the report of this came to the ears of the church in jerusalem, and they sent barnabas to antioch. when he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, [acts 11:22-23]
evidence of God’s grace.
this phrase strikes each ear in different ways as the grace of God can mean so many different things to different people. it can mean healing of a disease for one person, while it can mean provision of a job for another. it can mean a fruitful marriage for one, or it might look like deliverance from secret sin for another. but what all of these things have in common is what is always foundational in any expression of God’s grace. his presence.
God even offers the grace of his presence to those who deny him. he gives them air to breathe, food to eat, and a sunrise every morning. to others, his presence moves to repentance and leads to salvation. in this passage we see his presence being poured out onto jews and greeks alike in the city of antioch. we see foreigners moved to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the hellenists, and we see the Spirit melting hearts and turning them to Jesus. we see such a change in the lives of these new believers that, even though there is no church, even though there is no discipleship structure, the outside world describes them as “christian.” they looked like Christ! their lives were now drenched with the aroma of their Savior. this is God’s grace evidenced in an explosion of new life. it’s no wonder barnabas was glad!
many of us have had the joy of watching someone come to life in this way. we’ve all experienced the declaration of new life in the celebration of baptism. we rejoice with the body over new sheep being brought into the fold, and we praise him for his saving grace.
this gladness should move each one of us to exhortation, just like it did barnabas. his name meaning “son of encouragement,” he was the perfect candidate to exhort, because that’s exactly what exhortation is. encouragement. enthusiastic urging of others to follow the Lord wholeheartedly. this is actually a command for every believer, not just those with the gift of encouragement, or the gift of exhortation.
take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. but exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. for we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. [hebrews 3:12-14]
we are all called to encourage or exhort one another to stand firm in our faith. to continue clinging to Christ. to walk in the Spirit. and we are called to do this daily!
church, the evidence of God’s grace is being poured out all around us in our body and out from our body. let us rejoice and be moved to daily encouragement and exhortation! ask the Lord who he would have you encourage today, and watch him pour out his grace on you and through you!