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 traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching Christ unto people other than Jews. Luke wrote: "The hand of the Lord was with them, and great numbers believed and turned unto the Lord." Antioch was the third largest city, exceeded only by Rome and Alexandria. And from Antioch there will precede three missionary journeys; and, the name “Christian” was first spoken there.
2. First, we will consider Barnabas’ commission. He was sent by the church at Jerusalem, "as far as Antioch" to help out. He was a Levite from the country of Cyprus, by birth. 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 the vision of Christ.
3. Second, we will discuss Barnabas’ consolation when he 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 in this congregation. 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 will investigate 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 in the word; 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, and was no longer visionary, or missionary minded. Notice:
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. Jesus told his apostles this at His ascension.
2. Peter on Pentecost, "For the promise is unto you, and your children, and to all that are far off," Acts 2:39. This promise included both Jews and Gentiles. Notice:
a. The Gentiles were the Lord’s: “Other sheep I have,” John 10:16.
b. Paul called the Gentiles “the afar off that were made nigh” by Christ.
c. He wrote to the Ephesians: “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,” Ephesians 2:11-17.
3. Further, the “Great Commission” had become lost and stifled by the leadership in the Jerusalem church. They were toiling over the question: "Who is my neighbor?" Illustrate: The Good Samaritan, Luke 10:29-37.
4. Finally, when Peter returned from Caesarea: "They that were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them," Acts 11:1-18. Consider:
a. These men were called: "Certain of the sect of the Pharisees," Acts 15:1-5.
b. Elsewhere: "Men from James," Galatians 2:12. (James, the Lord’s brother).
c. These men from James troubled the saints; and disrupted the work of the church at Jerusalem and elsewhere.
d. They disguise their evils intentions and pretense of "keeping the church pure."
B. It took the death of Stephen, a fellow servant to cause the church to move beyond the gates of Jerusalem. Luke wrote: "They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word," Acts 8:4. Too many churches today are just keeping house! I call them "one talent churches." Illustrate: Matthew 25:14-30.
1. These are congregations that:
a. Never makes full use of Gods spiritual blessings.