I am writing this article as something to consider or think about. I find myself often thinking of the ‘why' something is. The word Christian is one such word. Why are we called Christians?
Who gave us that name? Did Jesus name us after himself? Did the Apostles affirm us as such? Most believers never ask such questions. They just go along with the status quo.
They Were First Called Christians
“and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Acts 11:26
Throughout scripture, the followers of Christ were called disciples. The Apostles used affectionate names such as Brethern, Beloved, Dear Children (of God), and Saints. But Christian was not used.
It wasn't given to the believers by Christ. He never called the disciples Christians. In fact, other than calling them disciples, he called them his brothers.
It was the people of Antioch who coined the phrase ‘Christian' (according to the text), which means, “follower of the teachings of Christ”. Whether being called a ‘Christ Follower' was a term of endearment or derision is debatable.
The point is, until this time, believers were not called Christians! And if we were to call on the law of first mention, we would again conclude that Christian is a term used by the unbelievers, not the disciples themselves.
The Term ‘Christian' Catches On
“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Acts 26:28
The term Christian spread from Antioch south, north of Palestine where King Agrippa ruled. Agrippa, during a visit to Festus, who was holding Paul, pending his appeal to stand before Caesar, became curious about Paul and wanted to hear him.
After Paul preached the Gospel before Festus and Agrippa, Agrippa spoke the words of Acts 26:28. He called Paul a Christian.
This is the second time it is used. It's used once more.
If You Suffer As A Christian…
“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” 1 Peter 4:16
I guess this is enough for everyone to begin calling themselves a Christian. The only disciple to use the term is Peter. But why?
Peter was addressing the believers across the Roman Empire. Giving them words of encouragement and strength, he also acknowledged their struggles. Some were undergoing persecution because of their belief in Christ. As such, they were being called Christians by the unbelievers.
“If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.” 1 Peter 4:14
Peter was not branding them Christians. He knows that's what they were being called. So he used the same term. Note Peter did not use it before or ever again afterward.
Are You Something Just Because?
If someone called you a duck, does that make you a duck? Or a dog? The point here is not about what you are being called. It's about who you truly are.
The followers of Christ knew themselves as Sons of God, Kings, and Priests of God, Heirs, and Joint-Heirs with Christ, etc. They were believers, and brethren, male and female alike. But never did they refer to themselves as Christians.
Now, it is obvious, during the centuries that passed, the term stuck. This is especially true once Rome decided to make peace with the believers and convert (sort of). They began calling themselves Christians. Hmm…
This article will not likely change hundreds of years of tradition. I'm sure people will argue for the term and never call themselves anything else. That's okay. I only want you to think. It's not unlike my article about Lucifer.
No matter what we call ourselves, one thing is certain. If we name the name of Christ, we are (or should be) the followers of the teachings of Christ. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts on this.