God’s Word for You
Acts 11:22-24 Delighted
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, April 20, 2020
22 News of this reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he got there and saw the grace of God, he was delighted, and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
Antioch was far to the north, two hundred miles on foot from Jerusalem and Joppa. The journey Barnabas took would have taken him on a great road along the shore of the sea, through Tyre and Sidon, Berytus (modern Beirut, the capital of Lebanon), Byblos, and Tripoli (not the one from the Marine Hymn—that’s in North Africa). After this there were still a hundred miles to go. But Barnabas was heading north; Seleucia was the seaport just a few miles from Antioch, and from the port of Seleucia ships would make for Cyprus. And Barnabas was from Cyprus. He was traveling closer and closer to home.
The fact that Barnabas was (almost) a local boy was a benefit to his selection for the trip. If we want to ask why an apostle was not sent, we must consider the likelihood that no apostle was available. We already know that Peter had been in Joppa and Caesarea (Acts 9-10), and the other apostles were sure to be traveling throughout Judea and beyond to see to the needs of the various congregations. And Matthew may even have been kept back from such work in order to write out his Gospel. What made Barnabas a good choice is presented here in our text with his three qualifications given in reverse order of importance: (1) full of faith, (2) full of the Holy Spirit, and (3) a good man. Because he was from Cyprus, Barnabas was a Jew with a different perspective of the world than the men who had grown up and lived their whole lives in Judea or Galilee. Barnabas had tasted the salt air of the sea. He had traveled. He knew what it was like to live for many years without seeing the temple except on high holidays.
The church in Jerusalem was a kind of mother church to all the Christians, but we see that they were not beholden to the judgment of Jerusalem. There was no church in the world whose pastor was above all other pastors. If the believers in Antioch were doing wrong, Barnabas was a faithful preacher and he would correct what was wrong. If they were doing right, then he would bring the news back to Judea, and Christians everywhere would use Antioch for an example. Barnabas had already shown his faith with his gifts of charity (Acts 4:36-37) and his sober, Spirit-filled judgment with his treatment of Saul after his conversion (Acts 9:27).
When he got there, Barnabas was delighted. He saw the way that God’s grace was at work among them and through them, and he did nothing but encourage them to remain faithful. It would be easy for a man in his position to make a little suggestion here, a wise comment there, and then take credit for the success at a place. But Barnabas was a humble and godly man. He made no suggestions. He dispensed no additional wisdom. He shared his approval of what they were doing, and he told them to keep it up. This is a good lesson for us to remember. We don’t need to be fixing things that aren’t broken. We can encourage churches that are doing what they can with the resources that they have.
At this time of quarantine and social distancing, many of the members of our churches are watching what other churches are doing online. This church’s video is better; that church’s audio is better. This other church is eliminating the liturgy. That other church has the pastor reading his sermon from his office. There are a hundred suggestions, and no pastor can possibly put every suggestion into practice. If what he is doing is serving his people, then God be praised. If each week the technology gets a little better, then that’s good, too. But whether we meet as a congregation or we sit in our homes before a screen, the gospel needs to be proclaimed. It is Christ and his forgiveness that is the message, and praise God for this crisis that is teaching us how to take that message to the world in new and efficient ways.
Pastor Timothy Smith