The church at Antioch in Syria, north of Jerusalem, is the mother of almost all Gentile Christian churches. Due to God’s work (v. 21), there were many believers there and so the Jerusalem church responds by appointing Barnabas and sending him as their representative to nurture the believers.
With the arrival of Barnabas in Antioch, an even greater number of people are added to the church (v. 24). Luke reports that Barnabas brought with him Saul from Tarsus. Then, for a third time, he tells of great numbers of people in Antioch (v. 26).
Barnabas was an encourager (v. 23). Both he and Saul established the church by providing sound teaching for a whole year (v. 26). At Antioch, believers are first called Christians (v. 26), literally, “belonging to Christ”.
Luke describes a well-taught church, showing clear evidence of repentance and faith. The church at Antioch:
- Listens to and respects the prophetic word of Agabus (v. 28).
- Responds to the Word with financial generosity (v. 29).
- Is culturally diverse. This is reflected in their leaders, who include Jews, a black African, and a north African (Acts 13:1–3).
- Has leaders who are sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2).
- Generously shares their best personnel (Acts 13:3).
This clearly challenges the mind-set that would keep the best for self and let God have the rest.
Again, the expansive purpose of God is at the forefront of events. Luke records that the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). Other similar words of God are recorded in Acts 5:20; 8:26; 9:15; 10:20; 16:9–10; and 18:9–10.
Do you keep the best and share the rest?
How can your church nurture believers in their relationship with God and then send them out to help other churches grow?