“The Apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the Word of God. Now those who had been scattered in the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the Word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to The Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” (Acts 11:1, 19-21, 25, 26 NIV)
Let me say at the outset of this post that I know and understand that Christianity–a label for those who followed Christ then began with the conversion of Jews. This post takes nothing from the fact the Jews were and are God’s chosen people and the rest of us who choose to Believe–the work on the Cross, the resurrection, and Divinity of Jesus are adopted into the family as an act of faith.
That being said, if we pay attention to the verses before the 26th verse–where people called those Jews who followed the teachings of Jesus–Christians, we will see that at first–they were simply–Believers–those who believed those who had walked with Jesus and in His purpose for coming down to earth.
Generally, what happens when we allow others to decide a label for us–we err in the teaching of truth. As with the label–Christian–we have come so far from the truth in teaching God’s Word and His love that we have become an object of ridicule. One of the reasons we are ridiculed for our faith is the fact that there are too many divisions–too many denominations and sects–all promoting their own version of truth and veered so far off the mark that many are considered cults.
I recently read a blog, by Fred, who thought he was a Christian because he became involved with the Seventh Day Adventist, and because he was disillusioned by what occurred within the religious group, he has since converted to becoming a Jew, apparently not understanding that all original Christians were converted Jews.
We are not Christians because of the church we join or hold special religious beliefs. We are Believers because we Believe The Word of God and that includes following the teachings of Jesus. No matter how carefully one inspects The Word–no denominations will be found. Man–in his desire to control others–created denominations based upon micro-selection of Scriptures. In every religious group–their foundation is based upon one or two verses of Scripture because they did not understand how all the scriptures align and none to be ignored. And in some cases, the religious group is named after the person who chose to remove themselves from the fray of religiosity–only to perpetuate more.
This is how we come to have the Baptists–who misunderstood John’s role–and his role was not his title. The Church of God–so named because someone misunderstood what Paul was saying in Acts 20 and in his letters to the church at Corinth. The Church of God in Christ–so named because someone had the bright idea to make a distinction to who they were by separating from The Church of God, but adding “in Christ” to the banner. Jehovah Witnesses–so named because they misunderstood that everyone who promoted the Gospel of Jesus Christ is His witness and the founders chose to re-write the bible to suit their purposes. This is important since they originally denied the divinity of Jesus and have for years, denied the virgin birth and so many other truths. The Methodists–so named after a person because of the method or strategy used to promote religion. The Lutherans–so named after Martin Luther–promoting a doctrine with some basis of truth, but not totally. And of course–The Catholic Church–who claims that Peter is their foundation, but deny priests to be married when Peter was married–all in an attempt to control others. And of course we cannot deny the horrors inflicted upon millions because they misunderstood The Word and warned others not to try to read it because it would confuse them. Religious persecution (forced conversions and beheading) did not begin with those in this century who are misguided, but with those who thought they were better than everyone else and chose to force their beliefs on others and killed any who resisted.
There are so many other groups that it would take a book to discuss them at length and to point out how they have erred in their foundational beliefs. The truth is very simply this–for most Believers–we Believe The Word of God. We believe that mankind was so far from fulfilling God’s purpose for us, that He decided to come down to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to demonstrate His love for us. He chose to be crucified, died, and rose again–redeeming us–giving us a chance to live with Him for all eternity, forgiving our sins and providing us with His presence at all times in the person of Holy Spirit. The inspired word of God, rightly interpreted and promoted by those in relationship with Him, is what Believers believe. Anything other than this is spawned by religious spirits that bear no truth and have no relationship with God.
I am yet a Believer with no religious hangups and my desire is to please God only. My choice–is made with information and relationship, and not coercion as some would have others think.