Antioch Church: a Model for Local Church Ministry — Part 2
In the previous article, we considered the formation of the Antioch Church. A central focus of that church plant was the commitment to proclaim the gospel to people from all backgrounds.
Barnabas Serving in Jerusalem Church
22 Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.
Think of this with me for a moment. The Jerusalem church could easily have heard the good report of what was happening in Antioch, rejoiced in what God was doing, and then left the whole matter alone. But no! They send Barnabas to Antioch.
Barnabas is a faithful member and servant in his local church in Jerusalem. He is a man with considerable wealth which he has used to be a blessing to believers in his local church (Acts 4:36-37). The Apostles are so grateful for Barnabas that they gave him the name Barnabas as a nickname because it means “son of encouragement.” (Acts 4:36) And so the encourager, a faithful member of his local church, a humble man of considerable resources, and a trustworthy teacher heads out of his local church to minister to a new church plant in Antioch.
Barnabas Serving in Antioch Church
23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.
24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.
Before we consider verse 23, let us make a few observations concerning the character of Barnabas in verse 24. In this verse we are told that Barnabas is good, full of faith, and full of the Holy Spirit. This should challenge each of us in our personal walk with God. The conduct and testimony of Barnabas in the local church and the community does not bring a reproach on the name of Jesus. How is Barnabas able to live in this way? Because his faith is rooted in Christ and he spends time reading Scripture and praying to God. How do we know this? Because the verse tells us that Barnabas is full of the Holy Spirit. Every believer is indwelled by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:12-13; Eph. 1:13-14), but to be filled with the Spirit indicates that someone is yielded to the Spirit by being immersed in Scripture and prayer (I Cor. 2:10-13; Eph. 5:18; Gal. 5:16, 22-23).
When Barnabas arrives in Antioch, he sees the grace of God at work in their midst. This thought connects us back to verses 20-21 where we remember that the Antioch Church was grounded in the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They continue to keep the gospel at the centre of their church ministry and God continues to lavish His grace upon them! The love for and proclamation of the gospel moves Barnabas to gladness. What does the “encourager” begin to do? Well, he encourages them! He challenges them to resolve in their hearts that they will hold fast to Christ. And the result of such gospel centred ministry in this local church is clearly stated at the end of verse 24, many people are brought to Christ!
What is missing in our churches? What is missing in our lives? The lessons we learn from Antioch Church in these few verses are quite clear. We must each resolve in our hearts each day that we are going to read God’s Word, spend time in prayer, think on truth, and walk in the Spirit. By God’s grace as we endeavour to live out the gospel message and share the gospel with the lost, we will see people brought to Christ. The question is this, are you resolved to hold fast to Christ? Is there evidence in your local church that there is a commitment to the proclamation of the gospel? Believers in our day must not stray from the gospel. It must remain central to our churches or else our churches will become defined by things other than Christ and His message. Stay tuned as next time we consider the importance of discipleship within the ministry of the local church.