April 29, 2001
The Church in Antioch
KEY VERSE: As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. --Acts 13:2
God would not allow the gospel to owned privately by the Jews in Jerusalem. He used the persecution of Christians to spread the gospel to other lands. As Christians were scattered, they began preaching Christ, first to Jews, but soon to Gentiles also. And Antioch, the third largest city in the world at that time, became an important center for the early church.
There is no more beautiful explanation for the success of these disciples than that given by Luke in Acts 11:21 -- "And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord." When you want to pray for your church, pray for the hand of the Lord to be upon it. When you want to pray for your pastor, pray that the hand of the Lord will be upon him or her. That is what truly causes people to believe and turn to the Lord, and that is what all our churches need!
Here we find that beautiful servant of Christ, Barnabas, the encourager. What an example Barnabas is for clergy and laity alike!
Barnabas went on a fact-finding, short-term mission to Antioch, and loved the church there so much that he stayed on for more than a year. When he saw the grace of God working in Antioch, Barnabas "was glad." Look at that. Before he "exhorted" the people, he was glad! Here was a man in whom the words of the Psalmist were lived out: "Serve the Lord with gladness." And people still rally behind a leader who serves them, and the Lord, with gladness!
Another commendable trait of Barnabas was his humility. He was not too pround to admit he needed help with the work at Antioch, so he sought out Paul and invited him to join his team. There is no indication of envy or discontent when Paul quickly emerged as the leader in the work they shared for Christ.
The strength of the Antioch Church became evident in its willingness to raise up and send out workers to tell others the good news of the gospel. We should pray that the Lordís hand will be upon our churches so that we are ready and willing for God to call forth our sons and daughters to go to the ends of the earth to spread the gospel. We can never be content to praise God in Jerusalem; we must do whatever it takes to "go into all the world" to reach all people everywhere for Christ!