Meditating on the Word
“In His law he meditates day and night” Psalm 1:2
“Meditating on the Word,” edited by Wayne Burger, is a work of the church of Christ, which meets at 11873 Springs Rd. Unit #250, Conifer, CO 80433. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org – Website: coniferchurchofchrist.com
Vol. 14 No. 5 July 20, 2014
Disciples Called Christians
When the church was established in Antioch of Syria Saul (Paul) and Barnabas worked with the church for a year. During that time Luke records that, “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” Acts 11:26. The normal word for “called” is kaleo. But in this verse the word translated “called” is chrematidzo. The verb form of that word appears eight times in the New Testament and always means that God did the calling. It is interesting that this word is only translated “called” in one other passage. Paul said that the woman who has a living husband while she is married to another man shall be “called” an adulteress (Romans 7:3).
In most passages the word is translated “warned.” For example in Matthew 2:12 and 22 the wise men were “warned” by God to return home a different way and Joseph was “warned” by God not to settle in Judea. When Moses was given the instructions on Mount Sinai about building the tabernacle God gave him a warning (Hebrews 8:5), as was Noah when he was given instruction about building the ark (Hebrews 11:7). The Hebrew writer “warns” us not to refuse to obey God as those who refused the warning of God in the Old Testament (Hebrews 12:25NASB). The noun form of this Greek word occurs in Romans 11:4 and is translated “the divine response” (NASB). It is also interesting to note that this Greek word was used by the Greeks in referring to a response given when they consulted their gods (Marvin R. Vincent Word Studies in the New Testament in his discussion of Acts 11:26).
Significance of God’s Calling
What is the significance of the information given above? When Christ’s followers were “called” Christians it was God who called them by that name. “Christian” was not a derogatory term used by their oppressors. Neither did the word come into existence because the believers began calling themselves by this term. The term “Christian” came directly from God. The name is special because God gave us that name.
Significance of Waiting
The church had been in existence ten years or more when the disciples were first called “Christians.” Why did God wait so long before He designated His followers by this special term? It probably was due to the fact that God waited until the Gentiles were also in the church before He gave them this special name. Thus, the Jews and Gentiles came to be called “Christians” at the same time. God wanted His people to be united. He didn’t want the Jews to think that they had an advantage because the had been called “Christians” many years before the Gentiles became Christians. Just because the Jews were in the church first didn’t make them more special in God’s sight. Cornelius was the first Gentile to become a Christian (Acts 10-11) and this occurred about eight to ten years after the church started in Jerusalem. After Cornelius’ conversion “some men of Cyprus and Cyrene….came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks” Acts 11:19-20. Thus, a Gentile church was planted.
About 750 years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah had prophesied, “The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; and you will be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord will designate” Isaiah 62:2. Notice that these people were going to be “called by a new name” and that God was going to give them that name. After this prophecy was made we do not have Israel called by a new name.
Notice also that this new name was going to be given after “the nations” (the Gentiles) would see God’s righteousness. That is exactly what happened. God’s righteous plan for salvation was made known to the Gentiles and then God called all spiritual Israel (Jews and Gentiles) by a new name – Christian.
Disciples – New Testament Christians
Most people in this country belong to some sort of “Christian Denomination.” Yet, each person has to explain what kind of “Christian” he or she is. Also, nearly every “Christian” became a “Christian” by doing something different. Doesn’t it seem logical that everyone who is a Christian should become a Christian the same way? Is there no standard to determine this or does every individual get to decide how he or she becomes a Christian?
In a broad sense a Christian is one who follows Christ. Therefore, we ought to consult Christ to see what He expects one to do to become a Christian. We are able to do this by reading the New Testament. Then one can know for sure that he or she is a New Testament Christian – a true follower of Christ.
Christians Are Disciples
Since “the disciples were first called Christians” when we find out how one becomes a disciple, one knows who is a Christian. When Jesus gave the great commission He told His apostles “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” Matthew 28:19-20. First, we note that this is authorized by Jesus Himself. Second, we note that it is to be done universally in that it was to be done in “all nations.” So, all people are to become disciples the same way. If one claims to be a disciple in some other way, he must give authority from Christ for what he did. The basic principle is that the apostles taught people, people were baptized, and the apostles continued to teach them.
How to Become a Disciple (Christian)
In Mark’s account of this great commission he recorded Jesus as saying, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” Mark 16:16. Luke explained how one became a disciple when Jesus said “that repentance and remission of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” Luke 24:47. By combining the information from these three records of the great commission, we learn that to become a disciple one had to be taught which would lead one to believe and change his life (repent), and then be baptized so that his sins could be remitted (forgiven) and he could thus be saved.
This is the message that the apostles preached from the time the church began (Acts 2:22-41). When Peter preached to the Jews on the first Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection he said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified” Acts 2:36. Thus, he told them to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. They responded by asking, “What shall we do” Acts 2:37? Peter answered their question with these words, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” Acts 2:38. They became disciples by hearing, believing, repenting, and being baptized.
When Philip preached to the people of Samaria they gave attention (heard) (Acts 8:6). They believed and were baptized (Acts 8:12). As the eunuch rode along in the chariot he was taught about Jesus (Acts 8:35) and he believed what he was taught and was baptized (Acts 8:38).
This is the only pattern that one finds in the New Testament as to how one becomes a disciple (Christian). If one has not followed this pattern is he or she a New Testament Christian? A New Testament Christian is different from someone just calling another person a “Christian.” The question is, “Are you a New Testament Christian as Christ authorized or are you a “Christian” as some man or creed book authorizes?
John’s Tests of Discipleship
Proof to Self – Continuing in the word. “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” John 8:31.
Proof to the World – Show love to the brethren. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” John 13:34-35.
Proof to God – Bear fruit. (This text does not specify what kind of fruit, but there are many to be borne by the disciple). “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” John 15:8.
You can know that you are a disciple if you do what the word tells you to do. You can prove to your neighbors that you are a disciple if you will show love to your brethren. You can prove to God that you are a disciple if you will bear fruit to glorify your heavenly Father. Are you a disciple?