Acts 11:26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
The word “Christian(s)” appears only three times in the Scriptures. It appears in our above text, and in Acts 26:28 as mentioned by Agrippa to Paul, and then by Peter in 1 Peter 4:16. It is derived from the Greek word, anointed in Acts 10:36. And that gives us understanding of how, without a Bible, the believers of the early centuries were able to begin and continue their walk in true spiritual righteousness. Indeed, it is the only way that all Christians of all ages can maintain holiness of life! For only those are actually “christians” who are anointed and in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit! Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
For, as one old preacher used to say, “God puts the teacher, the school house, and the school books on the inside!” 1 John 2:20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. 27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
These Antioch Christians were new creatures on the earth! Not just in the sense that they were now born again believers! But that they were, like the Roman centurion, Cornelius, the first Gentile saints! The world had never had such in existence before! The Holy Spirit reveals through the Apostle Paul that this was God’s hidden mystery, only now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets! Ephesians 3:3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
All those brought into regeneration at Pentecost were Jewish believers! But these were Gentiles, raised up outside of all Jewish religion and culture. They had never been to synagogue; had never been trained up in the law; had never been schooled in the history of God’s dealings with Moses and Pharaoh, nor with Joshua and the Canaanite campaigns! The only thing recorded that the men of Cyprus and Cyrene accomplished among them, after the Jerusalem persecution drove them to Antioch, was that of preaching the Lord Jesus. (Acts 11:20). THAT was all they had, in the way of religious training! One moment they were sinners! The next moment, by sovereign regeneration, they were Antioch Christians!
BUT! They WERE always well known to Israel’s Sovereign Lord! Acts 15:18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. They were known OF him, as they were chosen IN him from before the foundation of the world! Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
All redeemed believers, Jew or Gentile, freeman or slave, male or female, are all included in God’s family name! They all have the right to call him, “Our Father!” Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
Listen as the Lord God speaks of this hundred’s of years before it took place: Isaiah 62:1 For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. 2 And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.
Isaiah 65:1 I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name. 14 Behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit. 15 And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen: for the Lord GOD shall slay thee, and call his servants by another name:
And our Lord Jesus spoke of this during his earthly ministry. John 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
And that new name is strictly guarded by the Holy Spirit! Revelation 19:12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. It is not an identity that is perceived by human understanding! It is exclusively perceived by the Giver and the individual to whom he reveals it! Luke 10:22 All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him (or actually, wills to reveal him).
It is not known by human education, but only, and exclusively so, by divine revelation! It cannot be taught! It must only be experienced! Revelation 2:17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
Revelation 3:12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. 13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
And notice that the Holy Spirit’s revelation is so complete that it is never insisted that these believers attend any Jewish school of training before they can be received! For Barnabas, the prophet (Acts 13:1), sent up from Jerusalem (Acts 11:22), only exhorts them to cleave unto the Lord. And we read the same thing in another of Paul and Barnabas’ travels as listed in Acts 14:23. For there it again states, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. But Oh! Don’t we of today love to indoctrinate these ignorant novices with the majesty and glory of our religious intellect?!? No wonder we don’t have any experience with the spiritual works of revival! We have shut the Holy Spirit out of our assemblies by believing we have power to do His work with our programs! Pitiful lot we are! Zechariah 4:6 … Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.
Jeremiah 17:5 Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. 6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.
But how could morality and godly social works continue on the earth? If we don’t “train” them that these things are required of them, now that we have baptized them? – Don’t forget that the word “christian” comes from the Greek word, “anointed!” And don’t forget that John wrote us that this anointing would teach us all things!
You might think that the “sovereignty” in which we strongly insist that we believe, just might include God’s “sovereignty” in teaching all whom he effectually calls into redemption! You think!?! John 6:45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
God actually thinks it does! He actually believes that he will put the spirit of his law within the hearts of every believer, without missing a single one! Jeremiah 31:31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that 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; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
The Apostle Paul believes this as well! Romans 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) 16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
Peter even writes that the christian experience, acting out its salt and light-like qualities are enough witness, that without the word, may win over an unbeliever! 1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; Wow! Who would have thought that the Holy Spirit had such power, not to require our verbal involvement in bringing a sinner to Christ?
And as far as continuing social works, that is, works of charity, we find in the last two verses of Acts chapter eleven, that these Gentiles had a far more overflowing abundance of charity than that of the Jews when Peter went to Joppa. For there in Joppa there was but one female believer whose works were shown in order to persuade Peter’s attention to her. But here in Antioch we read that among its disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Dorcus was just one woman making clothing for those whom she knew and lived among. But all these Antioch Christians determined to send whatever they could to Jewish believers whom they might never meet! And not only did they determine to do so, but they actually carried it out! For as you know a lot of good intentions grow cold, and are never acted upon when it comes to helping others. But it was not so here.
Let us look at a Gentile church which had nothing but the gospel preached among them and read how the Apostle Paul said they measured up to the true Christian Jewish assemblies. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. 14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:
Here the apostle informs them that with just the hearing of the gospel, effectually applied by the Holy Spirit, their assembly was following along in the same spiritual personality as were the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus!
Dear Reader, we should preach, teach and set forth the gospel in every manner authorized by the Lord. No one is saying otherwise! But! Let us never get the impression that a single sinner has ever been formed into the image of Christ by anyone other than the Holy Ghost! For none can quicken a dead sinner into spiritual life except Him! John 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
Let us consider Peter’s last appearance on the pages of the Book of Acts. Acts 15:6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
This was spoken at the council of Jerusalem when certain men which came down from Judaea insisted that Gentiles could not “be saved” except they were also circumcised. After everyone else has spoken, Peter makes this profound statement of the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. He says, whether it be Jews (us), or Gentiles (them), there is no difference in the purifying of the sinner’s heart. For, he firmly sets forth as an Apostle of Christ, this is only, and always, accomplished by faith! For God’s effectual gift of faith is always accompanied with, but never preceded by, godly works! (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Pastor Gene Breed. January 25, 2013