Acts 11 Image.001







The Birth of the Name ‘Christian’ 

Why did the name ‘Christian’ become the new designation?

Acts 11

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • April 2, In the year of our Lord, 2017

Song Leader and Song Suggestions: Larry Amberg – No Suggestions


  1. Between Acts 2 and Acts 10, eight to ten years had passed. 
    1. The church really took off during that time,
    2. as the apostles preached boldly in Jerusalem,
      1. willing to suffer imprisonment and beatings for the name of Christ.
      2. One of the deacons even suffered death for the name of Christ.
  2. The Jews who rejected Jesus as the Christ, 
    1. began to persecute the church,
    2. scattering members of the church from Jerusalem, but
      1. they preached wherever they went,
      2. while the apostles remained in Jerusalem.
  3. Then the time arrived for the non-Jewish world to hear of Jesus as the Christ. 
    1. The Lord selected Peter to begin that mission.
    2. Peter was headstrong, but
      1. once persuaded to change,
      2. he became a powerful force for influencing others to change.
        1. Therefore, once the Lord got Peter preaching to the nations,
        2. the rest of the church would surely follow.
      3. Acts 10 shows the Lord going through several steps
        1. to show the apostle that it was time for all the families of the Earth
        2. to have equal access with the Jews to the blessing of Abraham.
  4. However, that does not mean 
    1. the rest of the church accepted what Peter did
    2. without question or even confrontation, because
      1. they believed in higher things than Peter.
      2. They admired Peter because he typically did what the Lord commanded.
        1. This time he seemed to wander from what the Lord wanted, for
        2. Peter had also been known to do such things.


  1. Acts 11.1–3 | Not Everyone Wanted the Nations Included

    1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”

    1. What happened in Caesarea
      1. when Peter preached to Cornelius the Roman centurion,
      2. spread quickly throughout Judea.
    2. Peter headed for Jerusalem, but
      1. those of the circumcision,
      2. confronted Peter, contending with him, because
        1. they believed he had done something wrong.
    3. They confronted him with this charge,
      1. “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 
      2. That sounds like the Pharisees
        1. confronting Jesus over eating with tax collectors and sinners.
        2. The circumcision in the church may have accepted what Jesus did, but
          1. they missed the spirit of what He did, and
          2. failed to make a broader application.
            1. Jesus associated with tax collectors and sinners,
            2. He would have certainly accepted uncircumcised men.
  2. Acts 11.4–18 | Explain Your Actions

    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. 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.’ 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16 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.’ 17 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?” 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.”

    1. Peter did not turn ugly, but laid out the story before everyone.
      1. He was praying,
      2. in a trance he saw a vision,
      3. a sheet-like object descended from heaven,
      4. he saw a variety of animals on it,
      5. a voice told him to kill the animals and to eat them,
      6. he objected because they were unclean,
      7. the voice told him that God had cleansed the animals,
      8. Peter should not then call them unclean.
      9. This happened three times.
    2. That being true in principle, Peter should have made a broader application.
      1. Three men appeared at the house where he was staying,
      2. the Spirit told him to go with them.
      3. Peter took six witnesses.
      4. When they arrived at a Roman centurion’s home in Caesarea,
        1. the centurion explained that an angel told him to
          1. send for Peter,
          2. Peter would tell the centurion the words of salvation,
          3. the Holy Spirit fell upon the listeners as Peter spoke,
          4. reminding Peter of the Lord’s promise of the baptism of the Spirit,
          5. God gave those Gentiles the same gift as the apostles.
        2. How could Peter withstand God?
    3. Peter did such a good job of explaining things in order
      1. that he silenced the circumcision, and
      2. they glorified God,
        1. acknowledging that God has granted the nations
        2. repentance leading to life.
  3. Acts 11.19–26 | The Birth of the Name Christian

