Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, May 21, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

06/19/16 Sermon - Be a Barnabas

“Be a Barnabas”

Acts 11:19-30

 

We are continuing with the study of the Book of Acts. The apostles have been spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ as the Messiah who has come to save the Jews. Up until our reading of last week, the Jewish Christians had scattered the Roman Empire preaching to only the Jews. But as we read last week, Peter had been given a vision from God stating that God had come to save “everyone” including the Gentiles. Today’s Scripture brings us back to what had been happening for those Jewish Christians who had not been with Peter but had scattered in other places. We are told, that after the persecution of Stephen Christians scattered as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch.  

At the time, when they came to the city of Antioch, it was considered by many as the greatest city in the Empire, after Rome and Alexandria. Antioch was known for some good things, such as its sophistication and culture, but it was also known for its immorality.

The city was morally corrupt with cults of Artemis and Apollo employing ritual prostitution.  But, because God was with those disciples in Antioch, their ministry was blessed and multiplied, resulting in a great number believing and turning to the Lord.

Good news travels fast, and the church in Jerusalem heard what was happening so they decided to send Barnabas to go to Antioch to check things out. We have met Barnabas previously in Acts 4 and Acts 9. In Acts 4 we read about Barnabas’ generosity. He gave of his extra to those in need.  And in Acts 9 we read how he warmly accepted Saul of Tarsus after he was converted, when others had doubts. His name, Barnabas, means “son of encouragement”. Barnabas found ways to encourage others, with his money and belongings and his words and uplifting support.

Barnabas arrived in Antioch and the Scripture reads he “saw the grace of God”. Barnabas didn’t scrutinize what was going on, as I am sure they were not doing things exactly in Antioch as they were doing in Jerusalem. Luke writes that Barnabas was glad to see God’s grace among them.

He was alsonwilling to show continued grace by encouraging them to keep doing what they were doing and to keep listening and obeying the Lord. Luke continued to describe Barnabas as a “good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith”. We also read that even more people were added to the Lord because of his encouragement and faithfulness to what the Holy Spirit was doing. As a leader of the church, Barnabas set out to strengthen the church family itself and the results were God centered, not Barnabas centered.

This is the best plan for church growth. Paul writes about it in Ephesians 4. Those who are mature in Christ dedicate themselves to those who are younger in their relationship with Christ. Equipping them for the work of the ministry, growing in maturity and cause more growth of the body of Christ.

Barnabas was hanging out in the church in Antioch and for whatever reason, we are not told, he remembers his colleague Paul, who had returned to his home town Tarsus for his own protection, twelve years ago. Barnabas decided to hunt for him.

The original Greek work suggests a laborious search on Barnabas’ part. He managed to locate Saul and the two of them, together, “taught a great many people” helping the church in Antioch become strong.

It seems to me that although Barnabas may have been known as the “son of encouragement” he was also in need of some encouragement of his own. Rather than lead the church in Antioch by himself, Barnabas took the time to find his friend and bring him back and work side by side with him, together. Such as Solomon wrote in

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.

We also read that it was in Antioch that those who were associated and believed in Jesus were first called “Christians”. 

 

The ending “ian” meant “the party of”, thus a Christian was “of the party of Jesus”. Another word would have been “Jesus-ites” or “Jesus People”, those who were part of the group that associated with Jesus Christ.

 

This was a common way of calling people who were associated with a particular leader. There were those who were soldiers for Caesar and they would have been Caesarians. The thought was that in Antioch, the term probably was first used to mock the followers of Jesus. History reports that Antioch was famous for its readiness to jeer and call names, as well as for its witty epigrams. So as the people of Antioch began calling the followers of Jesus “Jesus People” the believers appreciated the name, and so it stuck.

 

Barnabas and Saul were then asked to help the church out. It turns out Agabus, one of the members of the church from Jerusalem, was shown by the Spirit, that a famine was on its way. He came to Antioch to share the news. Those in the church believed the prophecy enough to take up an offering to assist their fellow believers. Luke writes that they gave, “each according to their own ability”. They then trusted Barnabas and Saul with their relief fund and asked them to deliver it in person. Barnabas and Saul had obviously earned the church at Antioch’s high regard and trust.

 

This section of chapter 11 in Acts reveals a great deal to us of the character of Barnabas. As it being Father’s Day I would like to review what these characteristics were. Not only for the men in today’s service but for all of us. For the traits Barnabas demonstrated are worthy for each of us to consider emulating and putting into practice.

 

Barnabas was seen as:

Generous with a warm heart to others, especially those who needed support, such as Saul, when he first became saved. Barnabas believed in Saul, and encouraged him to continue, to not give up. Barnabas demonstrated generosity in two ways; first with his extra money and then with his kindness. Some of us are blessed with extra money, but each of us has the ability to demonstrate generosity with kindness.

 Barnabas was capable of seeing the grace of God in action. He had the ability to discern when God was around or when God was not around. This discernment takes time with God and prayer. Time consciously recognizing God’s grace when it happens and prayer to confirm what is perceived. In order to be able to discern in this way, one needs to be confident in the Holy Spirit’s ways. This takes knowing what those ways actual look like, and this knowledge comes from studying the Scripture and concentrated prayer.

Barnabas also chose not to go it alone. He sought out a partner. He even demonstrated tenacity and taking the time to travel and hunt his friend, Saul, down and bring him back with him to Antioch.

All of these characteristics demonstrate Barnabas’ central trait, humility. God was first for Barnabas. He did not consider himself to be the important one.  He led others to believe the same way. We will see later on in Acts how Barnabas’ humility reveals itself again with his partner Saul.

As for today, may each of us become more like Barnabas,

          Generous with a warm heart to others

          Capable of seeing the grace of God in action

          Chosing not to go it alone, but to find a fellow believer to work beside

          Humility

 

Let’s pray.