|Vol. 15 No. 11 November 2013||
What does the Devil look like? There is a pretty interesting picture in Revelation 12 and 17 that depicts Satan as having multiple heads, horns and a massive tail that sweeps away a third of the stars. Even though these words are not meant literally, it still presents a terrifying image of what (and who) the Devil really is. The Devil is truly an ugly being, but is that how he is going to present himself to us? The really scary thing about him is that he is not going to present himself to us as the monster that he really is. Who would pledge allegiance to him if he represented himself as he really is? Some would, but he doesn’t want some. He wants us all. So to get the rest of us, he is going to dress himself up in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). He is not going to come to us as an agent of darkness, but as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He will disguise himself as a prophet of God (1 Kings 13) or maybe as an elder of the church (Acts 20:28-30). This is why we must be as shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).
The world uses the word “Christian” in ways that have a broader meaning than found in the New Testament. Many use the word loosely or improperly. Even religionists use the word “Christian” in ways contrary to Scripture. God promised, “and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of Jehovah shall name” (Isaiah 62:2). We read of the fulfillment of this prophecy in the Book of Acts. “The disciples were called [of God; see Young’s Literal Translation] Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). If one considers the verses that precede this statement, he will learn who the Bible describes as a Christian (Acts 11:19ff). We learn brethren were “speaking the word” (v. 19), others were teaching Gentiles and “preaching the Lord Jesus” (v. 20). As a result, “a great number that believed turned unto the Lord” (v. 21). Barnabas taught the new converts “that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord” (v. 23). Luke then tells us “much people was added unto the Lord” (v. 24).
Barnabas went to Tarsus and brought Saul back, and they taught the church. The church was identified as “disciples,” and they were called by God “Christians” (v. 26). The Christians were those who were followers of the teaching of Christ (disciples) and who were designated as “the church.” These were they who had heard the preaching of the Word and of the Lord Jesus (vv. 19-20), who had believed and were converted to the Lord and had been added unto the Lord (vv. 21, 24).
Compare the teachings and the actions taken at Antioch (Acts 11) to the events recorded in Acts Chapter 2. On the day of Pentecost, Peter and the apostles preached (Acts 2:14ff). Devout Jewish men, being convicted of their sin, believed in Jesus and inquired of the apostles, “what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). They had been guilty of calling for the crucifixion of the Savior and had been convinced that Jesus had been made both Lord and Christ (cf. vv. 22-36). These believers were told to repent and be immersed in order to receive the forgiveness of sins (v. 38). Many accepted the word of the Gospel and were baptized. They “were added” (v. 41) just as were those believers in Acts 11:24. Acts 2:47 tells us who was added (the saved), who did the adding (the Lord) and to whom they were added (the church). The church was established that day. The church would have consisted of the apostles first, then the new converts that were added to them on that day.
Many religious groups call anyone who claims faith in Jesus a Christian regardless of whether he or she has obeyed the Gospel or not. Remember, the Bible identifies Christians as those who heard the message of the Gospel, believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who turned from sin in repentance and who were immersed for the remission of sins (Acts chapters 2 and 11). This is the biblical teaching regarding the name “Christian.” A good, moral and sincere person may or may not be a “New Testament Christian.” Someone who claims faith in Jesus may or may not be a true Christian. We need to understand, believe and teach these truths in love.