a priest’s garment, a mitre-all these things are ‘holy,’ not when they are pure, but when they are devoted to Him. And men are holy, not because they are clean, but because by free self-surrender they have consecrated themselves to Him.

Holiness is consecration, that is to say, holiness is giving myself up to Him to do what He will with. ‘I am holy’ is not the declaration of my estimate ‘I am pure,’ but the declaration of the fact ‘I am thine, O Lord.’ So the New Testament idea of saint has in it these elements-consecration, consecration resting on faith in Christ, and consecration leading to separation from the world and its sin. And that glad yielding of oneself to God, as wooed by His mercies, and thereby drawn away from communion with our evil surroundings and from submission to our evil selves, must be a part of the experience of every true Christian. All His people are saints, not as being pure, but as being given up to Him, in union with whom alone will the cleansing powers flow into their lives and clothe them with ‘the righteousness of saints.’ Have you thus consecrated yourself to God?

{d} The last name is ‘brethren,’-a name which has been much maltreated both by the insincerity of the Church, and by the sarcasm of the world. It has been an unreal appellation which has meant nothing and been meant to mean nothing, so that the world has said that our ‘brethren’ signified a good deal less than their ‘brothers.’ ‘‘Tis true, ‘tis pity; pity ‘tis, ‘tis true.’

But what I ask you to notice is that the main thing about that name ‘brethren’ is not the relation of the brethren to one another, but their common relation to their Father.

When we call ourselves as Christian people ‘brethren,’ we mean first this: that we are the possessors of a supernatural life, which has come from one Father, and which has set us in altogether new relations to one another, and to the world round about us. Do you believe that if you have any of that new life which comes through faith in Jesus Christ, then you are the brethren of all those that possess the same?

As society becomes more complicated, as Christian people grow unlike each other in education, in social position, in occupation, in their general outlook into the world, it is more and more difficult to feel what is nevertheless true: that any two Christian people, however unlike each other, are nearer each other in the very roots of their nature, than a Christian and a non-Christian, however like each other. It is difficult to feel that, and it is getting more and more difficult, but for all that it is a fact.

And now I wish to ask you, Christian men and women, whether you feel more at home with people who love Jesus Christ-as you say that you love Him-or whether you like better to be with people who do not?

There are some of you who choose your intimate associates, whom you ask to your homes and introduce to your children as desirable companions, with no reference at all to their religious character. The duties of your position, of course, oblige each of you to be much among people who do not share your faith, and it is cowardly and wrong to shrink from the necessity. But for Christian people to make choice of heart friends, or close intimates, among those who have no sympathy with their professed belief about, and love to, Jesus Christ, does not say much for the depth and reality of their religion. A man is known by the company he keeps, and if your friends are picked out for other reasons, and their religion is no part of their attraction, it is not an unfair conclusion that there are other things for which you care more than you do for faith in Jesus Christ and love to Him. If you deeply feel the bond that knits you to Christ, and really live near to Him, you will be near to your brethren. You will feel that ‘blood is thicker than water,’ and however like you may be to irreligious people in many things, you will feel that the deepest bond of all knits you to the poorest, the most ignorant, the most unlike you in social position; ay! and the most unlike you in theological opinion, who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.

Now that is the sum of the whole matter. And my last word to you is this: Do not you be contented with the world’s vague notions of what makes Christ’s man. I do not ask you if you are Christians; plenty of you would say: ‘Oh yes! of course! Is not this a Christian country? Was not I christened when I was a child? Are we not all members of the Church of England by virtue of our birth? Yes! of course I am!’

I do not ask you that; I do not ask you anything; but I pray you to ask yourselves these four questions: Am I Christ’s scholar? Am I believing on Him? Am I consecrated to Him? Am I the possessor of a new life from Him? And never give yourselves rest until you can say humbly and yet confidently, ‘Yes! thank God, I am!’

11:25-30 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. But the name without the reality will only add to our guilt. While the bare profession will bestow neither profit nor delight, the possession of it will give both the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. Grant, Lord, that Christians may forget other names and distinctions, and love one another as the followers of Christ ought to do. True Christians will feel for their brethren under afflictions. Thus will fruit be brought forth to the praise and glory of God. If all mankind were true Christians, how cheerfully would they help one another! The whole earth would be like one large family, every member of which would strive to be dutiful and kind.That a whole year - Antioch was a city exceedingly important in its numbers, wealth, and influence. It was for this reason, probably, that they spent so long a time there, instead of traveling in other places. The attention of the apostles was early and chiefly directed to cities, as being places of influence and centers of power. Thus, Paul passed three years in the city of Ephesus, Acts 20:31. And thus he continued a year and a half at Corinth, Acts 18:11. It may be added that the first churches were founded in cities; and the most remarkable success attended the preaching of the gospel in large towns.

They assembled themselves ... - They came together for worship.

With the church - Margin, in the church. The Greek ἐν en will bear this construction; but there is no instance in the New Testament where the word "church" refers to the edifice in which a congregation worships. It evidently here means that Barnabas and Saul convened with the Christian assembly at proper times, through the space of a year, for the purposes of public worship.

And the disciples were called Christians ... - As this became the distinguishing name of the followers of Christ, it was worthy of record. The name was evidently given because they were the followers of Christ. But by whom, or with what views it was given, is not certainly known. Whether it was given by their enemies in derision, as the names Puritan, Quaker, Methodist, etc., have been; or whether the disciples assumed it themselves, or whether it was given by divine intimation, has been a matter of debate. That it was given in derision is not probable, for in the name "Christian" there was nothing dishonorable. To be the professed friends of the Messiah, or the Christ, was not with Jews a matter of reproach, for they all professed to be the friends of the Messiah. The cause of reproach with the disciples was that they regarded Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah; and hence, when their enemies wished to speak of them with contempt, they would speak of them as Galileans Acts 2:7, or as Nazarenes Acts 24:5, "And a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." It is possible that the name might have been given to them as a mere appellation, without intending to convey by it any reproach. The Gentiles would probably use this name to distinguish them, and it might have become thus the common appellation. It is evident from the New Testament, I think, that it was not designed as a term of reproach. It occurs but twice elsewhere: Acts 26:28, "Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian"; 1 Peter 4:16, "Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed." No certain argument can be drawn in regard to the source of the name from the word which is used here. The word used here, and translated "were called" - χρηματίζω chrēmatizō - means:

(1) To transact any business; to be employed in accomplishing anything, etc. This is its usual signification in the Greek writers.

(2) to be divinely admonished, to be instructed by a divine communication, etc., Matthew 2:12; Luke 2:26; Acts 10:22; Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 11:7; Hebrews 12:25.

(3) to be named, or called, in any way, without a divine communication, Romans 7:3, "She shall be called an adulteress." It cannot be denied, however, that the most usual signification in the New Testament is that of a divine monition, or communication; and it is certainly possible that the name was given by Barnabas and Saul. I recline to the opinion, however, that it was given to them by the Gentiles who were there, simply as an appellation, without intending it as a name of reproach; and that it was readily assumed by the disciples as a name that would fitly designate them. If it had been assumed by them, or if Barnabas and Saul had conferred the name, the record would probably have been to this effect; not simply that they "were called," but that they took this name, or that it was given by the apostles. It is, however, of little consequence whence the name originated. It soon became a name of reproach, and has usually been in all ages since, by the wicked, the frivolous, the licentious, and the ungodly.

It is, however, an honored name - the most honorable appellation that can be conferred on a mortal. It suggests at once to a Christian the name of his great Redeemer; the idea of our intimate relation to him; and the thought that we receive him as our chosen Leader, the source of our blessings, the author of our salvation, the fountain of our joys. It is the distinguishing name of all the redeemed. It is not that we belong to this or that denomination; it is not that our names are connected with high and illustrious ancestors; it is not that they are recorded in the books of heraldry; it is not that they stand high in courts, and among the frivolous, the fashionable, and the rich, that true honor is conferred upon men. These are not the things that give distinction and speciality to the followers of the Redeemer. It is that they are "Christians." This is their special name; by this they are known; this at once suggests their character, their feelings, their doctrines, their hopes, their joys.

This binds them all together - a name which rises above every other appellation; which unites in one the inhabitants of distant nations and tribes of men; which connects the extremes of society, and places them in most important respects on a common level; and which is a bond to unite in one family all those who love the Lord Jesus, though dwelling in different climes, speaking different languages, engaged in different pursuits of life, and occupying distant graves at death. He who lives according to the import of this name is the most blessed and eminent of morals. This name shall be had in remembrance when the names of royalty shall be remembered no more, and when the appellations of nobility shall cease to amuse or to dazzle the world.

