Acts Series #19
Back to the Beginning:
When Church was Church
What Makes a Great Church?
Let's remember, last week Peter got word from God that not only could he eat whatever he wanted and all the Lobster lovers said "amen" - and the Pork Chop lovers too! But also that the Gospel was for EVERYONE that relationships with every person under heaven were expected and acceptable that Gentiles were NOT unclean but were welcome into the Kingdom of God
Cornelius, a Roman Centurion, and his whole family and friends, receive Christ and Peter stays with them for some time
Well … Peter may have gotten this vision, and Peter may have had this experience, but the people back HOME just got the "word of mouth" version. So, let's just Read most of chapter 11
They were called Christians FIRST at Antioch
Let's break this down a bit
What Makes a Church Great?
Give me some answers …
No the answer I'm looking for is not Jesus … though we can't do anything without him.
The answer I'm asking for is not GOD, though HE is our very life and no one comes accept the Father draws them
The word …
Here, In Antioch, was the first place where people were called Christians.
What makes a great church?
What makes a church great?
Christians - DUH
But I'm convinced that part of the problem with the Church in America today is our churches are full of too few Christians.
However, I'm convinced that if the church is full of CHRISTIANS, REAL Christians, it will BE what a church is supposed to be
If a church is full of Real Christians, it will draw attention to the church and will lift up Christ and Christ will draw men, women, boys and girls to himself
A church full of Christians will draw
Christians but also
So, these people following Jesus were FIRST called Christians in Antioch.
By the way, more on this later, but the word Christian is only used in 3 places in the scripture.
In Acts 26
And in 1 Peter 4
What makes a Great Church?
I ask that question because I found in my studies this week that, not only was this the first place, where believers were called Christians, but Antioch became the place of a GREAT Metropolitan Church!
So let's answer some questions
Question #1 is …
1. Where? …
… Were they called Christians
A. Antioch -
1. founded by Seleucus I Nicator, son of Antiochus. He was one of the 4 Generals who divided Alexander the Great's Kingdom
2. It is today in Turkey
3. It was the 3rd greatest city in the Roman empire after Rome and Alexandria was a large metropolis with 4 Large Walls and a large High Outer wall. It was a diverse city with people from all over the world including a large Jewish immigrant population. It was a city of every form of wickedness known to the world.
B. The Church
1. It became the seat of a great church
2. The gospel of Matthew is believed to have come out of Antioch as the home base for Matthew and was written to give a narrative as a foundation for the Antiochene church striving to identify and defend itself as not just another Jewish sect.
3. Ignatius became the great Pastor of the church at Antioch. Under his leadership, a church structure developed that has affected the church greatly. It was a 3 tiered leadership structure
a. One Bishop - Lead Pastor - Senior Pastor
b. a Council of Elders - staff and overseers
c. Deacons - to serve and lead
4. Ignatius was perhaps the first of Martyrs in the Coliseum in Roman thrown to the wild animals
5. John Chrysostom was the Pastor at Antioch in the late 4th Century and some of his writings say that the church had grown to 100,000 Christians
6. The Church at Antioch became the leader and base for great Evangelistic and Missionary Outreach, sending Paul on his 1st two missionary journeys.
It was a great church because it was a church filled with Christians empowered by and surrendered to the Spirit of God
So they were called Christians first in ANTIOCH … that's the WHERE
But that brings us to a 2nd Question
Not who were the Christians, but WHO called them Christians
A. The Followers of Jesus?
NO, They called themselves
5. Those of the Way
6. The Faithful
B. The Jews?
No, they called them
C. Then WHO?
1. They were called Christians by a watching, curious, skeptical, jealous, scandalized, pagan World
2. The people of Antioch were known for their sarcastic humor, they were known for attaching nicknames of derision to those outside their socially accepted groups.
