Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene beg an preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.
When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.
Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.) During this time some prophets traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up in one of the meetings and predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world. (This was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius.) So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea, everyone giving as much as they could. This they did, entrusting their gifts to Barnabas and Saul to take to the elders of the church in Jerusalem.Acts 11:19-30
It is clear to me what is happening here given the revelations over this time. One thing that surprises me is that Luke only gives us the details of Barnabas which are relevant to the points he wants to make concerning what was happening. We learn that Barnabas came from Cyprus in the context of the make up of the apostles and where they were from. (Acts 4:36) and that he sold a field and gave the proceeds to the apostles in a passage related to the attitude of shared wealth.
For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.Acts 4:36-37
Now with this passage we can connect a number of aspects of Barnabas and who he was to the nature of the task in hand. He is one who has been with the apostles since Acts 4 when the disciples were told not to talk in the name of the Jesus and then the healing took place and they were hauled before the Sanhedrin. Barnabas saw and heard all that happened first hand. We are told he comes from Cyprus so who better to send to Antioch to work with the the Gentiles and what has been happening in terms of the Gospel here. Not only that but his heart was set on encouraging the new believers in the light of his nature as the “son of encouragement”. Who better to send? I have wondered in the past why Peter was not sent as the early apostle to the Gentiles before Paul came on the scene. But it is clear if indeed these two phases are happening simultaneously that Peter was otherwise occupied. So the church needed to raise up a second echelon of those with the knowledge, experience and skills to carry the task forward. What we are going to see over this next phase of the move of the gospel from Jerusalem out through Judea, Samaria and to the outer most parts of the then known world was the widening base of leadership or experience upon what the fledgling church can draw.
This Barnabas is sent by the church to Antioch, the perfect choice, and the next one in line to be used of God for the ever increasing circles beyond which this message of Good News is going to move. The church are intentionally planning for growth. Good church leadership does that. Barnabas is their best man to send. Notice the use of the word “church” in verse 22. This is not Church as in the sense of the Church universal; Church as it is represented in all areas and facets of the meaning of the word. This is the church in Jerusalem, the church local. There is a very definite movement and empowering taking place in the words used. The church in Jerusalem is the one that has grown from the events which happened with Jesus present and then when He was absent but still confirming the things that were happening by outpouring of His Spirit. Now the disciples have all been indwell by His same Spirit and have the ability to discern when the Spirit is present among them and when He is not. They are learning to spot the fake by comparing it with the genuine. The numbers of people who are so empowered and have discernment are growing as too is the church, the body of believers beyond the initial 12 and then 120. This body of people need to become learners (exactly what the word disciple means) in order to be custodians of the spread of this gospel to other places. It is rapidly moving beyond them; the task is growing exponentially. So the next phase of leadership are being trained by doing.
The church in Antioch was not yet a recognised entity. That is what this segment is all about. Barnabas was sent to check out what was happening in Antioch. Notice the very definite steps that are listed for us by Luke:-
- When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
- When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord.
- Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.
- Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul.
- When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people.
- (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)
We are told some very definite specific steps in these few verses.
- Barnabas is sent commissioned by the church in Jerusalem in order to handle the huge numbers of people who are believing and turning to the Lord.
- Barnabas saw the same hand of the Lord on the things that were happening in Antioch and was reassured that this was all genuine.
- He encourages the believers to stay true. You might say disciples them. Wasn’t that that point of the Great Commission given by Jesus? “Disciple the people according to all I taught you.”
- Barnabas realised the task was greater than he could handle and he went to look for Saul. Who better to work with him on this?
- Barnabas brings Saul back to Antioch.
- Barnabas and Saul now stay in Antioch for a year, teaching large crowds of people to be believers – disciples – Christians.
There are very definite steps which are evident in this process. We will camp here for a while to make sure we don’t miss anything. Those turning to the Lord Jesus were going through a certain process. These disciples / apostles were simply outworking what Jesus taught them to do. Many leaders have looked at this portion of Scripture seeking to gain insights to the teaching manual used by Barnabas and Saul at this time. Notice it is not yet Paul and Barnabas. It’s still Barnabas and Saul.
Notice too the learners (disciples) are becoming apostles and leaders in this growing Church which had local expression everywhere it goes. This Church was on the verge of becoming churches which had true local cultural identity as believers and yet were true to their calling as Christians. Christ’s ones. Followers of Christ. Who better than Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement to teach them how, along with Saul the future apostle to the Gentiles to work with him on this. The scene is set for something significant.
These words and this progression are not throwaways. These few verses are crucial to understanding what happened, what was happening then and what is to happen in the future. Little wonder that Barnabas and Saul stayed in Antioch for a year. What a pity the Barnabas and Saul Manuals of Discipleship are missing! Imagine if we had those and could clone them all over the world. Imagine on a little longer.
The world is the field and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can be most used in winning souls for Christ.Count Zinzindorf
The greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue. It needs no furlough and is never considered a foreigner.Cameron Townsend (uncle Cam to us)
Jesus came and told His disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20
And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.Matthew 24:14
Our problem is not that we don’t know what to do, but that we don’t do what we know!Rick Godwin