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 began 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)
I remember having an argument / discussion with someone at a missions course we were at related to Paul’s approach to missions. At issue was whether we needed to reconstruct Paul’s manual for training from the book of Acts in order to provide missionaries with the methods of Paul to grow the church. As I finished off the last Gem: 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. 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.
Yes it is absolutely crucial to disciple people in order for them to stay true to the Lord, to be full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. I believe the matter of discipleship is a missing element in many churches today. We lead people to Christ, we ask them to accept Christ as their own personal Saviour and then we give them a book on the basics of discipleship and leave them to it. That is not discipleship. This first century church was on the verge of becoming a series of churches which had true local cultural identity as believers and yet remain true to the calling as Christians. Christ’s ones. Followers of Christ. Who better than Barnabas and Saul to teach them how. Our discussion (argument) at the missions course I mentioned above centred around this thought. My colleague suggested that we needed to know Paul and Barnabas’ approach. He had read widely on how Paul approached discipleship and missions. At the course we were on I must admit that there was an impressive array of material that had been gathered representing the essentials for discipleship and church planting. But my argument was that all of that was missing the point. I think the whole point is for people to learn to be followers of Christ. That is what a Christian supposedly is.
If God had meant for us to have the Paul and Barnabas Manual for Discipleship and Church Planting, don’t you think He would have given it to us? With all that Paul wrote in the New Testament surely we could have had the manuals included for our immediate use. We could then simply follow the manual step by step and lo and behold we would have a finished-ready-made disciple and a bonafide Christian, genuine to the core, unfailing in faith, undaunted by trial and equipped with power to go and do the task. What a pity that God didn’t think of that! “I guess You slipped up there, Lord.”
Before I return to this I want to share with you another similar experience and line of thought I gained in a class with Prof Brown when we were discussing the transmission of the NT text and the fact that we don’t have Paul’s original letters. The Autographs (author graphs). What we have are copies of copies. Thus we have this complicated process to determine what the original text was. I will never forget his question. What do you think we would do if we had the original letters of Paul? The idea came out that we would venerate them. They would become icons like the icons of the Catholic Church. This is a fragment of the robe Jesus wore, this is the chair Jesus sat on at the last supper, this is a piece of the bread that was multiplied and used to feed the 5000 . . . etc etc. Of course I am choosing examples that no one else chooses in order not to step on certain religious toes. But you get my point I am sure. We have a tendency to venerate, idolise and institutionalise those things that are not only dear to our faith but relics of our faith shall we say.
But Ian, surely there can’t be anything wrong with knowing just how Paul and Barnabas went about discipleship. Can there? Isn’t the person right in saying that it helps to work out what Paul did and what Barnabas did? Isn’t that what you meant when you talked in Bible Gem 1339 – Acts as a Manual – Church Growth or Missionary Manual?
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.
Then the king said to me, “What would you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it please the king, and if your servant has found favour before you, send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.”Nehemiah 2:4-5
When Elisha came into the house, behold the lad was dead and laid on his bed. So he entered and shut the door behind them both and prayed to the LORD. And he went up and lay on the child . . .2 Kings 4:32-34
Where did did Elisha get the idea to lie down on the boy? From the Church Growth Manual of the Holy Spirit? No, as a result of praying and the LORD answering himIan Vail
As Moses and Elijah were starting to leave, Peter, not even knowing what he was saying, blurted out, “Master, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”Luke 9:33
What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy.Paul Helligenberg