    19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. 20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. 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. 25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 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. Luke takes us back to the persecution that he showed in chapter 8.
      1. Luke had said that the persecution scattered everyone,
        1. except the apostles, and
        2. those scattered went to Judea and Samaria.
      2. That is when we saw Philip going to Samaria.
      3. Luke also noted
        1. that the members of the Jerusalem church
        2. preached the word everywhere they went.
    2. In addition to Philip going to Samaria,
      1. other disciples also went to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch.
      2. However, they continued preaching only to their fellow-Jews.
    3. Then Luke added (v. 20),
      1. that some of the people scattered from Jerusalem
      2. came from Cyprus and Cyrene originally.
        1. They headed to Antioch and what did they do?
        2. They spoke to the Hellenists.
          1. Remember in the Gospel According to John
            1. that Greeks had approached Philip, wanting to see Jesus,

              20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (John 12.20–21).
            2. The Mediterranean world
              1. heard of the wonderful things going on in Judea, and
              2. wanted part of it.
          2. In Acts 11, these men preached to Greeks converts to Judaism.
    4. Since these men did what the Lord wanted,
      1. especially opening the kingdom to include all the families of the Earth,
      2. His hand was with them!
        1. When people saw the Jewish disciples accepting Gentiles,
        2. that caused more people to open their hearts to the Gospel.
          1. Therefore, a large number of people
          2. believed and turned to the Lord.
    5. The news spread to Jerusalem and
      1. when the church there heard of the happenings in Antioch,
      2. they decided to send out the Son of Encouragement, Barnabas, for
        1. it is while people are new that they often fall away, and
        2. they did not want that to happen, but
          1. saw the wisdom in getting them strengthened
          2. in the faith immediately.
      3. Luke showed what happened once Barnabas arrived in Antioch,
        1. that he saw the grace of God,
        2. making Barnabas glad.
      4. Then he did what gave him his nickname, Son of Encouragement,
        1. he encouraged them that in their hearts
        2. they needed to purpose that they would continue with the Lord.
          1. He fit into that roll because Luke wrote, that Barnabas was:
            1. a good man,
            2. full of the Holy Spirit, and
            3. full of faith.
          2. Luke added again that many people were added to the Lord.
            1. How are people added to the Lord?

              Acts 2.41
              Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

              Acts 2.47
              …praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

              Acts 5.14
              And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women…

            2. The Lord adds people to His church
              1. when they hear His word,
              2. when they receive what they hear,
              3. when they believe His word,
              4. when they then turn to Him, and
              5. when they are baptized.
    6. Excitement filled the heart of Barnabas.
      1. Therefore, he went looking for his friend, Saul,
      2. that Barnabas might bring Saul to Antioch,
        1. knowing that he would love to see such a sight
          1. of the church growing, and
          2. that the rest of the families of the Earth
            1. started to make their entrance into the blessing of Abraham.
    7. The two of them worked for a year with the church,
      1. assembling with the church, and
      2. teaching a great many people.
    8. Then Luke made an amazing statement:
      1. “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”
      2. Why was it in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians?
        1. It was at Antioch, not Jerusalem
        2. that a prophecy began to be fulfilled,

          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.
          (Isa 62.2)

          15 You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen;
          For the Lord GOD will slay you,
          And call His servants by another name…
          (Isa 65.15)

          3 “I will bless those who bless you,
          And I will curse him who curses you;
          And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
          (Gen 12.3)

  4. Acts 11.27–30 | Staying Ahead of Good Works

    27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

    1. Here Luke showed the spirit of the church in Antioch.
      1. Prophets from Jerusalem went to Antioch to teach and to preach.
      2. However, the Holy Spirit moved one of them
        1. to reveal a coming worldwide famine.
        2. This was the famine that came in the days when Claudius was Caesar,
          1. who reigned as Emperor of Rome
          2. from ad 41 to ad 54.
    2. Knowing how the church in Judea suffered through persecution already,
      1. the Antioch brethren knew
        1. that the suffering of their Jewish brethren
        2. would only increase with the famine.
      2. Therefore, instead of waiting for the disaster to strike,
        1. they started to send relief to our brethren living in Judea, and
        2. Barnabas and Saul delivered the funds to the elders.


  1. First Point