Ac 11:25, 26. Barnabas, Finding the Work in Antioch Too Much for Him, Goes to Tarsus for Saul—They Labor There Together for a Whole Year with Much Success, and Antioch Becomes the Honored Birthplace of the Term Christian.

25. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus for to seek Saul—Of course, this was after the hasty despatch of Saul to Tarsus, no doubt by Barnabas himself among others, to escape the fury of the Jews at Jerusalem. And as Barnabas was the first to take the converted persecutor by the hand and procure his recognition as a disciple by the brethren at Jerusalem (Ac 9:27), so he alone seems at that early period to have discerned in him those peculiar endowments by virtue of which he was afterwards to eclipse all others. Accordingly, instead of returning to Jerusalem, to which, no doubt, he sent accounts of his proceedings from time to time, finding that the mine in Antioch was rich in promise and required an additional and powerful hand to work, he leaves it for a time, takes a journey to Tarsus, "finds Saul" (seemingly implying—not that he lay hid [Bengel], but that he was engaged at the time in some preaching circuit—see on [1996]Ac 15:23), and returns with him to Antioch. Nor were his hopes disappointed. As co-pastors, for the time being, of the Church there, they so labored that the Gospel, even in that great and many-sided community, achieved for itself a name which will live and be gloried in as long as this world lasts, as the symbol of all that is most precious to the fallen family of man:—"The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." This name originated not within, but without, the Church; not with their Jewish enemies, by whom they were styled "Nazarenes" (Ac 24:5), but with the heathen in Antioch, and (as the form of the word shows) with the Romans, not the Greeks there [Olshausen]. It was not at first used in a good sense (as Ac 26:28; 1Pe 4:16 show), though hardly framed out of contempt (as De Wette, Baumgarten, &c.); but as it was a noble testimony to the light in which the Church regarded Christ—honoring Him as their only Lord and Saviour, dwelling continually on His name, and glorying in it—so it was felt to be too apposite and beautiful to be allowed to die.

A whole year they assembled themselves: frequency of meeting to partake of the ordinances of God, is the great reason why the gospel was so prevalent in this place.

The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch; which will be renowned so long as the world lasts, because here the banner of Christ was first publicly set up, and men listed under him: and this by Divine authority, for the word imports no less. And that it was not a name they gave themselves, much less was it a name the enemies of Christianity gave unto the professors of it, for they called them Nazarenes, or Galileans, out of contempt. But God would have Christ’s disciples to be called Christians: not only as scholars were amongst the Greeks called from their masters, (viz. Platonists, Pythagoreans, &c.), to teach us whom we profess to learn of, and to be instructed by; but to mind us of our unction; for Christians are anointed ones, 1Jo 2:27, and are made by Christ (in a spiritual sense) kings and priests unto God and his Father, Revelation 1:6.

And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch,.... That he might be useful in directing, and assisting in settling this new and numerous church; in the establishing the members of it, and in putting them into Gospel order, and in a method to secure and maintain peace, especially as they might consist both of Jews and Gentiles; and none so proper to be concerned in such a work as the apostle of the Gentiles.

And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church; preaching the Gospel, and administering the ordinances to them, during that time, at proper seasons. For here being a number of converts, they were embodied together in a church state, very probably by the direction and assistance of Barnabas, who was sent to them from the church at Jerusalem, and in which he might be assisted by Saul: the first bishop, or pastor of this church, was Evodius, as Ignatius observes unto them (k); Remember Evodius, your worthy and blessed pastor, who was first ordained over you by the apostles; and Ignatius himself was the next, of whom Origen speaking, says (l), that he was the second bishop of Antioch after Peter, who in persecution fought with beasts at Rome; next to him was Heron, after him Cornelius, then, Eros; to whom succeeded Theophilus, who wrote three books to Autolycus, in vindication of the Christian religion, which are now extant, in the times of the emperor Aurelius Verus, about the year of Christ 171. He was succeeded by Maximinus (m) about the year 179, under Marcus Antoninus; and after him was Serapion, about the tenth year of the emperor Commodus, and of Christ 192; and about the year 214, Asclepiades succeeded in his room; next to him was Philetus, in the year 220, and then Zebennus in the year 231; next succeeded Babylas, the famous martyr, who suffered under Decius, and then followed Demetrianus, or Demetrius, about the year 255; and after him was the famous heretic Samosatenus, who was excommunicated from this church for his blasphemy against the Son of God; and Domnus, the son of Demetriauus, was put into his room, about the year 270; after him was Timaeus, in the year 274; and then Cyrillus, about the year 283: and these were the bishops or pastors of this church in the three first centuries (n).

And taught much people; besides the church, and with success, as to enlighten, convince, convert, comfort, and establish:

and the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch; before they were called among themselves, the disciples, brethren, believers, the church, &c. and by others the Nazarenes, and Galilaeans: whether this name of Christians, which comes from Christ, and signifies anointed ones, was given by their enemies, or their friends, by others, or themselves, is not certain, though it is most likely the latter; and it may be they hit upon this general appellation, upon the union of the Jews and Gentiles in one Gospel church state, and so happily buried the distinction of Jews and Gentiles, or those of the circumcision that believed, and those of the uncircumcision. Luke is particular in relating the affairs of this church, he being himself a native of this place. John of Antioch (o) gives an account of this matter in these words;

"at the beginning of the reign of Claudius Caesar, ten years after Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, was ascended up into heaven, Evodus, the first after the Apostle Peter, being chosen bishop of Antioch, the great city of Syria, became a patriarch, and under him they were called Christians: for this same bishop, Evodus, conferring with them, put this name upon them, whereas before the Christians were called Nazarenes and Galilaeans.''

Epiphanius says (p), the disciples were called Jessaeans before they took the name of Christians first at Antioch: they were called Jessaeans, says he, I think, because of Jesse, seeing David was of Jesse, and Mary of David: and so the Scripture was fulfilled, in which the Lord says to David, of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne, &c.--Or else, they were called Jessaeans from the name of Jesus our Lord; and refers the reader to a book of Philo's, written by him, concerning the Jessaeans, whom Epiphanitius takes to be Christians; but those that Philo (q) treats of were not Jessaeans, but Essaeans, and seem to be the same with the Essenes, who were not Christians, but a sect of the Jews. Nor do we ever find that the Christians were called by this name.

(k) Epist ad Antiochenos, p. 86. (l) Homil. 6. in Luc. fol. 96. 1.((m) Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 4. c. 20, 24. (n) Ib. l. 5. c 22. & 1. 6. c. 39, 44, 46. & l. 7. c. 14, 27, 32. (o) Apud Gregory's Notes, &c. p. 155. (p) Contra Haeres. l. 1. Haeres. 29. (q) Quod omnis probus liber, p. 876. De vita contemplativa, p. 889.

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 11:26. ἐγένετο δὲ αὐτοὺς, see critical notes, if dative αὐτοῖς = accidit eis, see Plummer, St. Luke, p. 45, on the use of ἐγένετο.—ἐνιαυτὸν ὅλον: “even a whole year” R.V.—συναχθῆναι ἐν τῇ ἐκκλ.: “they were gathered together in the Church,” so R.V. margin. Rendall holds that ἐν is fatal to the A.V. and R.V. text, and renders “they [i.e., Barnabas and Saul] were brought together in the Church,” an intimate association of inestimable value. Hort adopts as “the least difficult explanation of this curious word” “were hospitably received in the Church,” so Wendt, Weiss, Nösgen, cf. Matthew 25:35; Deuteronomy 22:2, Joshua 2:18, Jdg 19:18, 2 Samuel 11:27.—διδάξαιχρηματίσαι: both infinitives depend upon ἐγένετο, “and that the disciples,” etc., suggesting that the name “Christian” followed as result upon the widespread teaching of the Apostles amongst the Gentiles. If St. Luke, as Eusebius states, was himself a native of Antioch, it has been well noted that he might well record such a distinction for his city as the origin of the name “Christian”.—χρηματίσαι: prim. to transact business (χρῆμα), passes into the meaning of taking a name from one’s public business, so to receive a name, to be called, cf. Romans 7:3, so in Josephus and Philo, and instances in Grimm-Thayer. See also Acts 10:22 for another shade of meaning, and so elsewhere in N.T.; and for its use to express a reply or information by a king or those in authority to inquiry, see Deissmann, Bibelstudien, p. 118.—πρῶτον, see critical notes.—Χριστιανούς: in the N.T. the Christians always named themselves μαθηταί, ἀδελφοί, ἅγιοι, πιστοί, etc., but on no occasion “Christians,” whilst the Jews not only refused to recognise that Jesus had any claim to be the Christ, but also called His followers Ναζωραῖοι (Acts 24:5), or spake of them as ἡ αἵρεσις αὕτη (Acts 28:22, cf. Acts 24:14). On the probably contemptuous use of the word in 1 Peter 4:16 and Acts 26:28 as not inconsistent with the above statements, see Wendt, edition 1899, in loco, and “Christian” in Hastings’ B.D. But whilst it is difficult to find an origin for the title amongst Christians or amongst Jews, there is no difficulty in attributing it to the keen-witted populace of Antioch, already famous for their bestowal of nicknames, although perhaps the possibility that the name may have originated amongst the Latin—speaking official retinue of the legatus at Antioch should not be excluded (though there is no evidence whatever that it became at this early date an official name). But there is no need to suppose that the name was of Roman origin, although we may readily concede that the Latin termination -ianus was common enough at this period. There is ample proof of the use of the same termination not only in Latin but in Greek, even if we do not regard -ιανός with Wendt as a termination of a native “Asiatic type”. The notice in Tacitus, Ann., xv., 44 (cf. Suetonius, Nero, 16), who was probably in Rome during Nero’s persecution, A.D. 64, is very significant, for he not only intimates that the word was commonly and popularly known, but also that the title had been in vogue for some time: “quos vulgus Christianos appellabat,” note the imperfect tense. Against the recent strictures of Weizsäcker and Schmiedel we may place the opinion of Spitta, and also of Zahn, Einleitung, ii., 158. How soon the title given in mockery became a name of honour we may gather from the Ignatian Epistles, cf. Rom., iii. 3; Magn., iv.; Ephes., xi., 2, and cf. Mart. Polyc., x. and xii., 1, 2. See further Lightfoot, Phil., p. 16; Lechler, Das Apostolische Zeitalter, p. 129 ff.; Smith, B.D.2 “Christian,” Conybeare and Howson, p. 100 (smaller edition), and Expositor, June, 1898.

