Saturday 11 June 2016

Bible Book:

“When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced…” (v. 23)

Acts 11:19-30 Saturday 11 June 2016

Psalm: Psalm23


What was it that Barnabas saw when he arrivedamongst the early Christian believers in Antioch? Barnabas himselfwas from a Jewish-Cypriot family and appears to have been convertedas a result of the dispersal following Stephen's persecution. Thisstarted mission beyond Palestine, but at first only to Hellenistsor Greek-speaking Jews (verse 19).

Some of these converted Jews travelled to Antiochin northern Syria which, at that time, was the third largest cityof the Roman Empire. In this cosmopolitan trading city, theseHellenists proclaimed the truth about Jesus not just to fellowJews, but to Gentiles (non Jews) too (verse 20). When the 'mother'church in Jerusalem heard about this, the Apostles clearly felt aneed to look into such innovation; Barnabas was chosen andinstructed to check out what was happening in Antioch (verse 21).The choice was inspired. In Acts 4:36 we read that the nameBarnabas ("son of encouragement") was given to him by the Apostleswhen they welcomed him years before into the Jerusalem church. Andin Acts 9:26-30, Barnabas more than lives up tohis name by bringing the post-conversion Saul/Paul to the Apostlesin Jerusalem when they were still understandably very afraid ofhim.

What the warm-hearted Barnabas saw when he reachedAntioch was "the grace of God". Instead of being concerned aboutthe mixture of Jews and Gentiles being brought to the Lord, herejoiced with them that God's gracious love was for all people,regardless of background. Not surprisingly, this inclusiveunderstanding of God's mission resulted in quite an increase inworkload! Barnabas soon realised that he needed help, but who? Itneeded someone who could command the respect of the Hellenists, soprobably a Jew, but also someone willing to meet the Gentiles onequal terms. With great wisdom Barnabas chose Paul, who had beenliving in Tarsus (Acts 9:30) for a decade following his DamascusRoad conversion.

The extraordinary grace of God is revealed in somany ways in today's passage, but perhaps none more so than inPaul. Enthusiastic persecutor of followers of Jesus, he istransformed by a personal experience of the living God. Yearslater, Barnabas encourages Paul's fuller participation in God'ssaving purpose for the world. In verses 29-30 we read about theirjoint leadership in providing charitable relief to those sufferingdrought in Judea. What a story of rebellion transformed intoredeeming love, but timely encouragement was all-important.

To Ponder

  • Are there people that you need to give God thanks for, who haveencouraged you on your faith journey? Take the opportunity to doso.
  • In your circle of family and friends, who might need a word ofencouragement today?
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