Names carry a lot of significance. Our parents gave us names that usually communicate
something about their hopes for us. Then some of us have earned nick names that say something
about who we are. Some of us have titles that we have worked hard to receive like Doctor,
Pastor, CEO, Sergeant, Mom, or Dad.
We make decisions about what we will buy, where we will stay, the airline we will use, the
school we want our kids to attend, and where we will go to church at least in part because of the
name associated with a company or institution.
Names have significance, and the most powerful ones have to be earned. You have to make it
through Med School or another doctoral program to earn the title Doctor, you have to survive
Parris Island to earn the title Marine, and you have to learn to love others in a very special way to
be called Mom. What do you have to do to earn the name Christian?
In the passage we're looking at today we see that believers were first called Christians at
Antioch. We'll talk about how they earned that name and what it means for us to be Christians in
our environment today.
I. The Gospel's Expansion – verses 19-21
The Gospel Expanded Geographically
The Gospel Expanded Numerically
Acts 1 - 120 Acts 2 - add 3,000 & grew daily Acts 4 - grew to about 5,000 men
Acts 5 - more and more were added
Acts 6 - the number of disciples grew rapidly & a large number of priests joined them
Acts 11 - a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord
The Gospel Expanded in spite of opposition
Opposition shouldn't surprise us. Jesus said it would come, and it has been present since the
It also shouldn't discourage us. It's proof that God is moving among us. We can also see that
going all the way back to the beginning, it has not been able to keep God's Kingdom from
Someone said something about our ministry this week that wasn't true. They were trying to do
harm to us, but it didn't work. We've faced this kind of stuff before and it can be discouraging,
but if we remember that the enemy works harder when we are being effective and that God is
greater than any attack that comes against us, then we can rest in Him knowing that He often
uses attacks against His people to further His Kingdom.
That's what we see in Acts 11. The persecution that came after Stephen's death actually helped
to grow and strengthen the church. The enemy cannot stop our God.
II. What does a Christian look like? – verses 22-30
They were first called Christians at Antioch - verse 26
Face opposition with grace - Peter did the right thing and was criticized for it. Instead of
fighting back he simply shared what God did (Acts 11:1-18).
Jesus taught that we should love our enemies and pray for them. He challenged us to turn the
other cheek rather than resorting to the tactics of this world. It's not easy, but honors God and
shows that we trust Him.
Live in unity - Jew, Gentile, Old, Young, Slave, Free, men and women, all races, tribes, and
Jesus said that if we would choose love and unity that would become what we are known by. It's
not too late. We can turn the tide and earn a name based on radical love instead of fighting
among ourselves and killing our own wounded.
Peter set the tone for unity by obeying God and reaching out to the Gentiles. Barnabas and
Paul displayed unity by working together to build up the church, and the church at Antioch
showed unity by coming together as one body, and also reaching out to those in need.
Several years ago I coached 4 &5 year olds in Upwards Football. I was supposed to be teaching
them the fundamentals of the sport, but my biggest goal each week was to get them to see that
they could work together as a team. We didn't need a bunch of superstars, we needed a team that
worked together. It is the same in our churches and families.
Galatians 3:26-28 NIV
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into
Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor
free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Take care of each other - The love that Jesus called us to drives unity, and also the kind of care
and concern that causes us to meet each other's needs. When we love like Christ we are able to
look beyond self to see the needs in the lives of others, and we will meet those needs even if we
have to sacrifice.
They met the needs of the Jerusalem church. In doing so they were keeping up a practice that
went all the way back to the beginning of the church. It's an example that we need to follow.
Our church should model their love and concern, and like them there should be no one who is
needy in our church.
Multiply - Reaching and teaching others. True believers are used by God to create other
believers. He has left this privilege to us. The reason the early church was because everyone
took part in sharing about Christ. Everyone had a story to tell. Nothing has changed.
All of this is a result of love. Everything that we've talked about comes from hearts that are full
of love because of what God has done. The same Christ lives in us and so the same love should
come from us.
Jesus said that we would be known as his disciples if we love one another (John 13:35)
John was one of the disciples who was there and heard Jesus say that. Later he wrote this: 1