26. a whole year] This long period, spent with success in the first field where the preaching to the Gentiles had begun, will account for the constant return to Antioch after each missionary journey of the Apostle of the Gentiles. He had preached at Damascus and at Jerusalem, but it was always with his life in his hand. At Antioch he first found a quiet Church with a wide scope for all his earnestness.

and the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch] It is most probable that this name was given them by the heathen in ridicule. The disciples of Jesus never give it to themselves, and as the use of it would imply that those who bore it were the followers of the Messiah, the Christ, it is certain it would not be given to them by the Jews. The reason for a new distinctive term is apparent. When these new Gentile converts were joined to the Church of Antioch, none of the former distinctive appellations would embrace the whole body. They were no longer all Nazarenes or Galilæans or Greek-Jews, and as to the people of Antioch they probably seemed a strange medley, they would not be unlikely to apply to them such a hybrid form as “Christian,” a Greek word with a Latin termination. The name is probably used in mockery by Agrippa (Acts 26:28), “With but little persuasion thou wouldest fain make me a Christian,” but in the only other and later instance of the use of the name in the N. T. (1 Peter 4:16) we can see that what had been at first a taunt had soon come to be a name in which to glory, “If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed.”

Acts 11:26. Εὑρὼν, when he had found) It is probable that Saul had lain hid.—ἐνιαυτὸν ὅλον, a whole year) How very little, in our days, is a year spent without fruit thought of! Many in the present day make not much progress in many years.—χρημάτισαι, it came to pass that the disciples were named) χρηματίζω (viz. με), reciprocal or neuter, thence also Passive. A remarkable verb, whereby is denoted an appellation received in common use.—τοὺς μαθητὰς, the disciples) inasmuch as their multitude was now a very large one.—Χριστιανοὺς, Christians) Whereas heretofore they had been called Nazarenes and Galileans. The name, Christians [i.e. adherents of Christ.—V. g.], as the name of Christ itself, though noble in itself, was odious in the estimation of those without. Comp. 1 Peter 4:16.

