Monday 12 June 2017

Bible Book:

“He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit. And a great many people were brought to the Lord” (v. 24)

Acts 11:19-30 Monday 12 June 2017

Psalm: Psalm 112


When parents are expecting a child, they usually give a lot ofcareful thought as to what name to give. Many books are availablewith thousands to choose from! But often, it is the nicknamespeople receive that tell us more about them.

Today, we turn our thoughts to St Barnabas, an apostle who oftenescapes our attention. He was a leader of great wisdom in the earlydays of the growing early Church. He was from Cyprus, andoriginally called Joseph (Acts4:36), but they gave him the nickname Barnabas, which means'son of encouragement'. This has to rank among the best of thebiblical nicknames! Thomas was called 'the twin', Simon became 'therock', James and John were the 'sons of Thunder'. I know which I'drather be known as.

Barnabas grew in stature in the church in Jerusalem, the 'motherchurch', and his first known act involved selling his own propertyand giving his money wholly into the stewardship of the church, tobe used for the relief of poverty and the mutual benefit that wascommon practice for the new church (Acts4:37). He became someone whom the other apostles respected andtrusted greatly. He was someone who could spot what God was doing,and encourage others to go along with it. He seems to have been atravelling emissary for the Church, observing growing communitiesof Jesus, and reporting back. This is seen in Acts 9, when Saul ofTarsus (a fierce persecutor of the church) has his mysteriousconversion and changes his name too. 'Church HQ' was fearful andsceptical, but Barnabas saw what God had done with this man and onhis word Paul was received by Peter and the others. Barnabas had areal gift of discernment, along with an integrity which meant hisgift was taken seriously.

This comes to the fore in today's passage . The community ofbelievers had been scattered because of persecution in Jerusalem.Some went to Antioch (in Syria) and their preaching brought a boomin new converts, mainly from the non-Jewish (Greek, Hellenistic)community. News reached headquarters and they sent out theirtrusted man Barnabas to check out what was happening. Barnabasnoted that God was clearly at work: "he came and saw the grace ofGod" (v. 23), and encouraged the new believers in their faith. Hedidn't try to stop it! He didn't try to pour cold water on theirred-hot faith. He didn't put up structures that would stifle them.But neither did he leave them to their own devices. New believersneed careful training and encouragement. So, Barnabas set out tofind the right man for the job: Paul!

Paul could identify with the conversion and blossoming faith inAntioch, but he was also a leader with an incredible way of puttingtheology and Scripture into practice. He was one who wouldencourage growth, but wouldn't take any nonsense! Barnabas had thewisdom to know that Paul, at that time, would be ideal. (And eachyear, as Methodist ministers move around the country, the MethodistStationing Committee try to do the same thing!)

We can only imagine the strength of faith and the impact of thechurch's growth in Antioch, but we do know they were eager tocontinue the pattern of giving sacrificially, so that what they hadcould be shared with those in times of poverty. This was a mark ofthe early church. It was in Antioch that we got the nickname thathas stuck for nearly 2,000 years: "Christians" (v. 26)! It wasprobably meant as an insult, because in their words and deeds theywere constantly speaking of Christ.

To Ponder

  • Nowadays people tend to make a self-declaration about whetherthey are Christian or not. If we didn't give ourselves this label,to what extent would our words and actions be enough to earnit?
  • Barnabas was a 'son of encouragement'. Who has been importantin encouraging you? Maybe you could pray and thank God for them. Ifyou're able, maybe you could tell them yourself.
  • Are you good at discerning who would be good for a particularjob or ministry? How often might you assume instead that 'yourstruly' would be best?
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