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Acts 11:22–26

“Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (vv. 25–26).

The news that many gentiles in Syrian Antioch were converted to faith in Christ soon reached the church in Jerusalem, as we see in Acts 11:22. It was natural for the Jerusalem church to take an interest in the growing community of believers in Antioch, for the Jerusalem Christians had just been informed of the conversion of Cornelius and because the Jerusalem church was where most of the initial Apostolic ministry had taken place (vv. 1–18). The report that “the hand of the Lord” was with the outreach to the gentiles in Antioch (see v. 21) confirmed that Cornelius’ conversion was no fluke. God was indeed bringing the nations to faith in Him, as the prophets had foreseen (e.g., see Isa. 2:1–4).

When the Jerusalem church heard of the successful ministry in Antioch, it sent Barnabas there (Acts 11:22). The early church was connectional; congregations did not seek to be independent but sought to be in ecclesiastical fellowship. Upon arriving in Antioch and seeing the “grace of God”—the evidence of the Lord’s saving work—Barnabas “was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” (v. 23). Barnabas’ real name was Joseph, but the Apostles called him “Barnabas,” which means “son of encouragement” (4:36), and his encouraging the church in Antioch shows us how apt that name was.

The Holy Spirit blessed the ministry of Barnabas, and he soon realized that he could not continue ministering effectively to the Antiochian church alone. So he went about 150 miles away (by land) to Tarsus, where Saul went after facing threats against his life in Jerusalem (see 9:26–30). Barnabas brought Saul to Antioch, and the two ministered there for a year, teaching the church the Word of God. There in that city, believers in Jesus were first called Christians (11:25–26).

Barnabas’ willingness to call on Saul for help displayed humility. Saul was especially gifted and became an Apostle, perhaps the most important teacher in the church after Jesus Himself. Instead of envying Saul and refusing to work with him, Barnabas chose to bring him to Antioch. Matthew Henry writes: “If God by his grace inclines us to do what good we can, according to the ability we have, we ought to rejoice if others that have also larger capacities have larger opportunities, and do more good than we can do. Barnabas brought Saul to Antioch, though it might be the lessening of himself, to teach us to seek the things of Christ more than our own things.”

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Barnabas is an excellent example of one who thought of others before himself, who was driven by humility and characterized by the Christian virtue of love, which is not envious of others (1 Cor. 13:4). We should not envy the gifts and opportunities that God gives to other believers, but we should rejoice in them and make use of them for the sake of the gospel.

For further study
  • Deuteronomy 1:38
  • Proverbs 14:30
  • Galatians 5:25–26
  • 1 Peter 4:10
The bible in a year
  • 2 Kings 18–19
  • John 6:22–59

The Gospel Spreads to Antioch

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From the May 2024 Issue
May 2024 Issue