Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. (verses 20-26)
Once again we see the orchestrating hand of God at work in the ongoing mission of the church. Evangelism among Gentiles is breaking out. But it’s not strategized or initiated by the mother church in Jerusalem, nor by apostolic leadership, but rather is simply bubbling up from within the rank and file of those who are followers of Jesus.
Some men from Cyprus and Cyrene (who will remain nameless until eternity) take the next step in furthering the Gentile mission. Spontaneously they share the good news of Jesus with the non-Jewish community in Antioch. Had they heard about Peter’s experience in Caesarea? Were they specifically directed by the Spirit of God? Did they simply respond to what seemed a God-given open door? We don’t know. But as they gossiped the Gospel, “a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord” (verse 21). Seeds were planted. Fruit was borne. The kingdom advanced.
News reached the church in Jerusalem, and Barnabas was sent north to Antioch. I love the phrase that describes what he found once he arrived: he “saw the evidence of the grace of God” (verse 23). That, of course, is writ large over this whole book. At every turn, God’s grace is spilling forth. But here in Antioch, men and women who, just a short time before, would have been “without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12), are now alive in the Spirit of Jesus. This is “grace”, pure and simple. They had no prior claim on the promises of God. They were lost, but now are found. Amazing grace.
Grace continues to flow as Barnabas invites Saul into the mix. Saul, himself a trophy of grace, is as thoroughly Jewish as they come, describing himself as “a Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 2:5). Yet by God’s grace, he is deployed as a teacher of new Gentile converts. Ironic? Was the Lord smiling? For Saul, was the light dawning? For, of course, this will be his life’s work, sent as an apostle to the Gentiles. Who would have thought?
Yes, who? None but the Lord. It’s all his work. It’s all his grace.
Lord, praise you that you were working out your purpose in the early church, beyond the ability of human strategy. You used some who are nameless, some who are enduring heroes of faith.
I cry out to you to continue your work today. Beyond our own expectations, intervene to bring lost ones to faith, to bring breakthrough where none would have been expected. Use your people in carrying out your purposes.
Yes, use even me.
Pray: Ask the Lord for insight for your prayers. Where is he wanting to work beyond what might be expected? Pray for his purposes to be done. In people and in circumstances, pray for “evidence of the grace of God.”