Barnabas, “son of consolation” (Acts 4:36)., a person Luke described as “a good man” (11:24), was chosen and sent by the Jerusalem church to investigate the mixed congregation of Jews and Gentiles in Syrian Antioch. Were the happenings in Syrian Antioch of God? These were some of the Jerusalem church’s concerns.
As a result, the church sent Barnabas. Barnabas was a man who had distinguished himself as one who had a generous spirit (Acts 4:36-37). He was a man who was understanding and compassionate (9:27; 15:37-39). He was a man who was an encourager. When Barnabas arrived in Syrian Antioch, he saw God’s grace operating among the Jews and Gentiles alike. In fact, the entire book of acts points out that God’s grace in action transcends all people groups and cultures. God’s grace looks beyond race, color, and creed. Given what Barnabas witnessed in Antioch, he “exhorted (encouraged) them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord” (Acts 11:23). The church at Antioch had obviously begun well. They merely needed encouragement in the Lord. They merely needed someone to urge them to carry on in their loyal service to Jesus Christ and to exhort them to continue in their obedience to their Lord.
God’s grace abounds all over the world. Perhaps you can give testimony to God’s saving grace in the world today. Perhaps you recently received a prayer letter from a missionary that reflects God’s saving grace, or perhaps you have experienced first-hand God’s saving grace in a person’s life. God’s saving grace permeates the globe. Today more than ever, churches are needed to send people who are like Barnabas – people who are understanding of other people’s cultures and not judgemental. Missionaries are needed who dwell on biblical issues. The proclamation of the gospel suffers when people advance Western cultural ideas as biblical mandates. Condemning amoral issues will not win targeted souls to Jesus Christ.
More than ever churches are needed to send men and women who are understanding and compassionate, not insensitive to new believers and the struggles they face. For instance, for many Ghanaians, baptism equals the relinquishing of all family ties. We need to be sensitive to such realities. The church needs to send people who are able to urge other believers to carry on in loyal service for the Lord Jesus Christ. Churches need to send people who are able to encourage believers to continue in their obedience to Jesus Christ. More important, the church needs to be about the business of sending.
The historical cry for people to go is superseded today by people who wait. People wait for churches to send them. Today a missionary waits an average of two and a half years before he is actually able to go. Many Barnabases are waiting. They need only a church to send them.