Summary: To establish the church must look beyond its doors, its city, and its state, if it is to fulfill the Great Commission. This lesson discusses the expansion of the gospel of Christ beyond Jerusalem into the Gentile nations, by men of color.
1. The Commission of Barnabas
2. The Consolation of Barnabas
3. The Character of Barnabas
1. After the conversion of Cornelius and the persecution that arose as of the result of Stephen's Stoning, the gospel had reached other cities beyond Jerusalem. Men had traveled as far away as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching Christ unto people other than Jews. And with great success, Luke says: "The hand of the Lord was with them, and great numbers believed and turned unto the Lord." Antioch was the third largest city in the known world, exceeded only by Jerusalem and Alexandria. And from this city would precede three missionary journeys, and the name “Christian” would be first spoken of there.
2. The church at Jerusalem thought it wise to send Barnabas, a man from the country of Cyprus by birth, "as far as Antioch" to look over this new work. This was customary in the first century, as you recall, Peter and John went down to Samaria after the work had been started by Philip, in Acts 8. So his commission was to "go to Antioch." This was in keeping with the Great Commission, and vision of Christ.
3. When Barnabas got to Antioch, he was wise enough to take time to look over the situation; after all there were Gentiles converts, as well as Jews. When he got there, "he seen the grace of God, and was glad." He brought a simple message, being the Son of Consolation, and that was to encourage them all "with purpose of heart to cleave unto the Lord." In other words, continue “with the Lord.”
4. Lastly, we see Barnabas' goodly character and manner of life. He is described as being a "good man, full of the Holy Ghost and faith." It is men with the character traits as these which make a tremendous impact in the church, and in their communities. The church today needs more men like Barnabas; men who are first equipped; and then, willing to take on the responsibility of doing the Lord's work far and near. Let’s consider our first point, “the commission of Barnabas.”
BODY OF LESSON
I THE COMMISSION OF BARNABAS
A. Clearly Luke points out, it was not the evangelistic spirit of the Jerusalem church which caused the work of Samaria or Antioch to get started, but a hand full of dedicated men not afraid of criticism or rebuke from misguided men. The church at Jerusalem had become dormant, stale, no longer visionary, or missionary minded.
1. First, the view of Jesus for the church was worldwide: "Ye shall be witness of unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth," Acts 1:8. Peter on Pentecost, "For the promise is unto you," Acts 2:39. And Jesus, “other sheep I have…,” John 10:16. Paul called the Gentiles “the afar off.” He writes to the Ephesian church:
a. Their former life: “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile…,” Ephesians 2:11-17.