The Name, Christian
INTRO: Good morning. The last time we were together we left Peter in Cornelius’ household amazed that God’s Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.
Peter who earlier had a vision now clearly understood the meaning of the vision and the fact that God shows no favoritism between people. He understood that you don’t have to be a Jew to please God. You don’t have to have been circumcised in the flesh to please God. What you do need is the right heart and attitude towards God by obeying His commands.
Today we're going to see Peter explaining to other circumcised Jews that God accepts Gentiles. In other words the Gentiles could enter the church through baptism without first submitting to the requirements of the Law of Moses.
I. Peter is questioned. The others challenged Peters actions in Acts 11:1-3 - “Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, "You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!''”
A. It appears news of the events in Cornelius' house reached Jerusalem and the apostles, even, apparently, before Peter made his way back to the city. News travels fast doesn’t it?
1. Before the baptism of Cornelius and his household, all those who were baptized had been subject to the Law of Moses and circumcision, whether they were of the fleshly Israel or proselytes.
2. Luke tells us there was a bit of a dispute which arose from some of that number. They did not understand why he had gone into the house of a Gentile and actually eaten there.
B. Peter goes on to explain his actions in Acts 11:4-12 – “4. But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: 5. "I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. 6. "When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 7. "And I heard a voice saying to me, 'Rise, Peter; kill and eat.' 8. "But I said, 'Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.' 9. "But the voice answered me again from heaven, 'What God has cleansed you must not call common.' 10. "Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven. 11. "At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12. "Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man's house.”
1. We won’t spend much time with this text because we already dealt with that in Peter’s vision back in Acts 10. I do note that if we were to take one lesson from the text here it would be this, Peter's answer teaches us a great deal about resolving controversy within the brotherhood.
2. He defended his actions by saying they were authorized and approved by God. How many times have we seen that already when a doctrinal dispute happens? What’s the first thing the apostles do? They go back to their source of authority.
3. Peter not only went back to the source but he revealed to those disputing believers how this authority was shown. He told them he had seen a vision which indicated to him that he should no longer regard any man as common.
4. He says, he heard the Spirit tell him to go with the three men who had been sent from Caesarea. Peter did what we must all do when our authority tells us to do something. He went to Caesarea, accompanied by six other brethren.
C. Peter begins to move away from explaining his vision to explain Cornelius’ vision in Acts 11:13-14 – “13. "And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, 'Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14. 'who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.'” Peter related the story of the vision which Cornelius had which directed him to send for Peter so that he could hear words that would save him and his household.
1. Notice what Peter says here. He doesn’t say Cornelius and his household were saved because the Holy Spirit came upon them.
a. He doesn’t say that Cornelius was saved because he had a vision.
b. He doesn’t say that Cornelius was saved because he was a good person.
c. He doesn’t even say that Cornelius and his household were saved when they heard Peter’s message.
2. No, Peter says that salvation was to be theirs only after they had heard “... words by which...”. That word we translate as “by” indicates a following action, when they obeyed the words spoken. In other words when they had heard the instructions and then obeyed and followed them then they would have the finished product which was salvation.
D. Peter then follows on with his explanation about what happened when he met up with Cornelius and his household. Acts 11:15-17 – “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, 'John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”
1. Peter says that "the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning." What does he mean?
2. Think back to Acts 2 and the Day of Pentecost; Acts 2:1-4 – “1. Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
3. There is no doubt that Peter is referring to the day of Pentecost when the apostles received the Holy Spirit and spoke in other languages. Peter says Cornelius and his household received the gift of tongues in the same way they did in the beginning, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
E. With that evidence, Peter didn’t feel that he could oppose God by refusing to baptize them, or in any other way place stiffer requirements on these Gentiles. Peter's arguments convinced those assembled that the Gentiles had also been given the right to eternal life if they would submit to the Savior in repentant baptism. With that full explanation Luke then tells us in Acts 11:18 – “When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.''”
F. There have been many people use the events of Cornelius’ household to try and prove that they receive visions today or to prove that tongue speaking is still needed today.
1. Some lessons back I shared with you why I don’t call this Holy Spirit baptism. Holy Spirit baptism was promised to the apostles and no one else. This one little verse clearly shows us the reason why Cornelius and his household received the Holy Spirit.
2. The Holy Spirit was being outpoured on them not so much for Cornelius’ benefit, or even just for Peter’s benefit, but it was for the benefit of those to who Peter was speaking to now. God was sending a clear message to the Jewish Christians meeting in Jerusalem that He loves and accepts Gentiles into His church.
a. You didn’t have to be a Jew to be recommended to receive a Savior.
b. You didn’t have to be circumcised in the flesh to be recommended to receive a Savior. Your sin is all the recommendation you need to receive a Savior.
c. It doesn’t matter about your age, your color, your riches or debts, because we all come to the cross of Christ filthy with sin.
3. That was Paul’s point is in Romans 3:21-25 – “21. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22. even the righteousness of God which is through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24. being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25. whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,”
4. God accepted us just the way we were, we didn’t have to prove ourselves first to God or anyone else. We didn’t have to become righteous first. Paul tells us God gave us our righteousness through faith in Christ Jesus.
II. The scattering. Now meanwhile when this was going on, something else was happening.. Do you remember back in Acts 7 at the end of the chapter where Luke informed Theophilus that Saul gave the approval for Stephen’s death?
A. Luke records in Acts 8:1 – “Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”
1. If we go down to Acts 8:4 Luke tells us that, “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” What we see happening next in Acts 11 was the purpose for God allowing this persecution of His people to take place in the first place.
2. When Jesus said in Mark 16:15 – “"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” , He meant it. We are now at Acts 11:19-21 – “19. Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. 20. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.”
3. Luke reported that those scattered by the persecution at the time of Stephen's death went over a large area preaching the word, but only to the Jews. The men of Cyprus and Cyrene though preached the gospel to the Grecians in Antioch as well.
4. There was no doubt that God was working in the background. I say there is no doubt that God was with these men because Luke tells us that “a great number believed and turned to the Lord”.
B. Now those young Christian converts that were scattered all over the place needed something we all need from time to time—encouragement. Luke tells us that Barnabas was sent to Antioch to encourage these young Christians. Acts 11:22-24 – “22. Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.”
1. When word of the events in Antioch reached the church in Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas. This had the characteristic of a formal mission from the church in Jerusalem. That the church should have sent a man with the character and disposition of Barnabas indicates to me that there was already in Jerusalem a strong attitude favoring the inclusion of Gentiles in the church. He encouraged all the young followers of the Lord to commit themselves to the Lord with all their hearts.
2. Luke tells us that Barnabas was a good man, full of faith and the Holy Spirit and he was fully committed to teaching the gospel to everyone and anyone who was willing to learn.
3. In much the same way folks, when any child of God has these three attributes, the effects are going to be seen. When you are good, full of faith and guided by the God’s Spirit, it will have a ripple effect.
4. Luke says that, “... a great many people were added to the Lord.” God blessed Barnabas’ efforts so much he needed help! So he went to Tarsus to bring Saul back to help in this rich work.
C. We are now at Acts 11:25-26 – “Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”
1. There is nothing wrong with asking for help from time to time. There is nothing wrong with asking someone to accompany you when you are teaching. Sometimes we can’t do everything we would like to do without an extra pair of hands and that includes teaching.
2. Antioch was the world's third largest city at that time, trailing only Rome and Alexandria. Barnabas needed help. Barnabas and Saul worked together with the church in Antioch for a year and were able to teach a large number of people. We recall from Acts 9:15 where the word of the Lord is revealed to Ananias speaking about Saul; “But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.”
III. Christians. Notice also that Luke records that the disciples in the city of Antioch were the first to wear the name Christian. Up to this point the name “disciples” was used and now the name “Christian” has replaced it. The name "Disciples" 261 times in the first five books of the New Testament. Yet it is not used even once in the last 22 books of the New Testament. The significance of this is further emphasized by the fact that the apostle John, after using it 77 times in the gospel, never used it even once in his short epistles and Revelation. Following the book of Acts, no follower of the Lord was ever called a disciple.
A. I note that the word "disciple" (mathētēs – pronounced mä-tha-ta's) means "learner or pupil”. Although it is true in a sense that Christians must always be "learning," there is a necessary sense in which Christians are "taught persons," in all vital elements of faith. I’m looking now at John 6:44-45 – “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. "It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” Now in Jeremiah 31:31-35 – “31. "Behold, the days are coming,'' says the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah 32. "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them,'' says the Lord. 33. "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, says the Lord, I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34. "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,'' says the Lord. "For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.'' 35. Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (the Lord of hosts is His name):” Finally in 2 John 1:1-2 – “THE ELDER, To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever:”
B. The name “disciples” carries the notion that Christians are merely "trying to learn the truth". A Christian is more then that. John said that Christians "know the truth" (1 John 2:21). Paul declared that Christians "believe and know the truth" (1 Timothy 4:3); and this concept of the Christian's being in possession of "all truth" through the revelation of God to the apostles is denied by such a name as "disciples" or "learners." Christians are commanded to love the truth, hear the truth, walk in the truth, obey the truth, and to "teach the truth in love." If they should be named merely "learners" or disciples, it would be incongruous.
1. I know there are those in the past who affirm that "Christians" was a name given in derision, belittling the members of Christ as "goody-goodies," etc. Let’s look at the scriptures and consider what this name “Christian” is.
2. God promised that He would give His people a new name. Look with me at Isaiah 62:2 – “The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name.” God promised that it would be given at a time when "the Gentiles and kings" had seen His "righteousness".
3. It was not to be a name which enemies would give, for God said, "I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off" (Isaiah 56:5).
4. It was not to be a name which would arise beyond the fellowship of God's people; but, as the Lord said, "Even unto them will I give in my house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters" (Isaiah 56:5).
5. God made good on that promise, the name was given in His house and within His walls; that cannot mean in the ranks of the despisers of His truth. Moreover, it was to be "a new name" (Isaiah 62:2), and a name "which the mouth of the Lord" would name.
C. There is significance of the name's being "new." If "disciples" had continued to be the name of God's followers, there would have been nothing new in such a designation, because the Pharisees and John the Baptist also had "disciples." Implicit in the new name was the teaching that Christianity was never to be confused with Judaism, or any of the sects of the Jews, all of which had their "disciples".
1. Look at 1 Peter 4:16 with me: “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” Peter specifically commanded that those called “Christians” should "glorify God". So how does the name "Christian", worn by God's people, glorify the Father in heaven? By its emphasis upon the name of Christ, the name literally meaning "of Christ." Here is the utter impossibility of such a name having been given by the instigation of Satan. It is contrary to the nature of Satan to suppose for even a moment that the evil one would have concocted a name with so much of Christ in it. People who can really believe that Satan invented and instigated this name might also very well believe that the devil invented the Lord's Supper.
2. Let’s consider the uniqueness of the term "Christian" by contrasting it with the many designations applied to the followers of the Lamb in the New Testament. For example, the Holy Spirit referred to the Lord's followers as;
a. the called of God (Romans 1:6; 8:28),
b. sons of God (Romans 8:14),
c. children of God (Romans 8:16),
d. the sanctified (1 Corinthians 1:2),
e. the faithful in Christ (Ephesians 1:1),
f. servants of Christ (Philippians 1:1),
g. the elect of God (1 Peter 1:1),
h. God's elect (Colossians 3:12; Titus 1:1),
i. saints in Christ, the term "saints" being used 50 times in the epistles
j. brethren, this designation being used 132 times in the epistles, and
k. simply "the church," as used 85 times.
3. Nevertheless, it was the name "Christian" which above all others came to be the historical designation of the brethren. It was to Christians that an apostle commanded to give Glory to God (1 Peter 4:16), the only name advocated before kings (Acts 26:28), and the only name consciously designated by an inspired author of a New Testament book as a replacement for "disciples," as in Acts 11:26.
4. Finally, the events leading to the giving of this new name were ordered, not on earth, but from heaven. First, a "name bearer" was chosen of God and converted in Acts 9 “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.”. Next the Gentiles were made participants in the blessings of the faith, upon the same terms as Jews, this being accomplished by the series of supernatural occurrences leading to the conversion of Cornelius and his house in Acts 10.
5. Then in Acts 11, when the first great Gentile church had been assembled at Antioch, a man full of the Holy Spirit went and called that "name-bearer" from Tarsus, the same line recording that the disciples were called "Christians" first at Antioch, Acts 11:26. How appropriate that they would now be designated as followers of the Christ, our anointed King.
IV. What is a Christian? You know when you speak with some religious people they will be more than happy to tell you that they are a ‘Jehovah’s Witness’ or they are a ‘Baptist’ or they are a ‘Roman Catholic.’ Yet there is only one name which we should wear when people ask us and that the name is, ‘Christian.’ When Paul was speaking with King Agrippa in Acts 26, Agrippa said to him in Acts 26:28 – “... "You almost persuade me to become a Christian.''”,
A. What then is a Christian? A Christian is someone who follows and obeys the words of the Christ.
B. Being a Christian is more than just wearing the Name, it’s all about living the Name. People should see the Name Christian in our lives, in our homes, in our speech, in our attitudes, and yes, even in the way we suffer. Again, 1 Peter 4:16 – “but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.”[NAS]
C. If we’re going suffer, folks, then let’s just praise God we’re suffering because we wear the Name Christian.
Before we finish, I want to show you what else living the Name Christian should do.
It should lead us to help others, as these Gentiles, the Christians in Antioch were about to do. Acts 11:27-30 – “During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea, everyone giving as much as they could. This they did, entrusting their gifts to Barnabas and Saul to take to the elders of the church in Jerusalem.” [para]
Luke tells us that certain prophets, those who had received the gift of prophecy, came from Jerusalem to Antioch. A man named Agabus was among them and he stood up and told the church a great famine was coming. Because Luke mentions that the prophecy was fulfilled in the days of Claudius, that would mean that it would have taken place around 44-48 A. D.
Notice what they did. They weren’t told to give a tenth of their income. They weren’t forced to give to the extent that they couldn’t look after themselves. Luke says that each Christian, as he was able to, gave to send relief to the brethren still living in the area around Jerusalem.
It was agreed that the offering would be taken to the elders in Jerusalem to be distributed to any Christian in need.
Do you notice anything interesting about who they sent their offering to? The money was taken to the elders and not the apostles. Why? Remember in Acts 6 when the apostles asked the saints there to choose seven men from among themselves?
Acts 6:3-4 - “Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."[para]
Their gifts went to the elders and not the apostles because the apostles still had work to do.
Being a Christian is more than just wearing a Name. Being a Christian means living the Christian life in all areas. It means totally giving our hearts and lives to God and to share the many blessings He gives us with others who are in need.
This is a message we need to hold in our heart that a Christian does more than just go to church every Sunday. A Christian will follow and obey the words of Jesus Christ all the days of their lives.
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
Reference Sermon: Mike GloverPrint
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