“When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” (Act 11:23)
With the massive dispersion of believers throughout the great regions, The Word spread quickly – so much so that other cities began to hear the astounding news of the Gospel. Luke tells us that followers of Jesus traveled from Jerusalem as far as Phoenicia, and Cyprus, and other cities telling the story to an ever-widening audience – with extraordinary results.
Luke writes, “The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21).
Antioch was one of those cities.
News of this awakening among the Gentiles reached the apostles in Jerusalem: and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. Luke tells us that “when Barnabas arrived he saw the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.” (Acts 11:23)
Don’t miss the connection in Luke’s choice of words. He tells us first that “the hand of the Lord was with them.” (this does not mean there was a big hand floating around everywhere they went). For then he writes that Barnabas arrived and “saw the grace of God.” The two are the same. Both expressions mean “the power of God.”
Barnabas saw the grace of God. It was tangible, evidential, palpable. It wasn’t a mere theological concept; it was truth with boots. There was an empowered activity happening in the lives of the Gentiles. It was the grace of God – enabling them to be who God created them to be, and to do what He called them to do.
This proved to be a very important moment in the progress of the Gospel.
Antioch was located on the river Orontes in Syria, north of Palestine. It was considered the third city of the Roman Empire, and has been dubbed “the Paris of the ancient world.” It would eventually become the staging area for the spread of the Gospel around the world. From here, Paul and his companions later went forth on their missionary journeys, taking the good news to the Gentiles everywhere.
What Barnabas saw in Antioch was the power of Christ working in the lives of those Gentile believers of Antioch who embraced the will of God for themselves.
The first thing Barnabas did was to travel to Tarsus and find Paul, that he might bring him to Antioch and see this for himself.
I’ll tell you why tomorrow.