And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (Act 11:26 ESV).
It might be surprising to learn that although the term “Christian” is probably the most common word in the 21st century used to describe those who believe on the Lord Jesus (or claim to), the word only appears three times in the Bible, the first of which is in the above verse.
In Acts 11, it seems that the name was not adopted by the believers themselves; instead, it was given by others. It may have been a form of derision, or it may have been simple acknowledgment of their character. Either way, as the gospel message was being proclaimed (salvation in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ), “a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord” (v21 KJV), and later many more were “added unto the Lord” (v24). Here was a large group of people in this city of Antioch who had trusted Christ – and they stood out!
Once this group of people were just like their neighbors and friends, but something had happened. They were different now. You see, Christians are changed people – those saved from their sins and living for Christ. Many transformations had taken place. People were trusting Christ and their lives were being changed, and those around them knew that these were Christ’s people – they were Christians. Have you ever felt your need for this change?
“In such a short time are you persuading me to become a Christian?” (Act 26:28 NET).
Here are the words of King Agrippa to Paul years after the events of Acts 11. Paul had been presenting the gospel, telling him that he needed to “repent” from his sin “and turn to God” (v20). Being a true Christian is something that we all desperately need to be. In our sin we are deserving of God’s judgment. But, as Paul told Agrippa, “Christ must suffer and … rise from the dead,” and because of that He now can save all people, everywhere, without exception (v23).
Perhaps Agrippa couldn’t believe that Paul was so bold to proclaim this gospel to him. Or perhaps there was a note in his voice that he knew exactly of what Paul was trying to convince him, but he was not going to believe. Either way, we never read that Agrippa, despite knowing all about it, ever was fully persuaded to become a Christian.
We learn two things from what Agrippa said. Firstly, a Christian is something someone becomes. In the 21st century, the word “Christian” unfortunately is used by many to describe themselves, their country or their religion. But you can’t be born one, you can’t be baptized one, and you can’t be confirmed as one either. A Christian is something that someone is made by God.
Secondly, we need to be more than persuaded. Becoming a Christian is a deliberate, definite choice that someone makes to repent of their sin and put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done in His death and resurrection. At that moment, God saves them and makes them a new creation in Christ (2Co 5:17). They are now a Christian.
So, the question that you need to answer is this: Are you a Christian?