Acts 11:22
It is interesting to see how God works in many ways toward one end, and how, from the first day of the Christian era, he has been acting on the world and on the Church, making all things to move toward one glorious issue.

I. THE MANY WAYS OF GOD'S WORKING. We may be reminded:

1. How he defeats his enemies. "They which were scattered abroad upon the persecution... traveled... preaching the Word," etc. (ver. 19). If the enemies of the truth had been its best friends, they could not possibly have taken a course more favorable to its circulation and establishment than the one they took. God overrules the designs of his foes, and turns their attacks upon his kingdom into actual support. Again and again has the enmity, the cruelty, the violence, the cunning of sin been compelled to subserve the interests of righteousness. Mischief smites down the standing corn of truth, but, so doing, it sows living seed from which a large harvest will rise.

2. How he teaches his 'fiends. Those who were scattered abroad went "preaching the Word to none but unto the Jews only" (ver. 19). They did not understand that the gospel was intended for mankind: this was an enlargement of view which the Christian Church had then to gain. Its Divine Master had to teach it this most necessary lesson. How should he do this? He might have done so

(1) by the direct inspiration of his Holy Spirit; or

(2) by manifesting himself to some one of the apostles and conveying through him his mind on the matter. But he chose to do this

(3) by the teaching of his providence. "Some of them" - we do not know who, some whose names are lost and will never be discovered - some men from Cyprus and Cyrene, "when they were come to Antioch, spake, unto the Greeks [not 'Grecians'], preaching, the Lord Jesus." And this unpremeditated, irregular work proved to be marvelously successful (see ver. 21). When the Church at Jerusalem heard of these unauthorized proceedings, they dispatched Barnabas to inquire into the matter (see ver. 22). The nobility of his character and excellency of his spirit triumphed over the narrowness of his views, and, instead of disowning and discouraging the work, he acknowledged its Divine origin and furthered it to the height of his power. And thus the seal of apostolic sanction was set to the broader aim and the larger hope. Thus God leads us into his kingdom of truth. He places us in such circumstances that we take right steps without realizing all the consequences therein involved, and then our convictions rise to the height of our actions.

3. How God uses his servants. "Then departed Barnabas... to seek Saul" (ver. 25). Barnabas served God and his race in one way, Saul in another. Barnabas was not the man to do what Paul afterwards did. He had not the evangelizing, organizing, literary faculty in anything like the same degree in which his illustrious colleague possessed it. But he served the Church and the world in his own way. It was a valuable contribution to the cause of Christ and of the kingdom of God to introduce the distrusted convert to the confidence of the Church (Acts 9:27), and to give him such an opening for the exercise and training of his varied powers as that he now enjoyed at Antioch; it was an eminent and precious service thus to place on a firm footing and to bring into the foreground the man who was to be the means of doing such work as Paul accomplished for mankind. What immeasurable service have the fathers and mothers and teachers of our great reformers, evangelists, preachers, etc., rendered their race! Other men have other spheres to fill; that of Paul was the sphere of abounding activity. We may be sure that he had a great deal to do during those twelve months at Antioch, in "teaching many people" (ver. 26). Some in quieter, others in more active scenes; some in virtue of intellectual, others by means of moral and spiritual gifts; some by their influence on a few influential men, others by their action on the multitude; some by impressing their convictions on men by direct personal appeal, others by organizing and arranging; all in the way chosen of God and pleasing to him, play their part and do their work in their hour of opportunity.

II. THE ONE WORK OF GOD. At Antioch it became convenient to distinguish the converts to the new faith by some name which marked them off from the Jews; they were called "Christians." It is a mark which speaks of the rising tide of truth. It reminds us that God was working out a grand design, far, far beyond the elevation of a favored nation, viz. the redemption of the whole race of man by faith in Jesus Christ; he was and is engaged in "reconciling the world unto himself in Christ." - C.







