A Commentary by John Stott
Acts 11:22-24. The Greek mission is endorsed by Barnabas.
News of this fresh development *reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem*, much as they had previously heard ‘that Samaria had accepted the word of God’ (8:14) and ‘that the Gentiles [sc. Cornelius and his household] also had received the word of God’ (11:1). Luke seems to be hinting that they felt the need to assure themselves that all was well, in addition to helping to nurture this young, multi-cultural church. This time they did not send an apostle, however. Instead *they sent Barnabas to Antioch* (22), whom Barclay called ‘the man with the biggest heart in the church’, and who was known to be true to his name ‘Son of Encouragement’ (4:36). *When he arrived* in Antioch, he immediately *saw* for himself *the evidence of the grace of God* in the converts’ changed lives and new international community, and in consequence he both *was glad*, presumably expressing his joy in praise, *and encouraged them all* (‘encouraged’ being perhaps a deliberate play on his name) to *remain true to the Lord with all their hearts* (23). It was an exhortation both to perseverance and to whole-heartedness. Luke was obviously impressed with Barnabas’ Christian character, and attributed his ministry to it: for (it is a pity that NIV does not translate this connecting particle *hoti*) *he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith*. It is no wonder that *a great number of people were brought* (literally ‘added’, as RSV) *to the Lord* (24).
The verb for ‘added’ in verse 24 (*prostithemi*) has become for Luke an almost technical word for church growth. He used it twice in relation to the Day of Pentecost, first of the three thousand who were added that day (2:41) and then of the daily additions which followed (2:47). Later he wrote of ‘more and more men and women’ believing in the Lord and being added to the church (5:14), while in Syrian Antioch ‘a great number of people’ were added (11:24). This use of the verb *prostithemi* led the famous Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper to propose the word ‘prosthetics’ to define missiology (although today it applies to the surgical replacement of limbs and organs), since it should be concerned with expansion of the church by additions to its membership. Hermann Bavinch responded that it would not be an appropriate term, however, because in the New Testament it is the Lord who does the adding (2:47), not human missionaries. We might also comment that the additions are not just to the church but to the Lord (11:24). When we see ‘the Lord adding to the Lord’, so that he is both subject and object, source and goal, of evangelism, we have to repent of all self-centred, self-confident concepts of the Christian mission.
Tomorrow: Acts 11:25-26. c). The Greek mission is consolidated by Saul.
|The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Acts. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.|