Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So, for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. Verses 25-26 (NIV)
I have always enjoyed the story of Barnabas. I guess I just like the fact that the name Barnabas means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36), and in every place of ministry that I have been active there has been a Barnabas to keep me going and pushing me forward.
The gospel spreading to those outside the Jewish nation did not stop with Peter’s encounter with Cornelius. The scattering of believers because of persecution led to more and more Jews hearing about Jesus, and in Antioch some believers began sharing the good news with Greeks and other Gentiles.
The task of equipping theses new believers fell to Barnabas. Barnabas began ministering in Antioch, and many people came to believe in the Lord.
God also motivated Barnabas to look for Saul and to bring him into the work in Antioch. Barnabas had introduced Saul earlier to the apostles (Acts 9:27), and now he became a bridge builder again. For the next year, Saul and Barnabas “taught great numbers of people.” And the believers there became so identified with Jesus that a term of ridicule, Christians – meaning “little Christ’s” – became a badge of honor.
Interestingly enough, the final verses of our passage show us that the bridge works both ways. When a severe famine came into the region and Judea was hit hard, the church in Antioch sent Barnabas and Saul with gifts for the people in Judea. Bridge building is the way God wants us to work together.
Our heavenly Father, may we be challenged to live as bridge builders who desire to serve whomever we meet. May our eyes be opened, and our hearts be in sync with yours. Amen