Then tidings of these things came to the ears of the Church,...and they sent forth Barnabas.
You know the strain and the stress of the situation recorded in my text. We are speaking of Antioch, to which Barnabas is sent. Here, then, we have a strong, central, organised Church, going its own way on somewhat new lines, with a new environment, with a new development. And yet it causes a great deal of anxiety in those who are left at home in the old places in Jerusalem. This strong, assertive child of theirs, to what will it grow, what will happen to it? The very preachers who founded it made them at Jerusalem nervous. The gospel was in them as Stephen had proclaimed it; and they knew it was for the Greeks as well as for the Jews. It was the Greeks that were flocking in, from beyond the strict borders of the old race, and it was out of this people the Church grew. Such a Church would sit light by the old traditions. It was a new capital for Christianity, with altogether Gentile associations; and habits, and customs, and interests, and environment, and style of thought, and even of language, would none of them be Jewish. How different! And it was all going on so fast! "To what lengths are they going at Antioch? Where will they stop?" And so there was a bitter problem to solve, then as at all times; and it is difficult for us to realise how deep their anxieties would go; how possibly the Twelve would be almost as anxious as any. They might share the alarm with perfect loyalty. And then they had so much to think of — those Twelve at Jerusalem. There were the angry, hot-headed Pharisees, who believed in such numbers after the Lord had risen. They came pouring into the Church; but they were half Pharisees still. Their prejudices were very strong; and they had always been in terror of these Gentile converts; and here were the people at Antioch going ahead in a way just to give these people a sort of excuse to say, "Ah, we told you what would happen if these foreigners were let in!" And naturally the apostles say, "Well, we must be tender to these Jewish converts of ours, we must consider them, they are sensitive; there may be a recoil, a schism, if we do not hold in those at Antioch." We can measure how terrible the danger was by remembering how fierce was the storm when it did finally burst on the head of St. Paul. So severe was the crisis, so imminent the peril. And yet all was warded off; the storm that afterwards broke on St. Paul was kept clear for the moment, and it was all done by one man. One name, the most honourable and beautiful; one name that could hold things together for the time; one name that could persuade, conciliate, win confidence, and avert wrath. It is the name of a man of healing, of advocacy, of intercession, of prevailing comfort — Joses, who was called Barnabas, the Son of Consolation. Now, Barnabas held this unique position, that each side of the controversy had a claim upon him. First for Jerusalem. He is, as we know, the very model and hero of the earliest Church in Jerusalem. In those very first days of the Church, when it still lingered on the Temple steps, when the apostles were altogether dominant, even then one name is singled out as specially catching the spirit of the hour — Barnabas, the Levite, who, "having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet." As if to say that in that beautiful little Church, out of the host of people who were so good, one was supremely good, and he was Barnabas. He had the very spirit of generosity and charity that marked that hour. And yet Barnabas was not himself a Jew of Jerusalem; he was not a man who had been hedged in by all the ancient barriers and customs of the Jewish life. No; he was from Cyprus; he came from the very place to which these Antioch preachers had gone. He was a Jew of the Dispersion; he had got the temper and mind of a Jew who had lived in close contact with the Gentile life; and so disposed, he had been quick to understand, accept, and trust St. Paul. He was in sympathy with the Church at Jerusalem; he was in sympathy with the freer, bolder doings of the Church at Antioch. He would know these men who were going forward with such a dash. "Let Barnabas go" — that was the end of all these consultations. It was not a hostile mission, but one sent to allay a little alarm caused by wild rumour and exaggeration. Barnabas is just the man to review, to advise, to control anything amiss, to give confidence if he approves. So it was decided — "They sent forth Barnabas." It was a delicate mission; and we know what happened, and