May 23, 2014

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

 

                                                                            

Lesson: III.E.3: Barnabas Brings Paul Back to Antioch (11:25, 26)        

 

 

                  

Scripture (Acts 11:25, 26; KJV)

 

25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:

26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

 

 

 

Introduction

 

The Antioch church under the leadership that Barnabas provided had grown to the point that it was obvious that Barnabas needed a helper. One man immediately came to mind, his friend Saul of Tarsus (Paul). Barnabas went to Tarsus, after some difficulty found Saul, and brought him to Antioch. There the two witnessed for a whole year. The Antioch outreach prepared the two for their own mission to the Gentiles, which they would soon undertake.

 

 

Commentary

 

25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:

The growth of the church in Antioch meant that Barnabas needed help; so he went to Tarsus and enlisted Paul. But why did he go so far away just to find an assistant? Why not send to Jerusalem and ask for the deacon Nicolas who was from Antioch (Acts 6:5{1])? That would seem to be the logical thing to do. But it probably occurred to Barnabas that Paul, whom he had befriended in Jerusalem, would be ideal for the position. No doubt, the two of them often talked about Paul’s special call and commission by God to minister to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21; 26:17){2]. Some think that Paul was already ministering to Gentiles when Barnabas contacted him to take him to Antioch.

 

26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

The text of Acts is compressed and selective, but the most likely reconstruction of Pauline chronology from Galatians 1-2 indicates that Paul had been converted for about ten years when Barnabas brought him to Antioch. The New Testament does not tell us what Paul did back home in Tarsus after he left Jerusalem (Acts 9:28-30{3]), but it is likely he was busy evangelizing both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 15:23, 41; Gal. 1:21){4], and that he experienced some of the sufferings listed in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28{5]. As he witnessed in the synagogues, you can be sure he would not have an easy time of it!

What Barnabas did for Paul needs to be practiced in our churches today. Mature Christians need to enlist others and encourage others in their service for the Lord. It was one of D.L. Moody’s policies that each new Christian be given a task soon after conversion. At first, it might be only passing out hymnals or ushering people to their seats, but each convert had to be busy. He said, “It is better to put ten men to work that to do the work of ten men.” Many of Mr. Moody’s “assistants” became effective Christian workers in their own rite and this multiplied the witness.

Luke says that Paul and Barnabas taught for “a whole year”—they worked together teaching, instructing, and preaching to “much people.” This type of basic ministry was especially needed by Gentile converts because they would not be acquainted with the backgrounds of Christianity as it is recorded in the Old Testament, as were the Jews. Ministering to Gentiles would prepare them for their first mission together to Cyprus and southern Turkey (13:4-14:26). The Antioch church was the great “Gentile mission” church in sponsoring Paul’s missionary activity.

It was at Antioch that the name Christian was first applied to the disciples of Jesus Christ. The Latin suffix ian means “belonging to the party of.” In contempt, some of the pagan citizens of Antioch joined this Latin suffix to the Hebrew name “Christ” and came up with Christian.  I am surprised to find that the word is found only three times in the entire New Testament: Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Pe. 4:16. In all three instances it was a term used by outsiders to designate believers. They preferred terms like believers, disciples, brothers.” The Jews would never have come up with the name Christian, since that would be tantamount to recognizing them as followers of the Messiah. Believers in Antioch readily accepted their designation as Christians, not in a derogatory sense, but as a sign of their allegiance to Christ. The first extensive use by a writer to designate fellow believers as Christians was by Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, around the turn of the second century. The term was often used by Roman writers to designate followers of Christ. There has never been a better name by which to describe the followers of Christ. We are not Catholic or protestant, liberal or orthodox, Baptist or reformed. We are Christians. And in that descriptive name we find the common basis of our unity. The significance of the name is that people recognized Christians as a distinct group. The church was more and more being separated from Judaism.

Unfortunately, the word Christian has lost a great deal of significance over the centuries and no longer means “one who has turned from sin, trusted Jesus Christ, and received salvation by grace” (Acts 11:21-23[6]). Many people who have never been born again consider themselves “Christians” simply because they say they are not “pagans.” After all, they may belong to a church, attend services somewhat regularly, and even occasionally give to the work of the church! But it takes more than that for a sinner to become a child of God. It takes repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins on the cross and rose again to give us eternal life.

The believers in the early church suffered because they were Christians (1 Pe. 4:16{7]). Someone has asked, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” A good question! And the answer is a matter of life or death!

 

Scripture reference and special notes

{1] (Acts 6:5) This idea pleased the whole group, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (a Gentile convert to the Jewish faith, who had now become a Christian).

{2] (Acts 22:21; 26:17) "But the Lord said to me, 'Leave Jerusalem, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles!'" (22:21). And I will protect you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am going to send you to the Gentiles, (26:17).

{3] (Acts 9:28-30) Then the apostles accepted Saul, and after that he was constantly with them in Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. He debated with some Greek-speaking Jews, but they plotted to murder him. When the believers heard about it, however, they took him to Caesarea and sent him on to his hometown of Tarsus.

{4] (Acts 15:23, 41; Gal. 1:21) This is the letter they took along with them: "This letter is from the apostles and elders, your brothers in Jerusalem. It is written to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. Greetings! (15:23). Then after this visit, I went north into the provinces of Syria and Cilicia. (1:21).

{5] (2 Corinthians 11:23-28) They say they serve Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in jail more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled many weary miles. I have faced danger from flooded rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the stormy seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be Christians but are not. I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food. Often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of how the churches are getting along.

{6] (Acts 11:21-23) The power of the Lord was upon them, and large numbers of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord. When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw this proof of God's favor, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord.

{7] (1 Pe. 4:16) But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his wonderful name!

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