Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:…
A father once planned a pleasant surprise for his son who was just beginning to think for himself. In a corner of his garden he wrote with his finger his boy's name in soft mould. The furrows he then sowed with seeds of cress. A few days after this, as was expected, the astonished lad came running in with the news that his name was growing up out of one of the flower beds. Then, with the explanation immediately rendered, followed the lessons — that nothing comes by chance; that many mysteries can be traced out very easily by a little patient study; that it is possible for men to seem to do many things of their own accord, when really it is God who overrules even the powers of nature to His own glory; and that, noble and excellent a thing as it is to have a Christian name, it is always worth while to ask where it comes from, and what it actually means. Here is a use for the illustration at once. Our young people, coming into life, find the name of "Christian" meeting their eyes at every turn, almost as if it had grown up out of the ground of human history with no hand to plant the seed.
I. WHERE WAS IT THAT THE NAME WAS FIRST RECEIVED? Twenty miles from the Mediterranean, just at the point where Syria joins Asia Minor, stood a town so magnificent that even the fastidious Greeks called it "Antioch the beautiful," and the Romans "the Queen of the East." But, as too often happens in this world, Antioch was as vile as it was beautiful. No man cared for God or for his fellow man.
II. WHO GAVE THE NAME? The Romans or the local inhabitants of Antioch under their sway. The term reads like the rest of Latin appellations. They called the followers of Herod "Herodians," of Vitellius "Vitellians," and so they easily invented the name of "Christians" from the name of Christ. Hence we see that in the beginning it was a mere nickname; probably they hissed it out hatefully, and pointed their fingers at the man who gloried in a crucified Leader. All we need to say, however, is that the beautiful city is today lying in unsightly ruins; and if anyone were to ask what Antioch was, the answer would be, the town where "the disciples were first called Christians." That nickname preserves Antioch from being forgotten.
III. WHAT DOES THE NAME MEAN? One who goes after Christ as His Redeemer and Pattern. Change only one of the letters, and we have the whole significance; a Christian is a Christ-man. And this includes these things at the least: one who has learned about Christ; one who trusts to Christ for pardon; one who resembles Christ in his life; and one who gives to Christ his entire heart in a lasting love.
1. The first of these it might be assumed we all have already. Those person would be called heathen who had never been told of Jesus' life and death.
2. But, most of all, we need to see that we are sinners; then we shall perceive how gracious God was in sending His only Son to die for us; and then we shall be ready to accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour.
3. Then, to be a Christian means that one shall grow like the Saviour. God has given us four portraits of Him in the Gospels. These we can study constantly.
4. Then we are to give our hearts to Christ in a loving service. We are to go about doing good, as He did.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: