Verse 26. "He brought him unto Antioch" - As this city was the metropolis of Syria, and the third city for importance in the whole Roman empire, Rome and Alexandria alone being more eminent, Barnabas might think it expedient to have for his assistance a person of such eminent talents as Saul; and who was especially appointed by Christ to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles. Saul appears also to have been a thorough master of the Greek tongue, and, consequently, the better qualified to explain the Gospel to the Greek philosophers, and to defend it against their cavils. Barnabas, also being a native of Cyprus, chap. iv. 36, where the Greek language was spoken, was judged to be proper for this mission, perhaps on this account, as well as on account of his disinterestedness, holiness, and zeal.
"And the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." - It is evident they had the name Christians from CHRIST their master; as the Platonists and Pythagoreans had their name from their masters, Plato and Pythagoras.
Now, as these had their name from those great masters because they attended their teaching, and credited their doctrines, so the disciples were called Christians because they took Christ for their teacher, crediting his doctrines, and following the rule of life laid down by him. It has been a question, by whom was this name given to the disciples? Some think they assumed it; others, that the inhabitants of Antioch gave it to them; and others, that it was given by Saul and Barnabas. This later opinion is favoured by the Codex Bezae, which reads the 25th and 26th verses thus: And hearing that Saul was at Tarsus, he departed, seeking for him; and having found him, he besought him to come to Antioch; who, when they were come, assembled with the Church a whole year, and instructed a great number; and there they first called the disciples at Antioch Christians.
The word crhmatisai in our common text, which we translate were called, signifies in the New Testament, to appoint, warn, or nominate, by Divine direction. In this sense, the word is used, Matt. ii. 12; Luke ii. 26; and in the preceding chapter of this book, chap. x. 22. If, therefore, the name was given by Divine appointment, it as most likely that Saul and Barnabas were directed to give it; and that, therefore, the name Christian is from God, as well as that grace and holiness which are so essentially required and implied in the character. Before this time. the Jewish converts were simply called, among themselves, disciples, i.e. scholars; believers, saints, the Church, or assembly; and, by their enemies, Nazarenes, Galileans, the men of this way or sect; and perhaps lay other names which are not come down to us. They considered themselves as one family; and hence the appellation of brethren was frequent among them. It was the design of God to make all who believed of one heart and one soul, that they might consider him as their Father, and live and love like children of the same household. A Christian, therefore, is the highest character which any human being can bear upon earth; and to receive it from God, as those appear to have done-how glorious the title! It is however worthy of remark that this name occurs in only three places in the New Testament: here, and in chap. xxvi. 28, and in 1 Pet. iv. 16.