how well he carried it out. We read of his wisdom, his sympathy, his width, his firmness, his insight, his courage. He came, and he saw "the grace of God." Not suspicious, jealous, no standing aloof and refusing to acknowledge it. No, he saw it — it was "grace." Only he gave them some warnings against unsteadiness, "exhorting them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord." And then he does a most bold thing. He, so far, recognises that it is grace, true and real, that works at Antioch, that he determines to forward it with all his might; and he goes to Tarsus, where Paul is still in hiding, unable to work in a Church that suspects him. So he made the stroke of strokes — brought Saul to Antioch. That was the beginning of the work of St. Paul, of his ministry to the Gentiles; and all came from Barnabas, who had the courage to hold out his hand to Saul, and give him twice over to the Church. So triumphantly did he keep the unity of the Church and avert the storm. Antioch goes on growing apace, Barnabas and Paul working hand in hand for a whole year, "assembling themselves with the Church and teaching much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." "Barnabas," the mediator between the contrasted forces that press for mastery over the fortunes of the Church. Ah! yes, we need his name still, today as much as ever. There is always a Jerusalem and an Antioch in the story of the Church. There is always an Antioch being occupied, always some new centre of action to be taken up, some new post on the line of advance, some new venture to be made, breaking new ground. There must always be a new Antioch where the fresh forces of civilisation and culture are active — forces which the Church must go out to, and establish herself in the midst of them. They cannot be reached from the old centres. There must be some adaptation of methods to reach them. Then Jerusalem too. There is — there always ought to be — "Jerusalem" behind us — the witness to the Eternal Truth, the unchanging apostolic deposit, on which the passage of time marks no alteration; there must always be the infallible experience, which touched, which felt, and knew the Word of God — the old, firm, solid centre, whence indeed all new effort must take its rise. Jerusalem — the sacred hearth of the holy fire whence all other fires were lighted; the ancient home, dear to all who name the One Name, Jesus Christ — Jerusalem, the mother of us all. There must always be Jerusalem, and always Antioch; but the difficulty is to keep the two together. Each will be apt to misjudge and to think the worse of the other. Each will judge the other by its most perilous adherents. At Jerusalem they will hear of nothing of Antioch but what is headstrong, reckless, rash, audacious, insolent. At Antioch they will be groaning at the rigid stiffness and obstinacy, nervous timidity, narrowness, and suspiciousness of Jerusalem. So there will alway be the need of a Barnabas, ready to pass from the one to the other centre; gracious, capable, sympathetic, loyal to the backbone; yet appreciative, sensitive, inside the movement, strong yet benign. Such men save the Church at each sharp crisis in her story. We want this son of advocacy to hold us together, someone who is courageous without hardness, conciliatory without weakness, who is so strong that he can afford to be firm. We shall want him in days to come I doubt not. We remember the simple qualification that the Bible gives of St. Barnabas — "He was a man full of the Holy Ghost and of faith." That is all we want — someone sound and healthy to the core, someone felt to be morally wholesome, to have a good heart and a good nature all through, with nothing perverted or twisted about him, a man who has proportion and balance, and all his gifts in genial exercise. That first, "full of the Holy Ghost" — that Holy Ghost who is the Spirit of advocacy, who is so strong, who is so sweet and gentle — that Holy Ghost who is the very power that binds these two opposite gifts. He is the Spirit of fire, of vehement decision, the unconquerable purging force. And yet the Spirit of the wind — the Spirit so pliable, so elastic, so sensitive, so free, so moving, so quick, so ready to pass in and out, "blowing where it listeth." The fire and the wind, strength and gentleness — that is the power of this blessed Spirit of God. Barnabas has both gifts; and we want a Barnabas nourished by the Holy Ghost, and so lifted and transformed by the power of Him who is fire and wind, to be full of faith, to be full of loyalty to the living Christ.

