The church at Antioch, north of Jerusalem, is the mother of all Gentile Christian churches. Due to God’s work (v. 21), there was a great number of believers there, and so the Jerusalem church responds by appointing Barnabas and sending him as their representative to nurture the work.
When Barnabas arrives in Antioch, an even greater number of people are added to the church (v. 24). Luke reports that Barnabas brought with him Saul from Tarsus. Then, for a third time, he tells of great numbers of people in Antioch (v. 26).
Barnabas was an encourager (v. 23). Both he and Saul established the church by providing sound teaching for a whole year (v. 26). At Antioch, believers are first called Christians, literally, “people of the anointing” (v. 26).
Luke describes a well-taught church, showing clear evidence of repentance and faith. The church at Antioch
listens to and respects the prophetic word of Agabus (v. 28);
responds to the Word with financial generosity (v. 29);
is culturally diverse. This is reflected in their leaders, who include Jews, a black African and a north African (13:1–3);
has leaders who are sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit (13:2);
generously shares their finances and their personnel (13:3).
This presents a great challenge to the mindset that would keep the best for self and let God have the rest.
Again, the expansive purpose of God is at the forefront of events. Luke records that the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (13:2). Other similar words of God are recorded in Acts 5:20; 8:26, 9:15; 10:20; 16:9 and 18:10.
Do I keep the best and share the rest? Does my church see its role as establishing people well in God’s grace and then acting as a clearing house, sending people out and seeing them move beyond the fringe?