Paul and Barnabas were selected by the Holy Spirit and the congregation at Antioch to be set aside for missionary service. And, they accepted the call. They went from Antioch to Cyprus, Barnabas’ home island (4:36), to Antioch in Pisidia. In each place they preached good news to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles.
The majority of chapter 13 is concerned with reporting the sermon Paul preached in the Synagogue on the first Sabbath that the men were in Antioch of Pisidia. Initially, the sermon was well received. However, by the next Sabbath, as word of the new gospel had spread throughout the town and a large crowd (of Jews and Gentiles) gathered to hear Paul preach, the Jewish leaders became jealous of Paul and Barnabas’ fame and concerned with their growing influence in the city. So, the leaders incited a revolt against Paul and Barnabas by disputing, contradicting, and reviling them. Paul and Barnabas left the city and set out for Iconium.
There is much to say about this incident and the people’s rejection of the gospel. It’s been a common experience throughout Christian history. People have rejected and will continue to reject the gospel of Christ when it is preached boldly and clearly. In some cases the rejection is as dramatic as it was in Antioch, and in other cases to so much. But, we should not lose heart when people reject Christ and his gospel.
We are told in verse 48, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” And then in verse 52, “…the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” The gospel does not go out and return void. When it is proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit, men, women, and children are convicted of their sins and led to place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The presence of human opposition does not prohibit the divine work of the Holy Spirit in bringing men and women to faith. The disciples were encouraged, and so should we be. The Lord is at work!
Everyone Needs a Barnabas
We can’t leave chapter 13 without saying a word about Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement. When we first meet Barnabas in 4:36, we are told that he “sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” for distribution among the poor and for assistance to those in need. The next time we hear of Barnabas, he is speaking on Paul’s (Saul) behalf before the other apostles testifying to the change in Paul’s life. He’s not afraid of Paul (9:27). Then, we see Barnabas traveling with Paul and others throughout the region proclaiming the good news and ministering to people (chapters 11 and 13).
Barnabas was gift from God to the church and to those with whom he traveled. He was a gracious encouragement to them. He understood how grace is to be lived out in the lives of those who follow Christ.
I recently heard a friend of mine described as one who “drips leadership.” To use that analogy with Barnabas, I think we can easily say that he was one who “dripped” encouragement.
You need a Barnabas in your life. You need to be a Barnabas in someone’s life. Thank the Barnabas in your life today, and strive to be a Barnabas for someone else. Be encouraged in the grace of God and its advancement through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and be an encouragement to others.