The notes this week have been supplied by Hannah.
The church continues to grow in this passage as it does throughout Acts, but today we learn more about Antioch, the very important “base camp” for Paul. The church in Antioch become the sponsors of missionary evangelism which we’ll read about in a few chapters. You can read the passage here.
It seems that there is a fire in the hearts of those who were “scattered” after Stephen’s death. Praise the Lord. They spread the word undeterred and take huge steps of faith for God – and God honours them with more conversions. There was obviously some concern in Jerusalem though as the church was growing incredibly fast and they send Barnabas to check it out. Barnabas is the encourager of the church and he fits that role perfectly in this passage.
I wonder what the concern was based on – why did the church send a “scout” to check on everything? For me, if I was there, I would be worried about hype. I would want to know if each of the converts has actually begun a relationship with Christ. Being a Christian at this time was a huge risk, as Stephen’s death demonstrates, I would be wanting to see that the gospel had been preached in faith and people’s hearts had been stirred and changed. Thankfully that’s exactly what Barnabas saw in Antioch.
We take a group of young people to Soul Survivor every summer, it’s my favourite time of the year. People who haven’t been before have said to me that it looks like hype. I can remember one person in particular telling me they were uncomfortable with the hype there and they wondered how much of it was genuine love for God. Having been there eight times now I can confirm that it’s genuine. That person did as well, when they saw it for what it is. There may have been hundreds of people becoming Christians, there may have been ten thousand people singing at the top of their voices and yes, there may have even been some undignified dancing but there was, most of all, an example of people on fire for God and ready to serve Him. When you see things like that, church growth and conversions what else can we do but praise God and keep serving?!
When Barnabas saw what God had done he encouraged them to keep going, I wonder if there are people in Ebenezer that we can be encouraging to keep going too. I know a few names immediately pop into my head. Service is hard and risky, obviously the risks are vastly different than those the church in Antioch faced but they’re there and they’re scary. Maybe a little encouragement wouldn’t go amiss.
I see a generation, rising up to take their place
With selfless faith, with selfless faith
I see a new revival, stirring as we pray and seek
We’re on our knees, on our knees. (Hosanna, Hillsong)