This is an excellent question!! Acts 11:26 cannot be divorced from the previous several verses of which it is a conclusion. The previous verses can be summarized as:
- v19: The disciples spoke the Word (ie, taught about Jesus)
- v20: The disciples proclaimed the Lord Jesus
- v21: The disciples had the "hand of the Lord" with them and many turned to the Lord
- v22: This situation became well-known so that representatives from Jerusalem were sent to investigate the disciples' work of preaching and proclaiming Jesus
- v23: The investigators were impressed and encourage them to continue in the grace of God and remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion
- v24: The disciple Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and a great many people were brought to the Lord
- v25: The Disciples were so busy teaching and proclaiming Jesus that they sent for Paul to help
- v26: After Paul arrived, they taught for a whole year and met with large crowds proclaiming Christ
Is it any wonder that the disciples were called "Christians"?
Here is my translation of Acts 11:26b, "and to call first in Antioch the disciples, 'Christians' ". Both "disciples" and "Christians" are accusative with the implied subject of the verb "to call" being "people generally". In good English this must be rendered as most versions do, something like, "In Antioch, the disciples were first called Christians." That is just to accommodate the strictures of both languages to make the sense clear.
The force of this remark cannot be missed. The Greek word, "Christianos" is, strictly speaking, noun made out of an adjective meaning, "one who is like Christ". In view of the verse Acts 11:19-26 it is not surprising that the disciples were labeled "Christians" as they spoke like Christ, proclaimed Christ, preached Christ, acted like Christ and called others to follow Christ.
Their other name, disciples, in the Greek is "mathetes" - students/pupils of Christ as well. That is, they were fulfilling Christ's instruction of Matt 28:19 - go and make disciples - students of Christ that will then go and make more students of Christ.
Lastly, notice that it was not the disciples who took the title of "Christian" on themselves - it was the populace generally who gave them this high title after observing them. (Would that this were more commonly the case!!)
NOTE: The last phrase cannot be "disciples Christians" or "students Christians" as this would make "disciples" an adjective and not a noun. When both are accusative nouns, we have the sense that most English versions correctly give.
Acts 11:26 is part of a large body of teaching in the NT about what is generally known as "The Imitation of Christ". Here is a sample:
- Made like God. Gen 1:26, 27, 9:6, Eph 4:20-24, 1 John 3:2. Note that this means that one of the purposes of salvation is to restore the likeness of God in humans that sin has erased.
- Walk as Jesus walked. 1 John 2:6.
- Jesus was led by the Spirit Matt 4:1. The Christian must be born of the Spirit (John 3:5) by receiving the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38) and walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:25, John 6:63, Phil 3:3, John 4:24). In fact the whole life of Christian is to put aside the “psychical” mind and live by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14, 1 Cor 15:44-46, Gal 5:17, Jude 19, John 6:63, 1 Peter 3:18).
- Love as Jesus loved. John 13:34, 35, 15:12, 1 John 4:8, 11, 19, Eph 5:1, 2.
- Lay down life for friends. John 15:13, Eph 5:2.
- Jesus’ suffering leaves us an example. John 16:33, 2 Tim 1:4, Heb 13:12, 13, 1 Peter 2:21.
- Because Jesus was persecuted, so are His followers. John 15:20, 21.
- Conformed to the likeness of the Son. Rom 8:29.
- Transforming our will and bodies to conform to God’s will. Rom 12:1, 2.
- Jesus was baptised (Matt 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21, 22) and so should we be baptised, Matt 28:19, Acts 2:38, 10:48, 16:31, 22:16, Rom 6:1-9, etc.
- Forgive as Jesus forgave. Matt 6:12, Eph 4:32.
- Be imitators of God. Eph 5:1.
- Be holy as Jesus is holy. Lev 11:44, 45, 1 Peter 1:15, 16.
- Be pure as He is pure. 1 John 3:3.
- Partakers of the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:4.
- We are being changed into Christ’s glory (= reputation). 2 Cor 3:18.
- Pray as Jesus prayed. Luke 11:1.
- We are to have the mind of Christ. Phil 2:5, 1 Cor 2:16.
- Be kind because God is kind. Luke 6:34, 35.
- Be merciful because God is merciful. Luke 6:36.
- Be servants to others as Jesus was. John 13:15-17, 1 Peter 4:11b, Matt 20:24-28.
- Be patient as Jesus was patient. 1 Tim 1:16.
- Talk/speak as Jesus speaks. 1 Peter 4:11a.
- Be “perfect” (= mature and generous to enemies) as the Father is. Matt 5:48.
- Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved His people and gave Himself for her. Eph 5:25.
- Keep the commandments as Jesus kept the commandments. John 15:10.
- Abide in Christ as Christ abides in us. John 15:4.
- We are co-heirs with Christ of glory. Rom 8:17.
- Jesus gave his all and we must give up all things for Him. Rom 8:32.
- Jesus is called the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 1 Cor 5:7) and so are His followers (John 10:1-18, 21:15-17)
- Jesus washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17) and so should we (John 13:14-17)
- Jesus is the light of the world (John 1:4, 9, 8:12, 9:5) and so are we (Matt 5:14-16)