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Friday, December 30 2011

Introduction: Another opportunity to learn more of the work of God in the lives of the men who turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6) is here!

Last week's topic, titled "Handling Criticism" was remarkable. We learnt about how matured and worthy of emulating, Peter handled the Hebraic Jews' criticism of his association with the Gentile centurion and the ultimate conversion of his household and himself. As we will see today, God's ways are higher than any man's and His thoughts are past finding. This was the beginning of a new phase of movements which has since continued till this very present moment - The Gentile Church!

CHANGE IN TIME (Vs 19)

Interestingly, beginning from this verse down, we are going to see some dramatic changes pre-planned by the Almighty God Himself for the sake of the propagation of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Personnel change from our beloved Apostle Peter to Barnabas and Paul, location change from Jerusalem to Antioch and time referral to the persecution of Stephen.

It's amazing how God orchestrates events simultaneously. In Acts 8, while God was preparing the Ethiopian eunuch for salvation, He was also guiding Philip to their meeting place in the desert. While God was preparing Saul for conversion, He was preparing Ananias for meeting with Saul to restore his sight and while God was preparing Cornelius for the arrival of Peter, He was also preparing Peter to go to the home of a Gentile. Same is true for our text today, while the Jews in Jerusalem were debating the legitimacy of the salvation of Gentiles; God was already at work saving Gentiles.

HELLENISTIC JEWS, NOT THE HEBRAIC JEWS (Vs 20 - 21)

Of course, God is not partial, neither is there discrimination in Him. "He knows us inside and out.." (Psalm 103: 14a MSG)

In reaching out to the Hellenistic Jews, God used their fellow brethren (Stephen, Philip, Paul and Barnabas etc). "God was pleased with what they were doing and put his stamp of approval on it?quite a number of the Greeks believed and turned to the Master." (Vs 21 MSG)

Supports the truth that God was the one orchestrating this.

HEBRAIC JEWS DECISION ACTED UPON (Vs 22)

What the Jerusalem church leaders (including the apostles) had decided in principle, they now had to act upon in practice - by sending Barnabas to Antioch.

BARNABAS, A MAN SUBMITTED TO THE HOLY SPIRIT (Vs 23 - 26b)

Real Name, Joses of Cyprus. First mentioned in Acts 4:36 as the fore -runner in the act of charity.  Nicknamed Barnabas (Son of encouragement) by the apostles. This verse implies that he has been in the background doing what he knows to do best - encouraging! Know any Barnabas in the house? Now finding themselves in the way they have not been used to, the Gentiles needed some cheering. Who else is most qualified to do this than our man? He's always done a good job in the lives of the Apostles when they needed to be encouraged. An incurable optimist! Nothing ever weighed him down! Barnabas was delighted at the salvation of these Gentiles. See what the word says about him;

When he arrived and saw what grace (favor) God was bestowing upon them, he was full of joy; and he continuously exhorted (warned, urged, and encouraged) them all to cleave unto and remain faithful to and devoted to the Lord with [resolute and steady] purpose of heart. (Acts 11:23 AMP - Emphasis Mine)

Continuously! A true encourager is diligent in what he does. The source of this attribute is not far-fetched;

For he was a good man [good in himself and also at once for the good and the advantage of other people], full of and controlled by the Holy Spirit and full of faith (of his belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom we obtain eternal salvation). And a large company was added to the Lord.

(Vs 24 AMP- Emphasis Mine)

It's not enough, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, with an evidence of speaking in tongues! The ultimate is to be led (controlled) by the Holy Spirit;

The true children of God are those who let God's Spirit lead them. (Rom 8:14 NCV)

We need to consciously train our spirit to obey the voice of the Spirit in little things. This is a sure way to grow. When we learn to obey little instructions, we will not struggle in obeying some destiny determining instructions as we grow in the Lord.

Barnabas did not only encourage these Gentile Christians, he also went to Tarsus and sought Saul. He was not threatened by God's gift in Paul. In fact, if you recall in Acts 9: 26 - 30, he was the one that recommended Paul to the leaders in Jerusalem. He also took Mark with him when rejected by Paul in Acts 15. Barnabas was indeed a very good man who always sought after the good of and what will benefit and be of advantage to other people. This is the legacy we should all leave for the coming generation!

ARE WE TRULY LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFESTYLE? (Vs 26b - 30)

I believe that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch because of the sudden change in the Lifestyles of the Gentile believers! Sudden, because these have only been converted and taught the word of God for a Year! They were all very united in purpose and ultimately, LOVE! It was this love that compelled them to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea at the prophecy of an impending famine.

CONCLUSION

 One of the first signs of the truly saved is in their undeniable willingness to give sacrificially (out of pure love). Giving in all forms. No wonder they were called Christians! The foundation upon which the Christian faith is built is LOVE! This is the ultimate and the highest walk! The very first response of the Gentiles to the faith that they have come to sincerely embraced was in their showing of Agape Love through giving.

Whereas agape love is eternal, tongues will cease when we leave this earth. Love (Agape) will cross the barrier of death and go on to Heaven with you. (Dave Roberson)

 

Contributor: Leye Olayiwola

 

 

Posted by: Isekhua Evborokhai AT 04:24 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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