Aside from that , one of the things that intrigued me was what he thinks the church needs to be fighting, what he called 5 global giants. — war, poverty, corruption, disease, and illiteracy. While I admit these are huge challenges and agree that as good citizens we ought to be concerned about them, is this the true, scriptural mission of the church?
In the New Testament book of Acts we learn about the founding, growth and work of the first century church. Following the persecution of Saul of Tarsus, the stoning of Stephen and the scattering of Christians, we read about the gospel message coming to Antioch of Syria, a city about 300 miles north of Jerusalem, which is the modern day city of Antakya.
The Bible says they were “telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. (Ax 11:20-21).
As a result, the church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch to see what was happening. The text says, “ When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. (Ax. 11:23).
What did Barnabas see?
(1) An Aggressive Outreach to the Lost.
They were sharing the Good News. Christ was preached. Hearts were touched. People were being converted. Barnabas joined in the efforts and enlisted the help of the apostle Paul.
These brethren were doing what Jesus came to earth to do. “To seek and save the lost” (Lk. 19:10). They were fulfilling Jesus’ Commission to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
it is our commission today. Our responsibility. Our reason for existing. William Temple expressed it this way, “The church is the only cooperative society in the world that exists for the benefit of its nonmembers.”
When Barnabas saw the grace of God at work, he saw Christians reaching out to the lost. That is still our mandate. Our focus. Our purpose.
What did else did Barnabas see?
2. A Grace Focused, Spirit Filled, God Praising Assembly.
Paul and Barnabas “assembled with the church” (v. 26). This verse and others throughout the Bible express the importance of Christians assembling for worship. To praise God. To edify one another. Their work and worship was directed by the Holy Spirit (Ax 13:1-3).
Too often people fail to make worship a priority. They consider it optional. And regard it as a rite or ritual. “Worship,” wrote A. W. Tozer, “is man’s full reason for existence. Worship is why we are born and why we are born again.” Let’s never take the worship assembly for granted.
What else did Barnabas see?
3. A Warm, Inclusive Fellowship of Jews and Gentiles.
The Gospel was first taken to the Jews only. Then the Hellenists and to all Gentiles (11:18-21). They worshiped together. Fellowshiped together. Enjoyed mutual spiritual blessings in Christ. God’s grace was upon them all.
We must welcome everyone into our fellowship who is a baptized believer. Race is unimportant. Ethnicity is irrelevant. Social status is inconsequential. Economic standing is immaterial. Our fellowship breaks down barriers. And brings us all together as one in Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).
What else did Barnabas see?
4. Committed Christians Growing in Discipleship
They were being taught the Word. They were learning. Growing. Developing. And maturing spiritually. Verse 26 says “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”
We might think the name “Christian” is found throughout the New Testament. But actually it’s used only 3 times. The term “disciple” however is found over 270 times in Scripture.
A disciple is a learner. A follower. A pupil. An adherent of another. It is an ongoing process. We are not to be Christians in name only, but to truly be disciples of Christ.
Finally what did Barnabas see?
(5) A Benevolent Church Serving Others’ Needs.
It is interesting that the gospel began at Jerusalem and through their efforts, Antioch came to know the grace of God. Now they reciprocate by helping their brethren when a famine struck Judea (Ax 11:27-30). They were not isolationists. They realized they were part of the larger Family of God.
Today, we ought to be concerned about the needs of our brothers and sisters around the world. Whether it’s a disastrous famine in Africa. A devastating Typhon in the Philippines. Or a destructive hurricane in Houston. When needs arise, let’s open our hearts and pocketbooks to help. When we do this we show forth the grace of God. “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Pet. 4:10).
The church at Antioch is a great example to us. They grew both in spiritual strength and in numbers. Their growth was not produced by a program, plan or marketing strategy. They grew because of a right relationship with God. And because the grace of God manifests itself in evangelism, worship, fellowship, discipleship and service.
What Barnabas saw at Antioch needs to be seen in our churches today.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman