Friday, January 27, 2017

Acts 11:26: All Christians are Disciples

While, as is expected, not all of the 269 references to disciples specifically define the word, very strong exegetical evidence from many passages establish that one becomes a true disciple of Christ at the same moment that one becomes a true believer, so that discipleship begins at regeneration, and all the people of God, not some elite minority, are identified as disciples in Scripture.  On the other hand, no verse in Scripture teaches that believers become disciples at a post-conversion crisis or that only some of the regenerate are disciples.  While the fact that all Christians are disciples is taught in many texts of Scripture, Acts 11:26 is crystal-clear.  The verse states:

And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
καὶ εὑρὼν αὐτὸν ἤγαγεν αὐτὸν εἰς Ἀντιόχειαν. ἐγένετο δὲ αὐτοὺς ἐνιαυτὸν ὅλον συναχθῆναι ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ καὶ διδάξαι ὄχλον ἱκανόν, χρηματίσαι τε πρῶτον ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ τοὺς μαθητὰς Χριστιανούς.

In Acts 11:26, the clause χρηματίσαι τε πρῶτον ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ τοὺς μαθητὰς Χριστιανούς (“the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch”) explicitly equates the category Christian and discipleMathetas (“disciples”) functions as the subject of the infinitive chrematisai (“were called”), and Cristianous (“Christians”) is a predicate accusative in the construction (cf. pgs. 190-197, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Daniel Wallace).  Since this syntactical pattern is “similar [in function] to the nominative subject and predicate nominative construction, following the same principles for distinguishing [the subject and predicate words]” (pg. 190, Ibid.), and the equivalent subject-predicate nominative construction is a convertible, not a subset proposition, because mathetas is articular and Cristianous is a proper noun (pgs. 40-46, Ibid.), the two categories disciple and Christian are explicitly equated as convertible terms.  The “construction indicates an identical exchange . . . both nouns have an identical referent. The mathematical formulas of A=B, B=A are applicable in such instances. . . . There is complete interchange between the two [nouns]” (pg. 41, Ibid.).  Disciple = Christian, and Christian = disciple.

Furthermore, at Antioch the disciples were called Christians first in time (πρῶτον, proton), but this designation spread to the rest of the believing community in the same manner.  That is, Acts 11:26 teaches that first at Antioch, and from there in the rest of the world where the gospel had penetrated, it was disciples who were called Christians.  The equation disciple Christian was not limited to Antioch—it was universal, just starting first in time at Antioch.  Acts 11:26 definitively equates the category of disciple and Christian as identical.  If only some Christians are disciples, then only some Christians are Christians.  Everyone who cares about the Bible needs to recognize this fact, and churches need to preach the gospel accordingly.




Anonymous said...

So what do you mean by preaching the gospel accordingly? Does that mean you tell lost sinners all the things that Jesus told to those who would be his disciples as prerequisites to being saved? Should we be using Luke 9:57-62 in our gospel presentation?

Also I don't think Biblically that A=B, B=A is always true, which if it not always true your argument can't be substantiated. In John 2:11 it says that his disciples "believed on him." This indicates that some of the disciples before Christ did the miracles at Cana didn't fully believe who he was. The miracle did something that caused them to believe whereas before they were unbelieving. He specifically refers to these men as his disciples before they believed. (John 2:2) Furthermore if John 2 isn't conclusive enough, which it is because it gives one instances where A does not equal B, then John 6 certainly is. At the end of John 6 Jesus makes statements that some of his disciples found hard to believe. Some of those disciples had a hard time accepting and turned away from following him. (Vs 66) Then the chapter ends with Judas whom Jesus had chosen to be his disciple, but Judas, a disciple, was "a devil," not a Christian. (Vs 70-71)

The point simply is that A does not always equal B and there is a distinction between a disciple and a believer.


James Bronsveld said...


You're missing the point of the post. All believers are disciples, but not all disciples were believers, Judas being a prime example. A disciple is merely a learner or follower. One can follow (outwardly) without believing, but one cannot believe savingly without following. I think you should carefully re-read the post.

Anonymous said...

My understanding of the use of the word "disciple" (learner, student, one being taught) in the NT is that all born-again ones are disciples, but not all disciples are born again.

E. T. Chapman

KJB1611 said...

Dear Jessie,

Yes, we should tell lost sinners the things that the Lord Jesus told lost sinners. We aren't smart enough to think of something better to tell the lost than what the Christ told them. No, of course in every single gospel presentation we do not need to tell the lost person "all" the things Christ told people over the course of his three-year ministry.

I'm sorry, but John 2:11 doesn't have a Greek construction remotely like Acts 11:26. My argument--or better, the realities of grammar in the language in which God gave the Bible--indicate in Acts 11:26 that all believers are disciples. You will need to refute standard Greek grammar in order to deny this conclusion, and that is going to be rather difficult for you to do.

Furthermore, John 2:11 isn't even about the lost coming to saving faith, but about the deepening of faith in the already justified saint. Please read the section on faith in the Johannine writings at: to learn more.

John 6 shows that there can be false "believers" or false "disciples." It does not in any way deny that justified people with saving faith are not also people who learn of and follow Christ, that is, are His true disciples. After overthrowing standard Greek grammar to get rid of Acts 11:26, you will need to find clear texts where true believers are not yet true disciples to attempt to prove your position. You will have a very hard time doing this, so perhaps it would be wise to change your position to agree with the teaching of Scripture.