(H. Scott Holland, M. A.)

I. WHAT BARNABAS WAS.

1. "He was a good man" — a man of a kind, affable, and courteous disposition. This "goodness," which is one of the fruits of God's Spirit, should characterise all Christians. It —(1) Adorns the doctrine of God our Saviour.(2) Attracts the notice of the unhappy worldling.(3) Wins the affections of the young.

2. He was also full of the Holy Ghost. An amiable disposition does not make a Christian. There are many whom we esteem for their sweetness of character, but who, like the young man that Jesus loved, yet lack one thing — the gift of the Holy Ghost.(1) No man can be said to be a true Christian till the Holy Spirit has shown him his guilt, and led him to the Saviour.(2) No man can call Jesus Lord but by the Holy Ghost.(3) The sons of God are led by, pray, walk, and live in the Spirit.

3. He was full of faith. He had the most implicit confidence in the remedy he was to apply to the souls of men.

II. WHAT HE SAW. "The grace of God" — i.e., its effects. These are sometimes seen in men's —

1. Countenances. Wisdom "maketh the face to shine." "A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance." And what can make the heart so merry as the assurance of salvation? Stephen's face was as "the face of an angel." Thus, too, was it with Moses. The believer may not be conscious of this heavenly expression. Others, however, will observe it.

2. Conversation. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." A man cannot himself feel the value of the Saviour without commending His preciousness to others.

3. Conduct. A tree is known by its fruits, so are believers known by their works.

III. WHAT HE FELT. He was glad because —

1. Souls were saved. A thirsty traveller would not rejoice over a dry well, nor a musician over a tuneless organ. Nor will the believer rejoice over ordinances, however well administered, unless he has evidence afforded that Christ is faithfully preached, and that good is being done to the souls of men.

2. A public profession of Christ was made. "With the heart man believeth, but with his mouth he maketh confession." Nothing gives so much consolation and influence to a minister and his people as when they first see one and then another coming out from the world and joining themselves boldly to the Lord's side.

3. Christ's presence was vouchsafed. Excellent as are a pure creed, a large Church, and an attentive congregation, the faithful minister will esteem them but formal and unprofitable unless he can see resting upon his labours Christ's presence and blessing.

IV. WHAT HE DID. Barnabas knew the weakness of the flesh and the power of Satan; and hence, although he saw the grace of God, he rejoiced with trembling. He saw the tree covered indeed with blossoms, and this made him the more anxious lest any of those blossoms should be blighted. He therefore exhorted these disciples. In every age similar exhortation has been needful. There are now, as there were then, false teachers, and temptations to seduce men from Christ into the world. Suffer ye the word of exhortation.

1. Do I address any who are growing weary in well-doing? — any who are beginning to be backsliders? I have an errand, O worldly professor, to thee: "Remember Lot's wife." Arouse yourselves, then, and do your first works.

2. I am doubtless addressing some who do not wish to be considered as religious professors. Now you I cannot exhort "to cleave unto the Lord," for you have never yet come to the Lord. To you I address this: "If in that day the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"

(C. Clayton, M. A.)

I. AUTHENTICATED THE GENUINENESS OF CHRISTIANITY AT ANTIOCH. Vers. 23, 24, shows us that personal Christianity —

1. Is essentially identified with Divine grace. It —

(1)Originates in it. "Of His own will begat He us."

(2)Is sustained by it.

(3)Is a reflection of it.

2. Is an observable fact. Barnabas saw it. It is not an inoperative sentiment, a light under a bushel. It must reveal itself.(1) The ruling spirit of life is new. There is a new heart. Old things are passed away.(2) The master purpose of life is new. The aim is not how to serve self or the world, but to glorify God.(3) The prevailing conduct of life is new. Converted men are about their Father's business.

3. In its extension delights the heart of the good. They know that as it spreads —(1) The world's happiness will be promoted. It is the only power that works off social, political, and moral evils.(2) God's character will be revealed. It clears away all that conceals the moral beauty of God.

4. In its development is dependent on personal efforts. Though it originates in Divine grace, it is only kept by cleaving to God.

II. GAVE A NEW NAME TO THE DISCIPLES.

1. Though given in derision —

(1)It towers above every other name.

(2)Represents the highest thinking.

(3)Stands for the Divinest sympathies.

(4)Is the inspiration of the grandest enterprises.

(5)Produces the sublimest characters.

2. Is destined to supersede all other names that have usurped its place.

III. DEVELOPED A NEW SPIRIT OF BENEFICENCE (vers. 27-30). This was —

1. Individual. "Every man." There was no one who did not contribute something.

2. Proportionate. "According to his ability" — not according to what others did or expected.

3. Prompt. They did not postpone it for future consideration.

4. Judicious (ver, 30).

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

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