An Advent Journey: When God Became Small — Day Nine


Acts 11:19-26, NLT 

Meanwhile, the believers who fled from Jerusalem during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, scattering the Good News, but only to Jews. However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene also gave their message about the Lord Jesus to some Greeks. And the Lord honored this effort so that large numbers of these Gentiles became believers.

When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch to help the new converts. When he arrived and saw the wonderful things God was doing, he was filled with excitement and joy, and encouraged the believers to stay close to the Lord, whatever the cost. Barnabas was a kindly person, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. As a result, large numbers of people were added to the Lord.

Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to hunt for Paul. When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch; and both of them stayed there for a full year teaching the many new converts. (It was there at Antioch that the believers were first called “Christians.”)

This is the story of how we became Christ-followers. Without that visit to Antioch, without the story-telling to the Greeks there, the church as we know it would not exist. 

It just came out, you know? These excited new Jewish followers carried the tale back home after all the festival hubbub in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And they could.not.keep.quiet.

“And the Lord honored their efforts. . . ” How? Maybe by sending them Barnabas. Barnabas the encourager, who got so jazzed by what he found that he rejoiced the news all the way back to the head honchos in the big J. But you know something? Jerusalem is NOT where he went: he went to Tarsus.

Tarsus? Why??

To find a guy named Paul. A former persecutor of the infant church named Saul was now the number one convert, with a brand-spankin’ new name. And together, Paul and Barnabas went back to Antioch to bring kindness, encouragement and instruction.

It’s probably not the most politically correct thing to admit, but I’ve never had a great desire to resemble Paul. But Barnabas? Oh, yeah. I’d L O V E to look a lot like him.

Lord, we give you thanks for the enthusiasm of the early church! For their heartfelt zeal for you and for their faithfulness in telling the story to everyone they met. And we thank you for both Barnabas and Paul, who took those new converts to the next step in their own discipleship. What a great gift to the church then — and now. Thank you!

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  1. Oh, that we all might be infused with such enthusiasm as we fill our churches and reach out to unbelievers! Blessings, Diana!

  2. You brought something to my attention, Diana: The bold, highly verbal, passionate followers (like Paul) are not the only ones that God can use in mighty ways. God needs the Barnabas-types, too–kind, encouraging folks who are strong in faith and full of the Holy Spirit. My personality wouldn’t fit very well in the mold of Paul. But Barnabas? Yes, I think God has created me with similar character traits. May I be as faithful and obedient as Barnabas, allowing the Spirit to use my gifts and traits to build God’s kingdom! Thank you for the insight and the challenge, Diana.

    • Right there with you, Nancy. It’s the gift set of Barnabas that I truly admire, although I do love Paul. But I have little desire to be another Paul. I think the world could only handle one!! Whereas this world can use as many Barnabases is as we can find.

  3. “The Big J.” I love the way you tell the story, Diana. And isn’t that something? The way the gospel brings people together in the oddist combinations? God has been doing that since the beginning of time, hasn’t he?

    On a different note: is that a monastery in that photo? I think I’ve been there with my family!

    • That is the wonderful Santa Barbara mission, one of a chain of missions up and down the coast of California built in the late 18th century. This one is called the queen of the missions, and I believe it.