‟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.”
Did you know the term “Christians” is only used three times in the Bible? Oh, how we love to label ourselves. We are Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Hindu, and on and on. We even label ourselves by the school we went to, by the state we live in or even our country. We love a label. Labels tend to allow us to put ourselves in a box. But what does the Bible say about labels? Not too much directly, but it does hint at things.
There is a difference between labels and titles, so I want us to think about labels. A title is a “Mr., Professor, Doctor, Reverend”, etc. A label is how we talk about ourselves or other people. Look at it as if you had to go around with a sticker on your body that says one word about you. If you were a can of vegetable your label would have the manufactures name and all the ingredients and how those ingredients would affect your health (nutrition info). Maybe your label would be pretty and have a loving picture of yourself.
I will give myself a label and share with you. My label would be Mother. In tiny print it might have wife, daughter, etc. On the side I might choose to put a little bio. On the back would be all the good things as a parent I would do for my kids. Or I might put Writer on my label, then I would give you examples of what I write. Or I could have one that says converted. We have so many things we label ourselves with. Let me ask you are they positive? Do you call yourself a sinner? A Bible Believer?
You have heard people call themselves, “Bible Believers”. What are they doing here? They are bragging, boasting. They are making it all about themselves. There is nothing wrong with believing in the Bible, but to label yourself as such sets you up to being judged. The person you say it to will watch you like a hawk to see where you slip. Then we hear pious people say, “I am just a sinner”. If they are still using that label, are they telling you they are not a follower of Christ? Do they still think they are not saved? Each time I hear a preacher say either of these words I just cringe, and think to myself, “how embarrassing”.
In the verse above, being labeled “Christian” was by the people of Antioch, not by the Apostles themselves. It did not say, “and they started calling themselves Christian”; it says, “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” It never says that Christ called them “Christians.” ¹
I am going to share with you a ‘whisper’ that was given to this mind while reading this passage. Do not label yourself ! Most of the time we would do it to ‘ humble ’ our self or to raise our self up. ( I.e. ‘sinner’ – ‘peace maker’) When you attempt to portray something, you are being false. Remember that a label hides the items in its container. Either you are mild-mannered or full of temper, but you should never label yourself as either. Giving yourself a label is for your own edifying. I do it all the time in jest. I say to people, when someone is introducing me to others, that ‘I am modest, smart, and the best of ….” I do it to break the ice when meeting a stranger. I do not do it to convince a person of my traits .
1 Samuel 16:7
‟ But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
If we look at Romans Chapter 2, we see that if we label ourselves something it is for naught. But if we keep the action of our label, then we can be called by others our label.
(vs. 17) ‟ Behold, thou are called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,” … … (vs. 21) ‟ Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself ?” … (vs. 23) ‟ Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?” ….. (vs. 28) ‟ For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:” (vs, 29) ‟ But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
¹ Since Christ never called his followers Christian, He did not boast about them. He did not put Himself above His followers. He was not pompous, neither should we be. He never called Himself Reverend, neither should we. If someone asks you if you are Christian you should answer so as not to call yourself anything. Answer in a form of, “if you are asking If I believe that … then yes.”
‟And he said unto them. Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knowth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. ”
Also, note that even though the Lord created our beings, He did not call us “Christians” through His Son. In the world the person who creates something usually is the one to label that something. We as parents label our babies that we conceive by calling them “precious, sweet, or whatever nickname we place on them.”
As a “Christian” we are proud of the nickname. But if we call someone “Muslim” how do we feel about that person? Why are they called such and the person they worship not have his name attached to their nickname? Catholics are not called Pope-ians or Mary-ites. So why do we call ourselves “Christians”? I am guilty myself. Maybe because I have never really asked myself why ?
I hope you understand what I felt the need to share, and the concept/message ² is coming out in this post. When each of us read about a passage, each individual will hear what is meant for them to hear/read. First, think about how you label yourself when it comes to your faith. The rest of the labels are minor. It is the ones that you are giving yourself pertaining to God that can cause problems. Try hard not to use these labels. Try to explain your belief, not boast of who you think you are. Let us face it, if you are labeling yourself you are thinking or seeing yourself (and hoping others see you) as the label, not that you may be truly living that label. Are you respecting yourself too much, or do you feel the need to tell others you are your label? Believe me, when I say the world will give you a label, for everyone wants to judge. God could care less about how you think of yourself or how others think of you. It is how you are living in your heart and what the world sees of your heart. Because:
‟ Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecters of persons: ”
‟ Simeon hath declared how God at first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. … (17) That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. ”