Glorify God in the name “Christian”

The title of this post is taken from I Peter 4:16, where the Apostle Peter writes, “but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.”

Personally, I am not ready to give up the name “Christian”! Two other times in the New Testament the word “Christian” is used. In Acts 11:26 it reads, “and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” As Gareth Reese writes in his New Testament History Acts commentary (page 420), “The Greek word chrematizo (“call”) is almost always used in the New Testament as “divinely called”. In fact, the one time when it might have a meaning other than divinely called, the context so implies (Romans 7:3).

The other passage is from Acts 26:28 where King Agrippa replies to the Apostle Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.”

When one looks at the context of I Peter 4, I am not sure why anyone would be ready to abandon the name Christian.

Notice the Apostle Peter says in verse 14 “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” For the name of Christ, do not be surprised to be reviled – consider yourself blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you! All because you were reviled for the name! On the other hand, verse 15 reminds us that as people who are reviled for the name of Christ, we should NEVER suffer as a “murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler.” But if you are going to suffer, “suffer as a Christian!” And remember that you are not to be ashamed . . . ashamed of what? Wearing the name of Christ! Being a Christian! Instead, “we are to glorify God in this name.” What name? Christian!

For further commentary on Acts 11:26 and where the name of Christian originated, here are the thoughts of JW McGarvey:

The new name which here and now originated proved the most potent name that has ever been applied to a body of men. The question, who originated it, whether Barnabas and Saul, or the disciples of Antioch, or the unbelievers of Antioch, has occasioned more discussion than its importance justifies. To an untrained reader of the Greek it might appear that the passage should be rendered, “they were gathered together with the church, and taught much people, and called the disciples Christians first at Antioch,” thus representing Barnabas and Saul as the authors of the name; but this rendering is condemned, and that of our text is justified by the almost unanimous judgment of scholars. To call the folIowers of Christ Christians is so obviously proper and natural that it might have occurred to almost any one acquainted with the Greek language; and this renders it difficult to decide whether it was given by unbelievers, or by the disciples themselves. In favor of the former supposition is the fact that bodies of men very commonly receive the names by which they are permanently known from others; but the supposition adopted by many, that this name was given by the enemies of the faith in derision, is groundless, as is very clear from the consideration that there is nothing in it belittling or contemptuous. It is just such a name as a number of grave and dignified friends of the cause, had they been sitting in council on the subject, may have adopted. For its divine approval, we need no other assurance than that found in its acceptance by the apostles. True, in the only later occurrences of it in the New Testament, it appears as the name by which the disciples were called, rather than that by which they called themselves; but it is only natural that in the epistles, which are all addressed to Christians, other and more intimate titles should be usually employed.

J.W. McGarvey, Commentary on Acts, pages 228-229

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