3. They were known as people who wanted to set the tone not be told what to do by Rome or anyone else
4. The word is used 3 times, as I said, all three times by Pagans, Heathens
5. The word was used by the World to define this new group of people that were unlike anything that they had experienced before in a religious fellowship of people
6. As a church, we can define ourselves all we want, but our reputation with the Watching World will determine who we are KNOWN to be
This fulfills the prophesy of Is 66:2 The nations will see your righteousness and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow
They were called Christians First in Antioch by a Pagan watching world trying to define this new thing they saw living out in front of them.
But that brings us to the 3rd question
Some have compared these being called "Christians" as similar to those in the 1st Century called Augustianos". These were the followers who were like crazy "cheerleaders" for Nero Augustus who loudly told of his goodness and greatness to the point that some made fun of them
Perhaps there was a similar meaning for these called Christians
Let's dig into the word for a minute and see if we can decide why they would have called them Christian
Greek Word here has a latin base and is Christianos
From the Greek word
Christos - the name for Christ which meant "anointed one" which of course to the Jew meant Messiah, but one writer said to the Pagan Greek world would have meant not much more than "oily one" LOL
Then the suffix ianos is the important definer
When "ianos" was added to a proper name it meant first
A. Slaves in the house of …
1. A Caesarianos would have been a slave in the house of Caesar.
2. A Goforthianos would be a slave in the house of Goforth - we like to call them sons J
3. Christianos would be a slave in the House of Christ
4. The suffix ianos can was also used to identify Soldiers under the command of a certain General … so we get
Schwartskovianos or Powellianos
5. so Christianos would be Soldiers under Jesus Christ as commander of the army of God
Ianos also means
B. Followers of the Ways of
1. An Aristotleians was the follower of Aristotle or
2. Platoianos would be the follower of the teachings of Plato
3. A few years ago every child was singing "I wanna be wanna be wanna be like Mike, if I could be like Mike" - that's Jordanianos following the ways of Michael Jordan
4. Christianos follow the way of Jesus Christ
it also says that they were …
C. Called Christians
called = the Greek word - Chrematizo - (khray-mat-ID-zo)
1. "means doing business as"
2. "under the employ of"
3. means to take the name from your public business
like if your Job was a Baker and you take on the Name Baker
Your Job was as a Carpenter and you take on the name
4. So a Christian was CALLED a Christian because it was their vocational career calling and they are in the employ of Christ doing the business of a Christianos
So, they were Called Christians FIRST at Antioch by watching world because they perceived them as Slaves in the House of Christ, Following the ways of Christ, under the employ and doing business of Christ
So we are beginning to move toward the …
What is a Christian?
If you asked that to 100 people on the street you might get 1000 different answers
I searched through the Internet and my library and found so many different definitions for a Christian. Many you would agree with and many you would not.
But … let's imagine we had never heard the word before … how would we define it?
We would first break the word down into it's root which we have already done.
Second we would say "use it in a sentence" "Give it to me in context."
Then from the context we could determine what the word means.
So … how does Scripture use the word Christian?
Again, only used 3 x
What distinguished these "Christians"?
A. Believed and Turned 11:21
1. The people of Antioch worshipped many pagan gods
2. They worshipped Bacchus the god of Wine
3. They also worshipped Saturn - the god of fertility and agriculture - he was married to the goddess of the harvest and father to Jupiter - he was purported to be one who devoured his own children -
4. These were the gods that people of Antioch worshipped
5. But THESE Christians Believed in and Turned to Jesus Christ
a. Believed = pisteuo (pist-yoo-o) - means to think true; to be persuaded of, to place confidence in
b. Turned = epistrepho (ep-ee-stref-o) - means to turn to - but not just to change directions but to transitively turn FROM one thing and TO another -
6. A Christian is one who has turned FROM the pagan commitment to the satisfaction of themselves and turned to JESUS Christ because they BELIEVE that he IS the Son of God and our Only Hope for Life and Peace
7. They had separated themselves from the false pagan gods and other things that demanded their devotion and all other parts of their lifestyle that demanded their love and life
B. v23 Cleave to the Lord with Purpose of Heart (KJV)
1. "the NIV says Remain True to the Lord with all their hearts"
2. I like the word cleave because we think of it in the wedding sense of leaving all others and attaching yourself with a sense of purpose to the Lord
3. this is the active part of the Christian life - this is what Paul was talking about when he told us to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling
4. We call this Discipleship
5. A Christian is not JUST one who has been born again through the Redemption, Forgiveness and Grace of God but also, they are living in that Grace actively as they live out the disciplines of sanctification, becoming like Christ
6. they are committed to the way of Christ not just the salvation of Christ
C. v26 Assembled Together
1. NIV "met together
2. the word is the Greek word synago (soon-ag-o) from where the word Synagogue comes. It is more than just a one on one meeting, or a chance meeting.
