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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 11 - Verse 26

Verse 26. That a whole year. Antioch was a city exceedingly important in its numbers, wealth, and influence. It was for this reason, probably, that they spent so long a time there, instead of travelling in other places. The attention of the apostles was early and chiefly directed to cities, as being places of influence and centres of power. Thus Paul passed three years in the city of Ephesus, Ac 20:31. And thus he continued a year and a half at Corinth, Ac 18:11. It may be added, that the first churches were founded in cities; and the most remarkable success attended the preaching of the gospel in large towns.

They assembled themselves, etc. They came together for worship.

With the church. Marg., in the church. The Greek en will bear this construction; but there is no instance in the New Testament where the word church refers to the edifice in which a congregation worships. It evidently here means that Barnabas and, Saul convened with the Christian assembly at proper times, through the space of a year, for the purposes of public worship.

And the disciples were called Christians, etc. As this became the distinguishing name of the followers of Christ, it was worthy of record. The name was evidently given because they were the followers of Christ. But by whom, or with what views it was given, is not certainly known. Whether it was given by their enemies in derision, as the names Puritan, Quaker, Methodist, etc., have been; or whether the disciples assumed it themselves; or whether it was given by Divine intimation, has been a matter of debate. That it was given in derision is not probable. For in the name Christian there was nothing dishonourable. To be the professed friends of the Messiah, or the Christ, was not with Jews a matter of reproach, for they all professed to be the friends of the Messiah. The cause of reproach with the disciples was that they regarded Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah; and hence, when they wished to speak of them with contempt, they would speak of them as Galilaeans, Ac 2:7 or as Nazarenes, Ac 24:6 "And a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." It is possible that the name might have been given to them as a mere appellation, without intending to convey by it any reproach. The Gentiles would probably use this name to distinguish them; and it might have become thus the common appellation. It is evident from the New Testament, I think, that it was not designed as a term of reproach. It is but twice used besides this place: Ac 26:28, "Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian;" 1 Pe 4:16, "Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed." No certain argument can be drawn in regard to the source of the name from the word which is used here. The word crhmatizw used here, means,

(1.) to transact any business; to be employed in accomplishing anything, etc. This is its usual signification in the Greek writers. It means,

(2.) to be divinely admonished, to be instructed by a Divine communication, etc., Mt 2:12; Lu 2:26; Ac 10:22; Heb 8:5; 11:7; 12:26.

It also means,

(3.) to be named, or called, in any way, without a Divine communication. Ro 7:3, "She shall be called an adulteress." It cannot be denied, however, that the most usual signification in the New Testament is that of a Divine monition, or communication; and it is certainly possible that the name was given by Barnabas and Saul. I incline to the opinion, however, that it was given to them by the Gentiles who were there, simply as an appellation, without intending it as a name of reproach, and that it was readily assumed by the disciples as a name that would fitly designate them. If it had been assumed by them, or if Barnabas and Saul had conferred the name, the record would probably have been to that effect; not simply that they "were called," but that they took this name, or that it was given by the apostles. It is, however, of little consequence whence the name originated. It soon became a name of reproach; and has usually been in all ages since, by the wicked, the gay, the licentious, and the ungodly. It is, however, an honoured name; the most honourable appellation that can be conferred on a mortal. It suggests at once to a Christian the name of his great Redeemer; the idea of our intimate relation to him; and the thought that we receive him as our chosen Leader, the source of our blessings, the author of our salvation, the fountain of our joys. It is the distinguishing name of all the redeemed. It is not that we belong to this or that denomination; it is not that our names are connected with high and illustrious ancestors; it is not that they are recorded in the books of heralds; it is not that they stand high in courts, and among the gay, and the fashionable, and the rich, that true honour is conferred on men. These are not the things that give distinction and peculiarity to the followers of the Redeemer. It is that they are Christians; that this is their peculiar name, and by this they are known; that this at once suggests their character, their feelings, their doctrines, their hopes, their joys. This binds them all together—a name which rises above every other appellation; which unites in one the inhabitants of distant nations and tribes of men; which connects the extremes of society, and places them, in most important respects, on a common level; and which is a bond to unite in one family all those who love the Lord Jesus, though dwelling in different climes, speaking different languages, engaged in different pursuits in life, and occupying distant graves at death. He who lives according to the import of this name is the most blessed and eminent of mortals. The name shall be had in remembrance when the names of royalty shall be remembered no more, and when the appellations of nobility shall cease to amuse or to dazzle the world.

{1} "assembled themselves" or, "in" {a} "much people" Mt 28:19

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