Verse 26. - Even for a whole year for a whole year, A.V. and T.R.; they were gathered together for they assembled themselves, A.V.; and that the disciples for and the disciples, A.V. The phrase ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ occurs again in 1 Corinthians 11:18 (T.R.), where it has, as here, very nearly the sense of "in the church," as a place of meeting. It should be "in," not "with." The "Church" is the assembly of disciples gathered together in their house of meeting. Were called; χρηματίσαι, bore the name cf. It is a peculiar use of the word occurring in the New Testament only in Romans 7:3 besides, but found also in Polybius, Strabo, Josephus, and some other writers. Its common meaning is, in the passive voice, "to be warned of God," as in Acts 10:22, where see note. Christians. It was a memorable event in the history of the Church when the name of Christians, which has distinguished them for nearly eighteen centuries and a half, was given to the disciples of Christ. Hitherto they had been called among themselves disciples, and brethren, and saints, and, by the Jews, men "of the Way" (Acts 9:2), or "Nazarenes" (Acts 24:5), but now they received the name of Christians, as followers of Christ, from the outside world, and accepted it themselves (Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). From the Latin form of the word Christians, i.e. followers of Christ (like Herodians, followers of Herod; Marians, Pompeians, partisans of Marius and Pompey; Caesariani, Ciceroniani, Vitelliani, Flaviani, etc.; Conybeare and Howson, vol. 1:130; Lewin, vol. 1:97), the designation most have been invented by the Gentiles, either by the Roman court or camp at Antioch, or by the Greek population, influenced as they were by Roman forms of speech current amongst them (compare the Greece-Oriental Nestorians, Arians, etc.). We may be sure that Christians, i.e. followers of Messiah, is not a name likely to have been given by Jews. There is no evidence either of its having been given in derision. The well-known account of Tacitus is "Vulgus Christianos appella-bat. Auctor nominis ejus Christus, Tiberio imperitante, per Pontium Pilatum supplicio affectus erat" ('Annal.,' 15:44). Suidas says that those who had been previously called Nazarenes and Galileans, in the reign of Claudius Caesar, when Euodius had been made Bishop of Antioch by Peter, had their name changed into that of Christians. He seems to refer to the statement of Malalas (quoted by Conybeare and Howson, 1:131), that they who had been before called Nazarenes and Galileans received the name of Christians in the time of Euodius, who succeeded St. Peter as Bishop of Antioch, and who himself gave them this name." Malalas is thought to have lived somewhere between the sixth and ninth centuries, at Byzantium. A beautiful passage in the Clementine Liturgy is also quoted at p. 130: "We give thee thanks that we are called by the Name of thy Christ, and are thus reckoned as thine own," where the allusion is to James 2:7. The name Christian is frequent in the epistles of Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch; Polycarp's dying words were, "I am a Christian" (Bishop Wordsworth). Acts 11:26Were called Christians (χρηματίσαι Χριστιανούς)

The former of these two words, rendered were called, meant, originally, to transact business, to have dealings with; thence, in the course of business, to give audience to, to answer, from which comes its use to denote the responses of an oracle; a divine advice or warning. See Acts 10:22; and compare Matthew 2:12; Hebrews 11:7. Later, it acquires the meaning to bear a name; to be called, with the implication of a name used in the ordinary transactions and intercourse of men; the name under which one passes. This process of transition appears in the practice of naming men according to their occupations, as, in English, "John the Smith," "Philip the Armorer;" a practice which is the origin of many familiar family names, such as Butler, Carpenter, Smith, Cooper. Compare in New Testament Alexander the coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14); Matthew the publican (Matthew 10:3); Luke the physician (Colossians 4:14); Erastus the chamberlain (Romans 16:23); Rahab the harlot (Hebrews 11:31). In the same line is the use of the word calling, to denote one's business. The meaning of the word in this passage is illustrated by Romans 7:3.

The disciples were called. They did not assume the name themselves. It occurs in only three passages in the New Testament: here; Acts 26:28; and 1 Peter 4:16; and only in the last-named passage is used by a Christian of a Christian. The name was evidently not given by the Jews of Antioch, to whom Christ was the interpretation of Messiah, and who wouldn't have bestowed that name on those whom they despised as apostates. The Jews designated the Christians as Nazarenes (Acts 24:5), a term of contempt, because it was a proverb that nothing good could come out of Nazareth (John 1:47), The name was probably not assumed by the disciples themselves; for they were in the habit of styling each other believers, disciples, saints, brethren, those of the way. It, doubtless, was bestowed by the Gentiles. Some suppose that it was applied as a term of ridicule, and cite the witty and sarcastic character of the people of Antioch, and their notoriety for inventing names of derision; but this is doubtful. The name may have been given simply as a distinctive title, naturally chosen from the recognized and avowed devotion of the disciples to Christ as their leader. The Antiochenes mistook the nature of the name, not understanding its use among the disciples as an official title - the Anointed - but using it as a personal name, which they converted into a party name.

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