3. it means to gather together … a gathering …
4. Christians are those who have turned from their own pursuits believing in Christ, committing to his disciplines, assembling together for fellowship and teaching in his Truth - that is the Greek word didasko - or the teaching of Doctrine
5. That is there is a longing in the heart of a Christian to be a part of a body of assembled believers, that is others on the same journey of following, as slaves employed to the business of Christ
The word Christian is also used by Agrippa in Acts 26 when Paul shares the gospel with him and he says in the KJV "Almost you persuade me to be a Christian" but that word "en oligo" means literally "in a little" i.e. in a little while or short time. He was saying "do you think that in just a short time you can persuade me into abandoning my way of life and thinking to believe and embrace the way of a Christian? He knew the persecution and difficulty from the other side. He was standing in judgment of the most famous Christian in the world.
Which brings us to our last definer a Christian is …
D. Unashamed to Suffer the Persecution of being a Christian
1. 1 Peter 4:16 - if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God …
2. by the time Peter had written this, "Christian" was more than a name it was an accusation, it was like being called a Murderer, or a Thief.
3. as verse 17 says, let the judgment begin here in the house of God. If they were to come in here today and arrest us all for being Christians … that is
Slaves in the House of God
Soldiers under General Jesus
Following the way of Christ
Doing Business and Jesus would
Believing in Jesus,
Turned from our own way
Living the Disciplines of the way
Assembling together for Fellowship and Truth
Unashamed of the Gospel or Persecution
Triumphantly and Victoriously?
Would there be enough evidence to convict us?
Can I add one Question to our 4 questions about Christians today?
A. Surrender your Life to Christ
1. Believing that he is Lord and
2. that Forgiveness is in the Cross and
3. that there is Power in the Resurrection and
4. be Born Again
B. Learn to Walk in His Ways
1. commit to be a disciple
2. be a part of the teaching ministry of a local church
C. Connect and be Active part of a Local Body of Assembled Believers
D. Live Unashamedly the Life of Christ and be grateful when sharing in the Persecution that comes
Well they were First Called Christians at Antioch
The people of Antioch saw something in these followers of Jesus Christ that they had never seen before and they gave it a new name
The name Christian has come to mean so many things today that may not define who we are or who we are intended to be
My prayer is that New Life Baptist Church will be so much like Jesus and so much like Heaven and so UNLIKE the normal Christian or the Normal Church that a watching world would scratch it's head, perhaps poke fun, but have to give us a New Name
It has been said that the average Christian lives so far below the Normal Christian life that if someone were to live Normal, the World would say we are Fanatics
I'm just calling us to be Christians
And if we would seek together to be Christians in the full definition of the word … This will be a Great Church
The Story goes that Alexander the Great had gotten word about one of the men in his army that was accused of being a Coward.
He hated cowardess but something worse angered Alexander
He asked the man …
"What is Your Name?"
The Accused Coward replied
The Emperor asked again
"WHAT, what is your name soldier"?
The Third time more angry he asked with the same reply
"Alexander is my name"
Alexander the Great said famous words
Aut Mores, Muta"
Change Your Name or Change Your Ways
ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN?