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What was the church first called and why were believers then called
The way was something the disciples spoke of i.e., the gospel. This way was
spoken of by John, by Jesus - it is what Jesus spoke of himself and what others
spoke of him.
Luke 20:21 Then they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You say and teach
rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in
John the baptizer preceding Jesus (Jn.1:23) said: “I am 'The voice of one crying
in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord,” 'as the prophet Isaiah
John 14:4-6 And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Thomas said to Him,
“Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the
Father except through Me.”
From Jesus explaining he is the way and those following him and telling others
the way to be saved the name was made known throughout the land.
Acts 9:1-2 “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples
of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the
synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men
or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” Also used in Acts 16:17.
Acts 11:26 “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” Stephen
chosen by the apostles was from Antioch (Acts 6:5). After the death of Stephen
(Acts 11:19-20) the disciples were scattered and went to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and
Antioch preaching to the Jews who spoke Greek.
Acts 11:21-22 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number
believed and turned to the Lord. Then news of these things came to the ears of
the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.”
Acts 11:25-27 Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And brought him to
Antioch. “So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and
taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in
Antioch. And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch.”
This city in Syria became a main hub for Christianity
They had changed their name in this area for some reason that made them think of
them as more in relationship to Jesus and had been named as those who were like
him, following in his steps. Three of Paul's missionary journeys began in
Antioch. revisiting this city on his first mission tour Acts 14:21) .
At the church council in Jerusalem the apostles and elders, with the whole
church, sent men to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:22). Acts 15:35
“Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of
the Lord, with many others also.”
Still after this they were known as the way throughout the land. Acts 19:8-9
“And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and
persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. But when some were
hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he
departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of
Acts 24:14 Paul before Felix spoke: “But this I confess to you, that according
to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing
all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.”
V.22 “But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the
Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, “When Lysias the commander comes
down, I will make a decision on your case.”
They were called Christians by those outside and inside and called themselves
saints inside the church as well.
Both names were used in the land. Acts 26:28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You
almost persuade me to become a Christian.”
1 Peter 4:16: “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed”
We know the name Christian became popularized throughout history mainly to
distinguish who the church preaches, follows and serves.