Event(s): Barnabas and Saul at Antioch
Today’s Text: Acts 11:19-30
Tomorrow’s Text: Acts 12:1-24
Our scene now shifts over to Antioch, the third largest city in the Roman Empire. With the possible exception of Corinth, this city was perverse, to say the least. Immorality abounded in the city of Antioch more so than in any other city of the empire. Yet it was here that a hub was established for missionary work to the Gentiles. We can never say that the world is too dark for the kingdom of God to move forward. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.
Acts 11:23 “When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad…” A great spiritual health indicator is whether we celebrate the things of God and focus on the good that is taking place, or whether we criticize it.
For example, when we see people come into church who smell of alcohol or smoke, are we happy to see them and think, “Great! They’re in the right place”? Or do we instead let our imaginations drift off and begin to wonder what they were doing last night and think about how they should have “cleaned themselves up” before coming to the house of God?
Barnabas was glad to see that the grace of God was obviously given to all, and not only was he glad to see it, he added to what was taking place by speaking words of encouragement to them.
Acts 11:25 “then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.” Barnabas saw all these different types of people groups – Hellenists, Grecians, pagans, being added to the church. He loved them and encouraged them, but he knew that what was really needed was someone who could speak to them effectively. Instead of trying to be something he wasn’t, he went looking for Saul, who would be the perfect match for the job. He knew the potential that was in Saul and then brought him to the environment where that potential could be drawn out and maximized. This is one of the most beautiful expressions of leadership – to see the gift that God has placed within people and to then be used by God to make the connections that will ignite that gift.
Acts 11:27 “and in those days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch”
The gift of prophecy is the gift of communicating and enforcing truth that has been revealed by the Spirit of God. It involves foresight and/or being able to see (or hear) what is not yet revealed or seen in the natural. It is a supernaturally imparted ability to hear what God is saying or to see what God is doing, and then to speak God’s mind or counsel to the people accordingly. In 1 Corinthians 14:3, we learn that the primary purpose for prophecy is for:
- Edification: meaning, to build up, strengthen or to make more effective.
- Exhortation: meaning to stimulate, to encourage, to admonish.
- Comfort: to cheer up.
The gift of prophecy is one in which any Spirit-filled believer can operate, because prophecy is a gift, a byproduct, of being filled with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:1-11). “…All can prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:31).
However, there is also what is commonly referred to as the “office” of the prophet. Though the term office does not exist in the Bible, it is the easiest way, in our common language, to refer to those whom God has appointed to a specific function, as a gift to the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11). Much like we can all, as children of God, take on aspects of shepherding, or caring for God’s people, there are those whom God has specifically appointed as Pastors of the flock. We can think of it this way – the gift of prophecy is a gift given to each individual believer; whereas a prophet – the person – is given as a gift to the body of Christ.
Barnabas had such a great perspective on life, money, people and leadership. Remember, he was the one who had sold his property and brought the proceeds to The Church in Acts 4:36. When the “rough crowd” started being converted, he celebrated them and encouraged them to continue on more in Christ. He lived generously, and instead of pining for position, he looked for opportunities to call out the potential in others.
Properly named, as his name literally means, “The Son of Encouragement”, Barnabas used everything at his disposal – his property, his words, his money, to “add courage” to others. What a great example and inspiration. Let us do the same.
The very definition of the word encouragement means: the act of making something more appealing or more likely to happen; something that makes someone more determined, hopeful, or confident. Today, let’s practice being used by God to “make something more likely to happen” in the life of someone else. Because of the Holy Spirit abiding within us, all of us can operate in the gift of encouragement. Here’s a couple of ideas to get your wheels turning:
Who do you know that is gifted in some area, but is perhaps hiding behind a curtain and not courageous enough to step out? Speak a hopeful word to them – add courage to them and let them know you believe in them. Maybe even accompany them as they take their next step.
Who do you know that is young in the faith, maybe even still a little rough around the edges, but is doing all they can to pursue a life in God? Speak a word of confidence to them. Cheer them on and let them know that you can see the determination in their hearts and that they are on the right course!
Is there an area where you can be a blessing to someone in providing for a practical need that will allow them to take the next step towards their dream? Live generously!
Bottom line, let’s think outside the box and allow ourselves to be used by God to make some great connections – to make something more appealing or more likely to happen. Let’s be an encouragement. You never know, God could use us to be the next Barnabas that releases the next Saul into their full potential.