Made One in Christ
Part 3

As Barnabas continued to encourage this in the church at Antioch, many more from the city began to receive the gospel and become disciples among them. Soon Barnabas realized he was going to need some help from someone he knew was called to reach the Gentile world. And he knew the right person for the job, as we see in verse 25…

Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he 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.
— Acts 11:25-26 NKJV

As Saul and Barnabas taught the church in Antioch, everything they taught was centered around Christ. Everything they had to say, every doctrine they had to teach was rooted in Christ. The way the people lived revealed Christ, so much so that they’re new collective identity was Christ! Ellen White says in Acts of the Apostles…

It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians. The name was given them because Christ was the main theme of their preaching, their teaching, and their conversation.
— Acts of the Apostles p. 157.

And here we learn that if we’re going to make disciples in a culturally diverse metropolitan area…     

Our identity must be in Christ, though culturally distinct.

I was born in America, but the dominant culture in my family is Jamaican. So today, when my church celebrates it’s International Sabbath (Saturday), all you need to do is put a plate of ackee and salt fish in front of me with some dumpling and steamed cabbage and I promise that plate will be clean in less than 15 minutes! This dish is our national dish. Now when I eat this food, I can taste the distinct ingredients of cod fish, the ackee fruit, the salt, the red pepper, onions and seasoning. And though these ingredients are distinct and I can taste their flavors in my mouth, they together have a new identity of Achee and Salt Fish. It’s the same thing with the individual fruits that make up a smoothie. Or if you come with me to the Island of Jamaica, you will meet people who may be ethnically Chinese, Indian, Germany or African, but they will tell you that their cultural identity is Jamaican. It’s the same thing when we all come together in Christ with all the richness of our cultural diversity. Though we are still culturally who we are, our identity now is Christ!

Though these disciples were still ethnically and culturally who they were, their primary identity was now Christ. Not Jewish, Greek or Roman. Jesus embraces all cultures and forms a new identity or a new humanity. Everything they were taught and all they talked about was centered around Christ until He became who they were known for.

Christian was not what they called themselves, but what the people of Antioch called them. I love what Pastor Eddie Hypolite says commenting on the church in Antioch…

Calling yourself a Christian and being called a Christian are two very different worlds all together. Calling yourself a Christian presupposes what you know about yourself, but being called a Christian speaks to what someone else sees in you.
— Eddie Hypolite

And what did the unbelieving people of that culturally diverse metropolitan area see? They saw a culturally diverse group of people whose entire lives and everyday conversation centered around Jesus Christ. Some have said that Antioch was also known for making fun of people and that since all these disciples could talk about was Christ, they gave them the name Christian to make fun of them, but the church eventually received it as a badge of honor to be named after Christ. They were still culturally who they were; Greek, Roman, Jew, Persian, Indian, Chinese, etc. But they now had a new identity that they were know for… Christ.

What are we known for in our cities? Are you merely known for your culture or ethnicity? Or do people see Christ in you and are compelled to call you a Christian, a true follower of Jesus Christ? Is my church merely known in our neighborhood as a very multicultural church that has an amazing International Day with lots of good food from around the world or when they see us come together, in spite of our differences, and love and accept each other, they see the evidence of the grace of God? Is the main theme of our individual and collective lives and conversations Jesus Christ? Is He who people see in us? Is He who people hear when we talk about the Bible or doctrine? For if we are living in the end of time, and I believe we are, then the faithful remnant followers of Jesus Christ should meet this description…

...having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—
— Revelation 14:6 NKJV

This means that the church has one primary message to the world… the gospel. And those that respond and join the church, especially if you live in a culturally diverse metropolitan area, should be those from every nation, tribe, tongue and people. This is more than possible, because Christ is who they will be known for and if He is lifted up, He promised He would draw ALL to Himself, no matter the cultural background.

We can make disciples in our culturally diverse metro area, because we have been Made One in Christ, therefore the Gospel can’t be restricted to or defined by one dominant culture, our unity in diversity must be celebrated and encouraged and our identity is in Christ, though culturally distinct. This is what made Paul’s bold statement in Galatians 3:28 so culturally revolutionary for it’s time. It struck at the very areas in which the world during his time, and even ours, were divided…

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
— Galatians 3:28 NKJV

In one sentence Paul condemns racism, religious bigotry, classism, socioeconomic division and sexism, because of the powerful truth of the gospel… we have been Made One in Christ!

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CJ Cousins

FOLLOWER OF JESUS, HUSBAND, FATHER, PASTOR, AUTHOR & LOVER OF PEOPLE. CJ IS THE ASSOCIATE PASTOR FOR YOUNGER GENERATIONS AT VIENNA SDA CHURCH IN VIENNA, VIRGINIA.