Godís definition of a Christian

Acts 11:19-26


There are many today that call themselves a Christian. In fact the United States is considered to a Christian nation. What you will discover is that there are many definitions of what a Christian is. But, none of these manmade definitions should concern us. We should only be interested in Godís definition of a Christian.


The first thing I want you to consider is that God foretold of a special name He would give His people in.


Isaiah 56:5 Even to them I will give in My house And within My walls a place and a name Better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name That shall not be cut off.


He we learn that this new name would not be given by some human. No, it would be given in Godís house and we find out that the church that Jesus establish is the house of God in,


1 Timothy 3:15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.


Isaiah also tells us when we would receive this new name in,

Isaiah 62:2 The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, And all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the LORD will name.


This name would be given by God when the Gentiles were able to see Godís righteousness. In fact, the first time we find out when this new name was given in our key text.


Acts 11:26 ÖAnd the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.


So we see that Christian was that name and that it was not given until Gentiles were also taught the good news about Jesus and how His salvation is available for all. This shows why the followers of Christ were not called Christians at Pentecost because it would be several more years before God would reveal that Gentiles were included in His new covenant.


So those who try to say that the term Christian came from man is wrong and we can even see this from Acts 11:26 from the word ďcalledĒ. The Greek word used here is only used 9 times in the NT and always implies a divine source.



Thayer defines this way, ďÖto give a response to those consulting an oracle, to give a divine command or admonition, to teach from heaven 2a) to be divinely commanded, admonished, instructed 2b) to be the mouthpiece of divine revelations, to promulgate the commands of GodÖĒ


Now that I have established that God has given us this name Christian, I want to show you Godís definition of a Christian by looking at our key text in Acts 11:19-26.


Acts 11:19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.


This talking about the event that took place in Acts 7 where Stephen was stoned to death for his belief in Jesus. After Stephen death, these Jews lead by Saul were severely persecuting the Christians which caused them to flee from that area. From this we can see definitions of a Christians.


First, Christians are not quitters. A true Christians understands the value of Christianity and that nothing should keep us from serving our God. Unfortunately, many Christians today will allow the smallest things to cause them to fall away a quite on God. Compare that to how these Christians in the first century were being thrown in jail, tortured and put death. They didnít give up on their Christianity. Now, they ran from the persecution, but they didnít run from God. Instead, they went to new areas and the kept spreading the good news of Christianity which brings to our second definition.


Christians will preach or teach the Word of God. Every Christian should be willing to share their conversion story with those around them. We have no problem sharing the good news of a new baby or how our child or grandchild has accomplished something great. Well, in the same manner we should be excited about how God loves us so much and has allowed us to become His children. When is the last time you have told one of your friends or family members of how came to know God and how it made you feel? This is just one way we can share the good news of Jesus.


Every Christian should be studying the Word of God so that they can be prepared to teach another person about the basic principles of Christianity. We can also preach Jesus by the way we live our life and how we treat each other.


Acts 11:20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.


Now depending on your Bible version you will either have Hellenist, which was a Greek speaking Jew that favored the Greek ways or you will have Greeks, which would refer to Gentiles. The scholars are split right down the middle on this, but I believe it includes both because Antioch consisted of both Jews and Greek and many refer to this congregation as the first Gentile church. We can certainly see evidence of this in Acts 15 where there was a dispute about whether or not Gentiles had to be circumcised. They discussed this matter in Jerusalem and being guided by the Holy Spirit they decided circumcision wasnít necessary. Then write an official letter sending it to three cities with Antioch being one of them and the address it to the Gentile brethren (Acts 15:23) This implies to me that there was great deal Gentile Christians in these particular congregations.


Verse 20 also shows us that Christians should be willing preach the good news of Jesus to others as well. However, in our previous verse, they just preached to the Jews only, but in verse 20 these Christians were reaching out to those that Jews normally wouldnít talk to. This shows us that we should not show partiality by excluding certain people we donít like or who doesnít look like us because no matter what a persons nationality or outer appearance may be, doesnít change the way their soul looks to God.


James 2:9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.


Another definition we get from this verse is that a Christian do not care who gets the credit for the good that is done. The only named mentioned in these two verses we have looked at so far is Stephen, and he wasnít involved in this preaching that was occurring. All we know is that some unnamed men from Cyprus and Cyrene planted the seed that started this congregation in Antioch. As Christians it should not matter to us if we are recognized for accomplish something great for the Lord. Instead, we should rejoice in the fact that we have glorified God and we can know that He knows what we did. That is all that matters.


