The story so far
The gospel has reached the Gentiles and everything has changed… again. No longer is this message only for the Jews, but it’s for the world. We pick up the story as Peter is having to explain himself to the Jews in Jerusalem who, at first, cannot understand why a devout Jewish man has defiled himself in so many ways whilst visiting Cornelius.
Reading: Acts 11
Explaining everything in precise detail, Peter and the witnesses share how they saw God’s hand move, His Spirit fall and that their conclusion was that God had accepted the Gentiles and given them His stamp of approval.
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning.
Welcome to a whole new world!
The Gospel is spreading, with news of the Gentiles becoming followers of Jesus in Antioch, Barnabas is sent to check it all out.
Antioch itself was a world away from Jerusalem. It was considered one of the great Roman cities, famous for business and commerce, but also its immorality. A whole new world indeed.
Having spent time there, Barnabas travels to specifically hunt for Paul.
At this significant point in Acts, it’s Barnabas who again reaches out to Paul. He’d stood up for him in Jerusalem (Acts 9) and here he intentionally goes in search of Paul, who’d been sent back to Tarsus to avoid the murderous threats against him in Jerusalem. Paul’s unscheduled stint in Tarsus, scholars believe, turned out to be around 12 years!
I reckon Barnabas had a glimpse of the man who Paul could become, how he would be a significant piece in God’s plan for the spread of the Gospel and he wasn’t prepared to leave him in Tarsus.
We all need people around us like Barnabas who can encourage, strengthen and build us up. Who can spur us on to love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24-25) Who can inspire us and encourage us to rise to new levels of faith, expectation and service.
We all need people like Barnabas
But we can all be a Barnabas to someone else.
Strengthening, encouraging, building up, championing, inspiring…
The writer describes Barnabas as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.”
What characteristics to aspire to!
Contributed by Ps Jonny