Acts 11:23 “When he (Barnabas) came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.”
Grace is like air, gravity, coldness, or amoebas. You don’t readily see these things, but they certainly exist.
There are aspects of God and other theological terms we don’t expect to be visible. Grace is one of them. However, when Barnabas came to Antioch it says he “saw the Grace of God.” It is the only place in Scripture where this phrase is used. What did he see at Antioch which made grace appear from the shadows? What was it that enthused him to go back and get Paul?
Before we answer that, I had an intriguing thought while reading the passage. What if Barnabus came to the church I worship with? Would he see the Grace of God? What if he came to your church – would he see the Grace of God? Just what is it about a church that make’s God’s grace become visible: the name on the sign – Grace Fellowship Church? The type of music or the clothes people wear? How about the “associations” it cooperates with? Just what is it about a church that would make someone say, “I saw the Grace of God in that place”?
I believe the passage makes it clear. We see four characteristics of a church with visible grace:
1 – Jesus’ name was being lifted up. The passage says they were, “…preaching the Lord Jesus.” The name of Jesus Christ was being communicated to everyone: Jews and Greeks. He was being spoken about out in the open, regardless of the crowd. They were bold and direct about sharing the name of Christ.
2 – Faith: people were being converted. The passage says, “…and a great number believed and turned to the Lord (v21).” People were being saved by the message being communicated. The Holy Spirit was moving and people were believing on Christ. It was obvious to all who were in the proximity.
3 – Teaching of the Word of God. After Barnabus came, the first thing he did was to send for a “teacher”, namely Paul. It says, “…they assembled with the church and taught a great many people (v26).” The teaching, studying, and learning of the Scriptures were important in this place of visible grace.
4 – Testimony. Verse 26 makes an important statement, “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” The community saw these followers living for Christ and called them “Christians”. This was a label given to them by outsiders not themselves. The people watching what was going on gave them the most appropriate term they could imagine, Christians, which in essence meant: little Christs.
I recently shared with our church that I would like us to be known as “living out loud!” That is, living our “faith” out loud. Not “out weird”; but OUT LOUD. This is what comes to mind when I read about the church at Antioch. They were known for what was happening in their midst. People were attracted to it; hearing the message; getting saved and joining the work.
If a church lifts up Jesus, helps people come to faith, studies the Word, and has a bold testimony – I think they will experience “visible Grace.” May God raise up churches in our community, including ours, that are “living out loud” for Christ.