1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.9 For we are God's fellow workers


Acts 11:21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.


This shows us that a Christians is one who believes and turns to the Lord. This alone shows us that more than belief is required to become a Christian because one must also turn to Him. This is backed up by the Greek Grammar, which states that the word ďbelieveĒ is aorist participle, which must occur before the leading verb which is turned. Letís go a step further. I want you to notice what Paul was teaching everywhere he went in,


ESV Acts 26:20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.


As we look at this verse with Acts 11:21 in mind we can see that belief and repentance must occur before a person can turn to the Lord. This also shows us that turning to the lord is something other than belief and repentance. So, what does turning to the Lord involve? I believe we can answer that question by comparing two other verses sided by side.


ESV Acts 3:19 Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,


Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.


Once again we can see that repentance happens before turn again can occur. As we compare we can see that turn again is equivalent to be baptized because it is at the point of baptism that a personís sins are forgiven our blotted out. So, we can see that Godís definition of a Christians is one who has obeyed the gospel call by believing, repenting, confessing and turning to God by being baptized for forgiveness of sin.


Acts 11:22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.

This shows us that a Christian should be ready to go where they are needed. Today many times Christians will makes excuses of why they canít help or what they cant be involved, but that shouldnít be the case. If we a capable of doing something for the Lord, we should do it because God doesnít want us to be like lamp that is covered up that no one can see. No, He wants us to let our light shine and to bring glory and honor to Him.


ESV Acts 11:23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,


Godís definition is that others should be able to see the grace of God in you. Barnabas was able to tell that these new converts were full of Godís grace and so every Christians should live their life in such away that that other can tell that you are a Christian and that you have fully embraced Godís grace. It should make us glad when see others do the same.


We also learn from this verse that a Christian is a person who will exhort or encourage other Christians to remain faithful to the Lord. God set up Christianity so that we could help one another so that we can stand strong in Christ. If you try to go it alone you will fail.


Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor.10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone?12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.


Notice Acts 11:23 also says that our faithfulness to the lord is to be done with a steadfast purpose and that steadfast purpose is putting God first as Jesus says in,


Matthew 6:33 "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.


Paul also gives this same thought in,


Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus


Acts 11:24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.


God defines a Christians as someone who is good just like Barnabas was. No one should be able to say that you are mean Christian because meanness and Christianity do not go together. If you are living you life in such away that a person can call you mean or bad then you do not fit into the definition God has given us and you need to make a change in your life. People are always watching and so we must always do our best to good example of what Christian should be like as Paul told Timothy,


1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.


Because Barnabas was a good Christian man and a good example he was able to lead many to Christ.


Acts 11:25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people.


Again, we can see that Godís definition of a Christian is one that will seek help from another Christian especial when it comes to proclaiming the good news. Apparently there were many people who wanted to know about Godís new plan and Barnabas needed some help so he went and brought Saul back with him.


Now our finally definition that God gives of a Christian is that they assemble with the saints. Paul and Barnabas assembled with the saints for a whole year teaching them Godís Word and we should follow that example today. The writer of Hebrews teaches this as well,


Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.


Just as some were in the habit of forsaking the assembly back then many are in the habit of forsaking the assembly today. But, according to God definition every Christian that is capable of doing so should assemble with saints every opportunity they have.


We need to remind ourselves that Jesus purchased the church with His blood Acts 20:28 and that is the only reason that the church exist today and that you and I make up that church. So, when you forsake the assembly, youíre not just letting your just letting your brothers and sisters in Christ down, youíre letting Jesus down and your making His death and the freedom He has given you into something that is not important to you. I really think itís sad when Christians donít make the time to make it to few services that we have each week. We only have 2 hours of worship on Sunday and 1 hour Bible study and then 1 hour of Bible study on Wednesday. We need to ask ourselves, is that really to much time to spending worshiping and studying about God? It certainly is not and that is why God says that a Christian is one who assembles with the saint. Finally our text reads,


Acts 11:26 And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.


We have seen from verses what God calls a Christians and His definition should be our definition. The question becomes, ďare you a Christian as God has defined it? Have you obeyed the gospel call by believing, repenting, confessing and turning to God by be baptized in the Christ for the remission of sins? If you are Christians have you been living the Christian life as God has shown us in our text? Are you striving to serve Him by putting Him first in your life and doing best to be an example to others? Are you willing to teach others about God without partiality? Are you assembling with the saints every opportunity you have?



These are questions we need to ask ourselves from time to time because it will help us to decide whether or not we are being a Christian as God has defined.