God’s Word for You
Acts 11:25-26 Christians
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, April 21, 2020
25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him to Antioch. Then for a whole year they met with the church there and taught a great many people.
When last we saw Saul, he had made a good impression before the church in Jerusalem. It was Barnabas who had brought him to the apostles in the first place (Acts 9:27). When the Grecian Jews plotted to kill him, he received a vision from Jesus, telling him to flee. He went to Caesarea and then back to Tarsus, perhaps by boat (Acts 9:30; cp. Acts 22:17-21).
Barnabas was nearby, in Antioch. He realized that he would need help to oversee the growing number of Christians there, and he saw an opportunity to put Saul’s remarkable talents to work. Saul had been waiting in Tarsus for the Holy Spirit to call him to serve for about eight years—Barnabas’ trip to locate him happened in about 43 AD. Notice the emphasis Luke places on looking for Saul. The word anazētéō (ἀναζητέω) is “especially used of searching for human beings, with an implication of difficulty” (Moulton & Milligan, The Vocabulary of New Testament Greek, 1930, p. 32). Once found, Saul and Barnabas remained together as a team for a long time. For a year (Luke says “a whole year”) they worked together preaching and teaching in Antioch, working with a growing group of “a great many people.”
The disciples were first called ‘Christians’ in Antioch.
This sentence is best understood with the preceding one, showing what happened once Barnabas and Saul started working in the city: (1) They met (for a whole year), (2) they taught (all through that year), and (3) they received a new name. This new name was given by the people of Antioch, about this new group in town. “Who are those people?” They’re the Christ-group, the Christians. We often see that a leader lends his name to a group, not because he wants it that way, but because that’s what people call his followers. This is what happened with Luther as well, and there are reports during the Civil War of Union soldiers and northerners in general being called “Lincolnites.” So it was in Antioch that the followers of Jesus first were called Christians.
We’re privileged to be known by the same term. But sometimes a strange thing happens. A member of a church will pass away, and at his funeral there will be someone who says, “I never knew that Ralph was a Christian.” Or perhaps even more tragic, “I thought Ralph was a Christian, but seeing his funeral, now I wonder!” It isn’t the funeral that matters, of course, but the life lived. No one should wonder about our faith. There are too many people (even Christians) who believe in a speculative theology. By that I mean a religion that is based on imagination rather than the word of God. This is especially what we see in people who imagine that they will be rewarded with heaven if they do good. This is the devil’s religion, and his path is a dense jungle maze that he has concocted to lead people away from Christ without them realizing it. The truth is clear: “Those who fear the Lord will have a good end. On the day of their death they will be blessed.” It is faith that saves; faith in Christ. Too often people imagine that God must mean this or that with the things that happen to them, but if God doesn’t say a thing clearly, then why wonder? Better to do as David did, and pray, “Have mercy on me, O God” (Psalm 51:1). This is what a Christian truly is, a sinner who looks to Christ alone for forgiveness. In the First Article of the creed we remember who the Father is, the one who sent Jesus. In the Third Article we remember how faith in Christ comes to us and is sustained. But the Christian lives by the Second Article, finding rest in the Son of God, having life and forgiveness in his name alone.
Pastor Timothy Smith