So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus.
And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.
The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch.
Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.
And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. Acts 11:19-26 (NASB)
Is it any wonder the followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch!? The biblical text says the followers of Christ who fled Jerusalem and went to Antioch did not go into hiding. They did run for their lives. But they were telling everyone they ran into about Jesus.
Their message went viral and “a large number” became believers and followers of Jesus. In fact, so many people were impacted by the message of these displaced “fishers of men” that word of it got back to Jerusalem. The Apostles sent Barnabas to check it out and find out what was going on. He found himself in the middle of an amazing work of God. He jumped right in and joined the “Christians” in preaching the Gospel to all within hearing.
Notice what happened next. Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul (later called Paul). He wanted to bring Paul to Antioch to see and experience what was happening. Is it any wonder that Paul’s ministry was unapologetically evangelistic and fruitful? He, from the beginning, saw what could be and what God desired. There would be no confusion in his mind about God’s call for every follower of Jesus.
“Fishers of men”…”followers of Jesus”…”believers”…”Christians” These are all names intended to describe people who have been redeemed by Jesus and committed themselves to live for Him. And “living for Him” prioritizes sharing the Gospel to whoever will listen. So, if you’re going to call yourself a Christian today, start proving it by sharing your faith.