"When he (Barnabas) arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced."
BE OPEN TO CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE (TO SEE GOD'S PERSPECTIVE) – "When Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, 3 saying, " You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them." … 8 When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, "Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life." (See vv.1-18) Because of religious and national pride and prejudice many Jews rejected Gentiles. But a careful reading of the OT shows that God's plan of salvation was not just for the Jews but that through the Jews the whole world would come to salvation (Genesis 18:18; 22:18). And the way to salvation has always been by faith not by law. (Rom. 4:16-17) It was because the Gentiles (non-Jews) rejected God that God called His people to separate themselves from them and He even used His people to be His rod of judgment against the Gentile nations because of their vile sin (child sacrifice, etc. Leviticus 18:24-25). But even then God called the Jews to welcome all people who would follow Him by faith. Even intermarriage with Gentiles who followed God by faith (Ruth and Boaz) is seen in the OT. The book of Jonah shows God's love for lost Gentiles and Jonah's pride and prejudice. But pride and prejudice exist in every nationality and individual apart from God's Spirit. Here in Acts 11, Peter used both Scripture (v.16) and other witnesses (v. 12) to validate his experience which is the path of wisdom (Acts 17:11; Prov. 15:22) Jesus calls us to be open to change, to have new wineskins so new wine will not burst the old skins (Matt. 9:17); to be open to new teachings about God's way of life. In a sense the whole Bible is a new way of thinking compared to the world's way of thinking so we need to "re-new" our minds regularly (Rom. 12:2). ["In the face of change, how do you handle the need for a new perspective? Resistance, excitement, fear, uncertainty?" Life Guide Bible study by Phyllis J. Le Peau] Our need for a new perspective (God's perspective) may occur in our marriage, in parenting, in changes at work, at church, in our income, or health.
GOD'S AMAZING GRACE TRANSFORMS PAIN INTO JOY FOR HIS GLORY –"So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. 23 Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced." (vv. 19-23) Persecution resulted in preaching the Lord Jesus. Imagine Barnabas arriving in a strange (Gentile) land where His people (maybe even some friends) had been scattered (driven out) from their homes and instead of seeing sad, discouraged people he saw the joy they had in seeing new friends (former enemies, i.e., Gentiles) coming to Christ, worshiping and serving God with them and becoming eternal brothers and sisters. Like these scattered believers when we trust and obey God in the midst of painful trials it is a testimony to others of the grace of God, the reality of God's amazing power. ["If anything is clear from the Bible it is this: the grace of God does not spare his people suffering in this age, but rather uses suffering to bring people to himself. The Son of God himself suffered to save people from condemnation. And now he turns suffering again and again for our good both in this age and in the age to come. Some years ago I saw Joni Eareckson Tada, who is almost totally paralyzed from a swimming accident, lift her arms as high as she could in her braces and shout, "This is the prison where God set me free." What she meant was that the pain and limitation and frustration brought on by her disability threw her back on God in such a way that she discovered what true freedom in life is all about-and it is not about arms and legs and skiing and jogging. It's about forgiveness and hope and love and meaning and eternal life. It's about knowing that God is for you and not against you even in suffering. That's how grace becomes visible." John Piper on Acts 11] Where have you seen God's amazing grace transform pain and sorrow into salvation and hope and love and meaning? In your own life? In the life of others? What loss or restriction or pain became the prison where God set you free?
THE EXAMPLE OF BARNABAS – "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith." (Hebrews 13:7) "The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. 23 Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; 24 for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. 25 And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." (vv. 22-26) Here we see Barnabas once again as a great example of faith for us to learn from and imitate. We saw him earlier as a great example of generosity and freedom from the love of money. "Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means "son of encouragement"), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet." (Acts 4:36-37) Then later on we saw him as the one who saw God's grace on Saul (Paul) when the apostles doubted and spurned Paul. "When he (Paul) came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus." (Acts 9:26-27) Barnabas again demonstrates God's grace as he comes along beside Mark when Paul did not want Mark to join them on a mission's trip because Mark had left Paul and Barnabas on an earlier mission's trip. (See Acts 13:13; 15:37-38) Yet near the end of his life Paul specifically asked for Mark to visit him in prison because "he is helpful to me in my ministry." (2 Tim. 4:9) Thanks to Barnabas' encouragement of Paul and Mark (both underdogs at one point) we have 1/3 of the New Testament.
Here is Acts 11 we see the church select Barnabas for this "cross-cultural" ministry (not an easy task) and Barnabas' yieldedness to God to go. We see his joy and delight in the grace of God as the scattered and persecuted believers from Jerusalem witness to Gentiles and many get saved. Barnabas got his joy in the work and fruit of God's kingdom. He exhorts and encourages these new Gentile believers to remain true to the Lord. Luke (led by the Spirit) calls him a good man and full of the Holy Spirit (surrendered to God – Eph. 5:18) and of faith (dependent on God). Then we see his wisdom and humility in seeing his need for assistance to disciple all these new Gentile believers and goes to get Paul to help him. Then they together taught a considerable number of them for an entire year. And lastly these Gentile believers gave as much money as they could to the Jews back in Jerusalem (that is a beautiful picture of God's grace too) and trusted Barnabas and Paul with every dime of it. (See vv. 27-30)
Sometimes the next step in Christian maturity is not learning more theology but simply investing our life in another person by befriending and encouraging them in the faith.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1) ["In the face of change, how do you handle the need for a new perspective? Resistance, excitement, fear, uncertainty?" In what areas of your life and Christian community do you face change now? How are you responding to this change? Life Guide Bible study by Phyllis J. Le Peau] This need for a new perspective (God's perspective) may occur in our marriage, in parenting, in changes at work, at church, in our income, or health.
2) Where have you seen God's amazing grace transform pain and sorrow into salvation and hope and love and meaning? In your own life? In the life of others? What loss or restriction or pain became "the prison where God set you free"?
3) "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith." (Hebrews 13:7) Out of all the wonderful qualities of Barnabas seen above, what about him do you admire the most and why?
4) Sometimes the next step in Christian maturity is not learning more theology but simply investing our life in another person by befriending and encouraging them in the faith. Who might that person be for you?
5) What "outcome of your way of life" or what legacy of faith do you want to leave that others would want to imitate?
6) What is your main take away from the message and table discussion and how can you apply it to your life?