First Called Christians
They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to others. (Acts 2:47)
Following the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the apostles continued to witness about Jesus’ life and teachings and the followers of Jesus grew in number. The rapid growth of the community of believers made some religious and political leaders in Jerusalem nervous. Followers of Jesus were persecuted. Some of them were arrested and thrown in prison, such as Peter and John. The persecution escalated when one believer, Stephen, was arrested and stoned to death.
After the stoning of Stephen, many of the believers left Jerusalem. The unexpected result of the scattering of the believers was the development of new churches in new communities. Some of the believers went to Antioch. There they told the good news about Jesus. Many people who heard believed, and the community at Antioch grew.
Back in Jerusalem, the followers of Jesus were in hiding. They were in danger of being persecuted by the Romans and were forced to meet in secret. When news of the believers in Antioch reached Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas to investigate. Barnabas was so excited about what was happening in Antioch that he sent for Paul to come join him. Barnabas and Paul spent a year in Antioch helping the community grow. It was in Antioch where the followers were called the name we still use today: Christians.
The cross is the symbol we most associate with Christianity today. However, the cross was not the only image Christians used to identify themselves. The symbol of the fish is often associated with the early church.
• The followers of Jesus continued to grow.
• We are called Christians.
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