Vol.XIX No.VIII Pg.6
October 1982

Seeing God's Grace

Robert F. Turner

"...the church in Jerusalem... sent forth Barnabas, ... as far as Antioch. Who when he came and had seen the grace of God..." (Act. 11:23). What did he see when he saw God's grace?

We will hardly understand until we know what to look for. What is grace? "Unmerited favor" — the usual definition — is not adequate. "Unmerited" is not essential to the definition, and surely does not apply to Jesus (Lk. 2:40). Another form of the word, gracious, may produce a better mental image. Words like kindness, goodness, mercy, and love must also be considered to appreciate the meaning of the word grace.

Barnabas saw the redeemed when he came to Antioch. Persecuted saints came from Jerusalem "preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord." (v.19, 20). They — like the Ephesians — were without God and without hope (Eph 2:12); they were lost and doomed to hell. In his kindness and tenderheartedness he forgave them in Christ (Eph. 4:32). Toward these "disobedient" and "hateful" people the "kindness and love" of God "appeared" (Tit. 3:5), Thus, Barnabas saw God's grace.

Barnabas saw the preaching of the Lord Jesus (v.20). What they preached is called the "word of his grace" (Act 14:3). In this preaching God answers man's questions about himself. "Why am I here?" "Where am I going?" "What is good for me in this life?" What a favor! That same word is called "the gospel (good news) of the grace of God" (Act. 20:24). Its good news is the kindness of God in redeeming man and providing him all spiritual blessing. And this "word of his grace ... is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified" (Act. 20:32). Barnabas saw the grace of God.

Barnabas saw righteousness in the saints in Antioch. Justification is understood in respect to both grace and righteousness. Justification is by "the grace of God" and is a "gift by grace" — yea, the "abundance of grace" (Rom. 5:15,17). Grace reigns through righteousness (v.21). The unselfish giving of the Macedonians is labeled "the grace of God" (2 Cor. 8:1) and the Corinthians must "abound in this grace" (v.7) as well as faith, knowledge and diligence. God makes "grace abound toward you" so that you "abound in every good work" (9:8). The "experiment" of this generous gift sent to Jewish Christians by their Gentile brethren proved their "subjection to the gospel of Christ" and "the exceeding grace of God in you" (v.13, 14). God's goodness leads men to do good. Barnabas saw God's grace.

Barnabas saw Christians praying and approaching "the throne of grace" (Heb. 4:16). Man "finds grace to help" when the prayer is answered. It is the graciousness of God that allows the lowly creature free access to so boldly approach him. It is his kindness that continually supplies help. Thus, Barnabas saw the grace of God.

And when Barnabas had seen the grace of God, he was glad. And so are we when we look on the grace of God. Joe Fitch, San Antonio, TX.