The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
The word Christian means like Christ. That’s what students of Jesus seek to become. More like their Teacher.
Why were the Antioch believers the first to be called Christians?
Perhaps it was because this group of believers was the first fellowship comprised of both Jews and Gentiles. This inclusive spirit was new and very much like Jesus who came to unite all people.
Maybe it was because of their charitable spirit. While the Jerusalem church provided food for those in their own group who were in need, the Antioch church is the first to send relief to a those not in their immediate fellowship. They sent help to the believers in Jerusalem.
The Antioch church will also send missionaries out beyond its borders to Turkey and Greece. The Message of Jesus spread from the Jerusalem church too, but it was the persecution of Saul that sparked their mission work.
Whereas the Antioch believers – in the absence of outside influences - will prayerfully and purposely set out to evangelize beyond its borders!
Inclusive fellowship of both Jews and Gentiles, charitable giving to those not in their immediate fellowship, and purposeful mission work in other countries uniquely qualify the church in Antioch to receive the name – Christian.
Upon learning of the Gentile’s inclusion in the Antioch church, Barnabas went to Tarsus to enlist the help of Saul. Now Saul – soon to have his name changed to Paul – will embark on the prolific career of mission work for which he is remembered today.
So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
Students of Jesus today seek to be inclusive, charitable to all and mission-minded. In this way, they too become more like their Teacher. And so, Christian!