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Acts 9:2627; 11:1926; 15:3641comment (0)

May 26, 2011

By M. Sydney Park

Related Scripture: Acts 9:2627; 11:1926; 15:3641

Bible Studies for Life
Assistant Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

Invest in Others
Acts 9:26–27; 11:19–26; 15:36–41

Acts describes the birth of the early church. According to Luke, the church was established on some phenomenal events and its original leaders were what many would perceive as unlikely candidates for spearheading this fledgling movement. The church was anchored on the supernatural event of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead (Acts 1:1–5). His death and resurrection were the fulfillment of Israel’s hope of a messiah.

Based on these miraculous acts, the oftentimes flawed and floundering disciples boldly proclaimed the gospel by the Holy Spirit’s power and served as the church’s founding apostles.

A basic principle of the church is that its formation and continued progress are never dependent upon human wisdom (1 Cor. 1:18–25). And God calls the most unlikely to receive His grace and serve His Kingdom (1 Cor. 1:26–31); He looks to what lies beyond the data on the resumé (1 Sam. 16:7). This was precisely the case with Saul, who became Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.

Take the Risk (9:26–27)
But as God dispenses grace through His chosen instruments, His people also need to understand His ways and participate in this principle of grace. After Saul’s conversion, Barnabas was one of the first among the early Christians to accept the possibility that God was at work even in someone like Saul. Other believers’ hesitation in accepting Saul’s conversion as bona fide is surely understandable. This man was a vicious and determined foe of the church (Acts 9:13–14). Could someone like that change? Was his conversion genuine?

All these questions and doubts were justified given Saul’s past. Yet it is also clear in the manner in which he was saved that God clearly intervened in Saul’s life to use him greatly (Acts 9:15–16). Every new convert needs a Barnabas to step in stride in friendship, support and mentorship. Barnabas set an example for all Christians to follow. It takes courage to stand against the popular opinion, even among Christians, and it takes even greater courage to risk one’s own reputation in order to endorse a convert like Saul.

Involve Others (11:19–26)
And Barnabas was not simply the man to stand in support at the beginning of Saul’s conversion but continued to involve him where God was at work. Barnabas was no fair-weather friend only available for a short time or in fair circumstances. Standing alongside Saul as he faced opposition and fear from believers progressed to ensuring his participation in Kingdom work.

Barnabas was a mentor who continued to think on Saul’s behalf; he continued to encourage Saul to participate with him in ministry. And it is no surprise that this visionary was described as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (24).

His friendship with Saul, his encouragement of Saul to also be involved where God was clearly at work was in step with the Holy Spirit’s work — his role as mentor and friend was a natural result of faith.

Recognize Potential (15:36–41)
Just as Barnabas saw potential in Saul, he also saw potential in John Mark. There was such a sharp dispute concerning John Mark’s usefulness that Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways. And it appears that John Mark was less than stellar in his missionary work. Clearly Paul was justified in his doubts.

Yet Barnabas, the champion of second chances, saw potential for John Mark and stood once again in support of a young believer. And many believers can be grateful for Barnabas’ disposition of grace — how many of us are in need of second chances?

How many mature believers are willing to remember their own failures and extend support to the younger generation of believers? For those who are uncertain that Barnabas stands as a model mentor, it is good to be reminded that Paul himself renewed fellowship with Mark and came to depend on him greatly (Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11; Philemon 24). We need more Barnabases.

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