The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad. (Acts 11:21-23)
Fundamentally, the work of God’s grace takes place within human hearts. “It is good that the heart be established by grace“ (Hebrews 13:9). Yet, whenever grace is at work in lives, visible indicators inevitably appear: “When he came and had seen the grace of God.” This statement raises for our consideration the observable nature of the grace of God.
After Stephen was stoned by the religious leaders, an expansive persecution arose. God used this widespread difficulty to extend the proclamation of the gospel. “Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only” (Acts 11:19). Others began to reach out to those whose background was Grecian. “But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus“ (Acts 11:20). God used them to touch many lives. “The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” Word of this spiritual harvest soon reached Jerusalem. “Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.” So, Barnabas traveled to Antioch, where the first great Gentile church was being birthed. When he arrived, the invisible was being made visible: “When he came and had seen the grace of God.” It was obvious to Barnabas that God had been working by His grace. Souls were being saved. The saved were growing in godliness.
What Barnabas saw was undoubtedly similar to the spiritual phenomenon that had occurred in the church at Colosse. When the gospel was embraced there, it clearly impacted lives: “the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth“ (Colossians 1:5-6). In Colosse, the outward effects of the inward work of the grace of God was spiritual fruit. When Barnabas saw this same process unfolding in Antioch, “he was glad.”
Dear Lord, I praise You that Your grace has given me a new spiritual heart. Now I ask You to impact my heart deeply by Your grace. I pray that the visible evidences of grace will be seen by all who observe my life. May it bring gladness to them and honor to You, Amen.