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Question:  Since Jesus was a Jew, why are His followers called Christians and not Jews?
What AboutAnswer:  Jesus was also a male, so why aren’t His followers called males? If Jesus were Latino, should His followers be called Latinos?
Jews trace their background to the Israelites, all the way back to Abraham. You can read about Jewish origin in Genesis 12:1-3. God’s call to Abram (later called Abraham) included leaving his original community and moving to a new land where God promised to make a great nation from him.
What makes the origin of this great nation supernatural was the fact that Abram and his wife had no children, and that they were well past their child-bearing years. The birth of a nation requires the birth of at least one person. The promised offspring came as a miracle and demonstrated that God’s promise was true (see Galatians 4:22, 23).
It was no surprise that the ethnic group through whom God would bless all nations would also be the Messiah’s birth line. Jesus came through the birth line of Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, and through David, the poster king for the Jews (see Matthew 1:1).
When people killed Jesus, they used the Roman form of death by torture–crucifixion–since Rome ruled Jerusalem at that time. But the Jewish mob outside Pilate’s judgment hall willingly took credit for Jesus’ death (see Matthew 27:24-26). This is not a put-down of Jews, but it certainly wouldn’t be appropriate to call such people “followers of Jesus.”
Just before Jesus returned to heaven, He instructed His disciples to be witnesses where Jews lived, but then to go to the entire world (see Acts 1:8). Some may have thought Jesus meant that they should go witness only to Jews throughout the world, since what happened with the miracle of speaking different languages snatched the attention of so many Jews visiting Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2).
Reading on, Acts 10 contains a story about a strange dream of “unclean” animals that God instructed Peter to eat. Such action was unthinkable for Jews. But in Acts 11, Peter interprets his dream to mean that the Gentiles—people the Jews formerly considered “unclean”—were also called to be followers of Jesus (Acts 11:18).
This opened the floodgates for the news of Jesus, the Christ (Christ means “Messiah” or “Promised One”), to people of all ethnic groups, who became followers of Jesus. As the word spread north to Antioch, the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch. That’s where Saul joined Barnabas for a year, and together they taught people about Jesus Christ. According to Acts 11:26, “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” And the name seems to have stuck.
If you’re a follower of Christ, you’re a Christian. By the way, you’re also a spiritual child of Abraham, too, because the promises that God gave to Abraham are for all followers of Jesus.