Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:…
I. Although everyone admits that the appellative "Christian" is derived from our great Master Christ, there is considerable variety of opinion as to THE WAY in which it was so derived.
1. The view taken by one class of expositors is, that this appellative was first given in derision and contempt.
2. A second opinion is, that the title in question was first assumed by the Christians themselves, as a new and significant distinction.
3. But a more probable account of this matter is, that the name Christian was first adopted by Divine appointment and authority.
(1) The word translated "called," in the text, is sometimes used in the sense of "to warn, or appoint by Divine authority."(2) The mere fact of the first use of the term "Christian" being recorded in so abbreviated and important a history as that of the Acts would argue that it was an event of much interest to the Church of Christ in all succeeding ages.
(3) As it is mentioned in immediate connection with the teaching of Barnabas and Paul, it is not unreasonable to infer that those holy men instructed the disciples at Antioch not only to believe in Christ, but also to adopt His name.
II. Having considered the derivation and meaning of the name, we must not inquire respecting THE CHARACTER; for it is one thing to be called a Christian, and another thing to be one. Suppose that, with the New Testament in our hand, we were required to give some account of one of those early Antiochian Christians; we should, without fear of contradiction, assert the following particulars: —
1. That he was a man who received and believed the doctrines of the Lord Christ.
2. Our disciple at Antioch, one of those first called Christians, would place his confidence in the Lord Jesus as his Saviour, and in Him alone.
3. He would be one that yielded implicit obedience to the commands of the Son of God.
4. He would consider the Lord Jesus Christ as that perfect and illustrious example he was bound by every obligation to imitate.
(1) Do Christians imitate the Lord Jesus? — then are they an inoffensive people; for He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26).
(2) Are Christians imitators of Christ? then are they a useful people; for He "went about doing good," and then "gave Himself a ransom for all."(3) Are Christians people who follow the example of the holy Jesus? then are they a holy and devout people; for He frequented the temple and the synagogue, to pray in public; and retired to the mountain's summit, to pray in private; and in that exercise sometimes wasted the hours of the night!
III. It only remains to deduce certain CONSEQUENCES in which we have all an intimate and deep concern.
1. The first is, that no man can become a Christian, in the evangelical sense of the word, without the intervention of Divine mercy and power.
2. The next is, that as a religious designation, the term "Christian" is of itself quite sufficient; and that all sectarian additions are but proofs of the infirmity or depravity of men. On this subject I venture to advise —
(1) That you esteem denomination as Christian, only as its members embrace the truth, imbibe the spirit, and obey the commands of Christ; and —
(2) That you glory in the name of "Christian," and make no account of any other.
3. It is clear from what has been advanced, that to assume the name without sustaining the character of a Christian is a serious evil. No man can be so called without being eternally better or worse for it!
4. It is evident from the whole, that to be called a Christian, and to be one, is the supreme happiness of man! Oh the honour! to have that dear, that sacred, that exalted name, named upon us! Christians! — happy people! Innumerable, exceeding great and precious promises are theirs. Then why hesitate a moment to become an entire and decided Christian? To this high and unspeakable honour you are all invited; Oh, spurn not this mark of infinite mercy, condescension, and love!
Parallel VersesKJV: Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: