A New Name For A New People


A New Name For A New People

February 11th, 1990 @ 8:15 AM

Acts 11:19-26

Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: 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.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 11:19-26

2-11-90     8:15 a.m.


We welcome the multitudes of you who share this hour on radio.  You are a part of our wonderful First Baptist Church in Dallas.  You have been listening to some of the most glorious, Christ-honoring music in all this earth; and we praise God for the young people, particularly from our university, our Dallas Baptist University, Dayspring singing here for our dear people.

Now we are going to read together God’s Holy Word.  We will stand and read it in a minute when you find the place:  the Book of Acts, the Book of Acts, chapter 11, verses 19 through 26; verses 19 to 26 in the Book of Acts, chapter 11.  Open your Bible to that passage, and we are going to stand in a moment and read it out loud together. You have it?  Acts chapter 11, beginning at verse 19, to 26.  Now let us all stand together and read it out loud, Acts 11:19 to 26, now together:

Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.

And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.

And the Lord was with them:  and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.

Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem:  and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.

Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.

For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith:  and much people was added unto the Lord.

Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:

 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.


And the title of the sermon is A New Name for a New People.  "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch."  Now let’s be seated and listen to the Word of the Lord.

The gospel message, under the power of the Holy Spirit that fell upon the apostles at Pentecost, was delivered to the Jews; and those who were converted were converted Jews.  They followed all of the precepts of Moses, and they kept the feasts and all the laws written in the Pentateuch.  They were Jewish Christians.  Then the gospel began to spread beyond Judea and Jerusalem, and they preached the message to people – I call them "half-Jews" – they were heretical Jews; they were Samaritans.  And the hand of the Lord was with them, and the Samaritans turned to the Lord [Acts 8:5-25].  Then the gospel goes beyond and is delivered to a proselyte of the temple, an Ethiopian eunuch in Gaza is converted to the faith by Philip the evangelist; and he returns home to North Africa to spread the good news of the Lord Jesus [Acts 8:26-39].  Then the gospel is delivered to proselytes of the gate:  these are Gentiles who have come under the influence of the moral code of Moses, and they are living according to the high standards of the Old Testament.  And there in Caesarea, Cornelius and his household are converted unto the Lord [Acts 10:24-48].

Then an amazing thing happened:  heretofore the gospel had been received by those who were either Jews or proselytes; but in Antioch some of these proselytes who had been converted, and some of these Jewish Christians, in Antioch they preached the gospel to the heathen, to Greek idol-worshipers, and once again a miracle happened:  the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great multitude of those heathen idol-worshipers turned to the Lord [Acts 11:20-21].  They were not proselytes, they were not Jews, they had not been introduced to the moral code of Moses; they came out of heathenism, out of idolatry, directly into the kingdom of God and into the fellowship of His church.  It was a miraculous thing; so much so that when ears in Jerusalem heard it, they sent those emissaries to see what God was doing.  And there they came into the first contact with men and women who were converted out of idolatry and heathenism into the kingdom of our Lord.  All of this happened in a great city named Antioch.

In 333 BC, Alexander the Great met the Persian army at Isis, where the Mediterranean Sea turns to the west, up there in the bend; and Alexander the Great won one of the most decisive battles in human history, and the whole civilized world became Greek.  In 323 BC, Alexander the Great died in a drunken orgy in Babylon and the Greek Empire was thrown into war.  Cassander won Hellas, ancient Greek; Lysimachus won Asia Minor; Seleucus Nicator won Syria; and Ptolemy won Egypt.  This Seleucus Nicator was one of the most avid city-building princes who ever reigned in the earth.  He built cities all over the eastern part of the Greek Empire.  His name was Seleucus; so he called some of the cities Seleucus.  His father’s name was Antiochus; Antioch, and he named some of the cities Antioch.  His mother’s name was Laodicea; and he named some of the cities Laodicea.  His wife’s name was Apama; and he named some of the cities Apama.  He created the city for his capital of Syria, Antioch, named after his father.  And where the Orontes River runs up north and turns due west, between the Torus and Lebanon mountains, there he built one of the great cities of the world.  And it flourished from the beginning.  The third city in the Roman Empire was first Rome, second Alexandria, and third, the great city of Antioch.

It was beautiful beyond compare.  It had four colonnaded streets that met in the center, crossed in the center.  It was one of the most beautiful Greek cities ever created by the ingenious mind of those architecturally persuaded Greeks.

In 64 BC, Pompey conquered it, and it became a province of the Roman Empire; and they kept their capital at Antioch.  In 70 AD, when Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish state, he took the cherubim from the temple and placed them over the western gate of Antioch.  It was a vile and a wicked city.  Just on the outside was the grove of Daphne, and "Daphnic morals" became a proverb in the Roman Empire.  Orgies, promiscuity, violence, drunkenness, evil, like you say "Corinthian vice," you would use the word "Daphnic morals."  In that city, that wicked, Greek city of Antioch, there the gospel was preached to those vile and promiscuous people.  And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a multitude of them turned to the faith of Jesus Christ.

Well, it was a new development.  Heretofore the Christian faith had been a sect of the Jewish religion.  There were Pharisees, there were Sadducees, there were Herodians, there were Essenes, and there were Nazarenes; that’s what the Book of Acts calls this sect of the Jewish people who had accepted Christ, they were called Nazarenes.  But up there in Antioch, they were not a sect of the Jewish nation or the Jewish religion, the Jewish people; they were different.  So they coined a name for them:  they took the word christos, which is a Greek translation of the Jewish word "messiah," they took the Greek word christos and put a Latin ending on it, ianos, and they called them christianos:  in English, "Christians."  And they were first called Christians in that vile and wicked, heathen city of Antioch.

And that became the basis of the evangelization of the world.  It was out of the church at Antioch that the first missionaries were sent out; Paul and Barnabas and the men with him.  It was in Antioch, in Acts 15, that the great council determined that we should be free from all of the precepts of Mosaic legislation.  The people were called Christians first in Antioch [Acts 11:26].

Now you’d think that the story ends; but the Book of Acts has no formal ending.  The Book of Acts is an open-ended volume.  God intended that the story go on.  It doesn’t stop in this holy and heavenly revelation; it continues on according to the purpose of the Lord God through the Holy Spirit.  Thus the great church at Antioch continued on.  In 70 AD, a few years after the closing of the story of the Book of Acts, in 70 AD Ignatius is pastor of that great congregation of idolatrous Christians, of these converted Greek heathen people.  Ignatius is the pastor of the church in Antioch, a great preacher of God.  He was brought before Trajan, the Roman emperor.  I have here – and if you want to look at them, they are beautiful – I have here cufflinks, and there’s a half-shekel and a half-shekel on either side of your pastor, and they are silver coins from the reign of Trajan and his likeness, his image is on each one of those coins.  Ignatius was brought before Trajan; and Trajan condemned him to be exposed to the beasts in the Roman Coliseum.  The Coliseum was built five years after the martyrdom, after the beheading of the apostle Paul.  And Ignatius made a great triumphal journey from Antioch to Rome, writing letters along the way.  We have fifteen of those letters you can read today.  And in the Coliseum he was exposed to the lions.  And when the first lion charged toward him, above the crunching of bones and the tearing of flesh, the great preacher said, "Now, now I begin to be a Christian!" What a testimony!  What a commitment!  What a martyrdom, Ignatius.

The church continued in great power.  The first anchorite, the first stylite, pole-sitter, was Simeon the elder, and he was a member of that church in Antioch.  That’s one of the strangest phenomena in Christian history:  all over the civilized world you’d see pole-sitters.  These were hermits who lived on top of poles.  This man, the first one, Simeon the elder, started on a pole eight feet tall, then ten, then twelve, and finally sat on a pole a hundred twenty feet high.  That was everywhere seen in the whole civilized world, pole-sitters; and it began in Antioch.

There’s a thing about Antioch that thrills my heart:  there were two great schools of interpretation of the holy Word of God; one was Alexandrian, down there in Alexandria, and the other was Antiochian, up there in Antioch.  The Alexandrian school of interpretation was far out; it was taking the things in the Bible, and under Philo they made the Bible teach the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle and Socrates.  Now the same thing happened down there in Alexandria, an amazing development – same kind of a thing under Origen, a tremendous scholar.  And they took the New Testament Scriptures and made them teach all kinds of far out things.  But the school of the interpretation of the Bible in Antioch was literal, literal, grammatical, historical.  Praise God!  And their greatest exponent was named John Chrysostom, John Chrysostom, John "the Golden Mouth."  John Chrysostom had been sent as a youth to the Greek scholar and orator of Libanius, and John Chrysostom, John later called Chrysostom, was taught the mighty ways of Greek oratory and Greek philosophy; and he was scheduled to take the place of his teacher Libanius.  But his mother, Anthusa, was a devout Christian and Libanius, when he lost to John – later called Chrysostom – said, "His mother had prayed him away to a life of piety."  And John Chrysostom gave his life to the Lord Jesus Christ and went into the desert and stayed six years with the Lord and these Holy Scriptures.  And when he came back to Antioch, what a mighty man of God, and I suppose one of the greatest and most eloquent preachers, orators who has ever lived.  You can read his sermons today.

By the way, in the interpretation of John Chrysostom of the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament, when you read Alford and Hort and Westcott and Matthew, when you read those Scriptures today, if you trace back their interpretation, you will find that they came from John Chrysostom.

Anyway, when he returned to Antioch, the city was in a desperate plight.  They had rebelled against the emperor of Rome in his levy upon the city to support the army of the Emperor Theodosius.  And in an orgy and in a rage and in a mob, they had destroyed in their violence and rebellion, they destroyed his statue, which is not only political treason but it was sacrilege.  And Theodosius came to Antioch with an army to destroy the people.  It was in that situation that John Chrysostom announced what he called a mission – we would call it a revival – and John Chrysostom began to preach the gospel in power and the people cowering before the invading army of Emperor Theodosius, the people turned to the Lord in great throngs and multitudes.  And when Theodosius came to Antioch to destroy the city, he found the people in a great surge of revival under John Chrysostom; and he spared the people, he destroyed it not.

Later on, when Constantine built St. Sophia in Constantinople, today you call it Istanbul, and his successor, his son Constantius, in that great church of St. Sophia, John Chrysostom was called to preach.  The people had rather hear him than to go to the theater or to the games.  He had over one hundred thousand people in that church; both in Antioch and in Constantinople.  They didn’t have chairs or pews in the churches in those days; the people stood.  And they stood there side by side by the thousands, listening to John the Golden Mouth, John the preacher of the gospel of Christ.

Well Eudocia, the wife of the emperor, vainglorious, built a silver statue and shrine of herself across the street from St. Sophia, John Chrysostom’s church.  And they had orgies around that statue, and it was a scene of vice and wickedness.  And John the Golden Mouth, bold in the Lord, like Elijah, he denounced Eudocia and her image, and the vice by which her image was honored in the great capital city of Constantinople.   And Eudocia, like Jezebel said, "I’ll destroy John Chrysostom."  Isn’t that the strangest thing?  She did.  Just like Jezebel destroyed Elijah, she destroyed John Chrysostom:  took him out of the church, took him out of the capital, and he died of exposure.

I remember a sentence out of one of his sermons.  John Chrysostom said about Eudocia, "Once again Herodias is raging.  Once again Herodias is dancing.  And once again Herodias is reaching out her hand for the head of John."  Like in the New Testament, Herodias destroyed John the Baptist, she destroyed John Chrysostom.  But oh, what a man of God!

I have to conclude.  We stand in a great succession:  John Chrysostom, and Savonarola, and Hubmaier, and Huss, and John Wycliffe, and John Wesley, and George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards, and George W. Truett, and Lee Scarborough.  We stand in a great succession.  Great God! that we might stand tall and vibrant and viable for our Lord.  We stand in a great succession.

And we have a great assignment, a great work to do.  I want to point out just one little phase of it.  When you read the Great Commission of our Savior:

All power is given unto Me in heaven and earth.  

Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations,

baptizing them in the name of the triune God:

teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded

[Matthew 28:18-20]


When you read that Great Commission that closes the Book of Matthew, there are four verbs in it; three of them are participles, and one is an imperative.  The participles are:  poreuthentes, "going"; baptizontes, "baptizing"; didaskontes, "teaching."  But the imperative is mathēteusate, "make learners, make learners, make learners."  The Great Commission is that we teach the people the mind that was in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I think of His closing words in the eleventh chapter of Matthew:  "Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; take My yoke upon you" [Matthew 11:29].  Let me put it in our words:  "Enroll in My school, and sit at My feet.  Sit at My feet."  We have a great, tremendous commission:  to teach, to make learners, mathēteusate, to make learners.

I revel beyond any way to describe it the hand of God upon our church.  We begin with our kindergarten, our little, little tiny children; and we teach them the faith of the Lord through college, through our academy and through our college.  And our great Baptist university, a university; ours is a preacher’s school, teaching just the Word of the Lord; the university, many, many of the facets of intellectual and artistic and economical life.  And we have a great teaching ministry in our soul-saving Sunday school.

As some of you know, this last week I was preaching at Moody Founder’s Week; that’s one of the tremendous inspirational convocation of preachers from all over the world.  And coming back on the plane from Chicago, I read a newspaper, and one of the articles with the headline, "Religious Beliefs Survey Brings Surprises".  And here it is:  "The huge landmark study involving questionnaires answered by ten thousand church people made by the Search Institute of Minneapolis; trained observers visited fifty-four of the largest educational programs offered to the people; took them three and one-half years for the study."  And here’s one:  "Surprising is that what matters most in building mature faith is not the commonly emphasized classes for the young, important as they are, but adult Christian education."  What they learned is, if you want to build the faith, what you need to do is to get your adults in the class and teach them the infallible and inerrant and inspired Word of God.

Well, I got to thinking about that.  I never saw a baby come to church by itself. You have to have an adult.  I never saw children, little children come to church by themselves; you have to have adults.  And when you look at this wonderful Chapel Choir up here, great God! what it means to have a dedicated Christian father and mother and a Christian home in which they’re reared.  I have to close.

Dear people, think, think, consider the tremendous calling and assignment God has given to us:  winning these families to the Lord, seeing them bring their children into the house of God, and themselves be mathēteusate, made learners at the feet of our blessed and precious Lord Jesus.  O God, that You matched our souls against such a day, such a day, such a day!

Now, Eddie, we’re going to sing us a song.  And while we sing that song, two things:  one, there will be men at the head of these aisles with baskets; and as our Sunday school leadership has encouraged us, filling out that commitment card to win others to Christ, to witness to our Savior, you come forward and place the card in the basket.  And one other tremendous appeal:  to come into the fellowship of the church, or to give your heart to the blessed Jesus, you come and stay with us, and pray with us here at the front.  The others will come forward and place their cards in the basket, and go back to their seats; but if you are coming to put your heart and life with us in the church, or to give your heart and life to the Lord Jesus, you come and stay, and we’ll pray together.  God bless you as you respond.  Angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.


Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 11:19-26



I.          The
spreading movement of the Christian faith

A.  From Jewish Pentecost to a Gentile proselyte of the gate (Acts 2,
8, 10)

B.  Now in Antioch, preaching to outright heathen idol-worshipers (Acts


II.         Antioch
– the capital of Gentile Christianity

A.  Founding of the city by Seleucus I

B.  Beautiful, colonnaded city at the turn of the Orontes River

C.  Citizens steeped in promiscuity, violence, wickedness and sin

D.  This is the city where these Gentile Christians were won


III.        The
need for a new name

A.  Heretofore Christianity seen as a sect of Judaism

B.  Now includes a conglomerate of all kinds of people

C.  New name coined for them – Greek and Latin, Christianoi


IV.        The
power of God upon the heathen idolatrous Gentiles

A.  Out of Antioch came the evangelization of the world (Acts 13)

      1.  Liberation of Gentiles from laws and precepts of Moses (Acts

B.  No formal ending to the Book of Acts


V.         The
story continues in glory and power

A.  Ignatius before Emperor Trajan

B.  Simeon the Elder and the pole-sitters

C.  The Bible school of Antioch

D.  John Chrysostom

      1.  His flaming message

      2.  The church

      3.  His martyrdom

      4.  His exposition of Scripture


VI.        We have
a great work to do

A.  The imperative in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20, 2 Timothy 2:2)

B.  Building our school and our church