“Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” Acts 11:25–26 (NIV84)
I sure wish I had been there! I would give anything to have heard Paul teach for an entire year about how Jesus was the promised Messiah and Savior of the world. Who better for Barnabas to scoop up and take with him to Antioch? Paul was a Jewish Hebrew scholar with Roman citizenship. He studied under the great teacher Gamaliel. He was an expert in Old Testament studies and the prophecies concerning the Messiah. He and Barnabas spent an entire year bridging what we call the two Testaments and proving to many that Jesus is the Messiah.
So, it is no surprise that believers in Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch. Note: they were not called “Jesusites” or “Jesusians.” They (we) are called Christians. We are known for Jesus’ title as Messiah, rather than his proper name (Jesus). Remember that the high priest asked Jesus during His trial, “Tell us clearly, are you the Christ?” It was after Jesus answered that question in the affirmative that the decision was made to finally have Him executed for blasphemy. As Christians, we are claiming that Jesus was no ordinary prophet or teacher but rather the promised Messiah sent directly from God. By our name, we profess to believe that Jesus was the very Son of God/Son of Man prophecied about more than 100 times in the Old Testament. Our title professes Jesus to be the King of kings and the Lord of lords; the Alpha and Omega; the First and the Last, and the great I AM.
Today, let’s remember the depth of meaning behind the title we bear, and in that title may we take great pride.