What Barnabas Saw

“When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad…” ~Acts 11:23

When the church leaders in Jerusalem got word that the Greeks in Antioch were turning to the Lord, they sent Barnabas there to check things out. And what Barnabas saw convinced him that God was surely at work. He saw proof of the grace of God. It’s probably a good idea for us to try to identify the things Barnabas saw and look for those things in our own churches. Pay attention to those things. Give special consideration to those things.

Certainly Barnabas was impressed that these persecuted Christians were so boldly sharing the Gospel.

These Christians from Jerusalem / Israel were in the throes of oppression. Their friends and relatives were being beaten and thrown into prison. At least one of their leaders, Stephen, had been killed. They’d been scattered all over the world, separated from their relatives and communities. But “those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4). Those who wound up in Antioch found themselves in the middle of one of the most wicked cities in the Empire. And we don’t have even a hint of anyone complaining or questioning God. What they saw through the eyes of faith was not their negative circumstances — they saw a massive opportunity for the Kingdom.

Acts 8 gives us the story of Philip in Samaria. And now we have these unnamed disciples in Antioch.

“Some of them, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the Good News about the Lord Jesus.” ~Acts 11:20

We are not in the same situation in the United States in 2019. But it’s similar. I think we can draw parallels.

Christianity does not enjoy a favored status in the Empire of the United States anymore. The government no longer props up the Church here. The culture has turned against our Lord and his people. We’re on the outside of power now in the U.S. and on the way to being marginalized. On the way to persecution. You can pretend it’s not happening, but that doesn’t make it less true. We’re there. Jesus is no longer honored, his Church is no longer respected, and his truth is no longer believed in this country.

How do we see that?

We must see this as a tremendous opportunity! This is an incredibly exciting time! There’s all kinds of potential for miraculous Holy Spirit adventure here! We’re in uncharted territory that’s testing our faith and stretching our resolve. This is the best time — the perfect time! — for God to work in and through his Church to do something none of us has ever thought of or imagined! He’s capable. He’s done it countless times before. Do we see it? Are we even looking for it?

These unnamed disciples, these persecuted Christians who first started talking to the Greeks in Antioch — I wish we knew more about them. All we know is that in the middle of trouble they didn’t hide. They didn’t keep quiet for fear of offending someone. They didn’t compromise the Gospel or water down the truth for fear of getting in trouble. In a strange and sinful land, as outsiders in almost every sense of the word, they did not shrink from the mission. They proclaimed the Gospel of Christ!

How? How in the world could they be so bold? So confident? Fearless? Well, it was clear to Barnabas: only by the grace of God, which empowered them to share the Good News.

Do we see that same grace of God in our churches today? Are we even looking for it?

Peace,

Allan

4 Comments

  1. Leonard,
    Tap the brakes a little. “…Outside of power… on the way to being marginalized…”
    Think you might be in an echo chamber amigo. This is not Antioch or Samaria.

    #48

  2. The fastest growing religious category in the United States is “none.” The vast majority of Christian churches and denominations in this country are declining or shutting their doors. It is no longer necessary for a civic leader, business person, or respected professional in the U.S. to be a Christian or attend worship services. Societal and cultural shifts that used to take decades or even centuries to manifest are now, because of technology and other factors, happening much more rapidly, in less than ten years. Orthodox Christianity is on its way to being a minority viewpoint and practice in the United States. Generally speaking, it’s already beginning to feel like most things are tolerated, even celebrated, in the media and culture today except Christianity.

    And that may be a wonderful thing for the Kingdom of God.

    • Since we are speaking in broad generalities…
      Perhaps all those churches that are closing their doors had previously only been comfortable in white male led organizations with a message that was more exclusion rather than inclusion. Rules instead of grace. Perhaps they needed to close.

  3. It would be nice if that were the case — an easy fix. Unfortunately, churches and denominations of every stripe and color are declining. People are quitting traditional and contemporary churches, black and white churches and churches that are integrated, legalistic and grace-oriented churches, churches that have ordained women for decades and churches where women are not allowed to pass out bulletins in the foyer.

    We’re in a different time and we’re headed to a very different place. I believe the Church in America has only itself to blame for where we’re going; we are reaping what we have sown in many ways. But the dye has been cast. And, again, I think in the long run this is going to be good for the Kingdom. It’s a much-needed pruning. It’s going to hurt, but if the Church in the U.S. is going to produce any fruit, it’s got to happen.

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