Acts 11:26, What it Means to be Christian

And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

//I’d like to refer you back to a post I wrote a while ago about what it means to me to be a Christian. See Acts 11:26, I am a Christian. I was writing in current-day terms, of course, so let me now back up and discuss exactly what it meant to take the title of Christian in the first century.

The word “Christ” is simply another word for Messiah. Yes, I know, we toss the title around like it’s some sort of surname: “Jesus Christ.” But it’s not. We are saying “Jesus, the Messiah.”

Jews had long awaited a messiah to arrive and set the world right. In the dreams of most Jews, he would be a fierce warrior, patterned after King David, anointed by God. They expected that after the Messiah cleaned up the world, God would again rule in righteousness. Christianity must be understood in this light. Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism, and the offshoot is simply this: Christians claimed the Messiah had come. Christians were Messianist. They were perceived as a messianic sect, venerating a messianic figure. You can see why the title was at first considered derogatory; how laughable to think that the failed coup Jesus attempted could earn him the title of the Jewish Messiah!

But that is precisely what Christians were saying. Somehow, they insisted, in a manner quite unlike what traditional Judaism thought their Messiah would do, Jesus did set the world right. The age of God’s rule did begin.

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