". . . they were first called Christians . . ." Acts 11:26
Christians. We've lived with that name for so long it's hardly thought of as special. To be a Christian today in our world is a category used to refer to those who are considered to be God-fearing, gun-toting, bible thumpers. However, the origin of the name “Christian” is much more rich and robust.
To discover it we must first ask why the name Christian? Why not Jesustians? Why was it Christ and not Jesus that the onlooking world gave to this small band of early believers? After all, the essence of the gospel is that disciples are to follow Jesus, imitate Jesus, that we are to admire Jesus, who loved, spoke, lived, and died. Since that is the very heart of the gospel, why were believers not known as Jesustians?
The answer is the first believers love of Jesus was not personal, it was theological. It was the happy abandonment of tender souls to God, in a new relationship to Jesus the Christ which had been established.
The thing the early believers celebrated was not the sermons of Jesus, or His ministry of healing, nor the tenderness He showed to others. The thing they celebrated was that God had sent the long-promised Messiah and when He came, it was Jesus. Seeing Jesus confirmed all of what they had long been reading in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Job, and Jonah. They realized all the writers of scripture had been looking towards a thoughtful, understanding, tender sign that all of eternity had been pointing towards. God had sent the long-promised Messiah and behold, it was Jesus. That heart that beat behind the veil was all seen in the coming of the Christ.
The momentum of the early Church was not about our relationship to our God. Rather, the unique message of the Church was about God’s relationship to us. It was no accident that the early Church spoke of Christ and not Jesus. The work of Christ lifts us out of the dilemma of the soul, bringing us face-to-face with the saving God.
Are you glad to be called a Christian?