Throughout the New Testament, the followers of Jesus Christ referred to themselves in various ways, such as the "faithful," the "elect," the "saints," the "believers" and the "church" (the literal meaning of the original word for church meant ones who are called, i.e. church actually means repentant and converted people, not a building or a corporate organization). Christian, from the Greek Christianos, was originally a term used by unbelievers to describe the followers of Jesus Christ as slaves (i.e. the suffix ianos was popularly used to specify the slaves of the one whose name with which it was compounded i.e. Christianos meant slaves of Christ), and was the name given to the church by the Greeks and Romans who most often intended it in a derogatory manner - although Paul, in referring to himself, made reference to that slave, or servant, label in a positive way by honorably calling himself a "a servant of Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:1). The critical manner of using the term in those early years is perhaps the reason that, surprisingly, Christian is found only three times in the Bible, and Christianity does not occur at all. It was however eventually adopted by the followers of the Messiah themselves, and was thereafter used in a positive way, at least among Christians.
"The first time called Christians"
Christians were first known as such in Antioch Of Syria.
"Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to none except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number that believed turned to the Lord."
"News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad; and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a large company was added to the Lord."
"So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul [see Saul Of Tarsus]; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church, and taught a large company of people; and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians." (Acts 11:19-26 RSV)
"What the prophets and Moses said would come"
Christianity was not a new, or breakaway, religion. It was the fruition of all of what the "Old" Testament was about.
"To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead [see Resurrections], He would proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles."
"And as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are mad; your great learning is turning you mad."
"But Paul said, "I am not mad, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely; for I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe."
"And Agrippa said to Paul, "In a short time you think to make me a Christian!"
"And Paul said, "Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am - except for these chains." (Acts 26:22-29 RSV)
"It begins with us"
While Christianity is very much a fulfillment of what was to come, Christians are in fact the beginning, the "first fruits" of salvation (see Pentecost).
"As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed." [see The Elect]
"If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that Name let him glorify God. For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And "If the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear?" Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator." (1 Peter 4:10-19 RSV)
Fact Finder: Why were Christians also known as Nazarenes?