Then when he [Barnabas] arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced... - Vs 23
How do you see the grace of God? Well, for Barnabas it was as easy as looking at the faces of strangers he met in Antioch who had believed the message about Jesus Christ and turned from their old way of life to new life in Him. They had stepped out of death into eternal life. They had once been blind, but now they could see the truth of the gospel message. And Barnabas got to see it with his own eyes.
Changed lives. Redeemed souls. Freed prisoners. Forgiven sinners. They are all around us, but we fail to see them as a visual illustration of the matchless grace of God. They are our friends, family members, neighbors, fellow church attenders. But when we look at their lives, we do not rejoice as Barnabas did, because we don't recognize that none of these people, including ourselves, could ever have earned what they received or deserved what they have been given. But for the grace of God, we would still be dead, the walking dead. We would still be lost, but unaware of our true condition. We would still be debt to God, with no capacity to pay Him back. We would still be sinners, with no hope of salvation.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.- Ephesians 2:1-9
Grace: The Visible Gift of God
What is this grace that Barnabas saw? Well, according to The Complete Word Study Dictionary grace is ...
A favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor.
God's grace is made visible in the lives of people - sinful people to be exact. So when we look around us and see people who stepped from darkness into light, we are seeing the grace of God. When we see sinners who understand their need for a Savior, and take God up on His gift of salvation through Christ, we are seeing the grace of God. When we see undeserving, unrighteous individuals transformed day by day by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are witnessing the grace of God. And it should cause us to rejoice.
God's grace does the unexpected
What Barnabas saw that day in Antioch was something he never expected: Sin-loving, idol-worshiping, Jew-hating pagans coming to faith in Christ. Here was God's grace being extended in an unexpected way to an undeserving people. But isn't that how God's grace always works?
Barnabas was blown away by God's grace. So much so, that he immediately went on a search for Saul so that he could bring him back to help him extend God's grace to more people in the city of Antioch. And they ended up staying there for an entire year - teaching, preaching, encouraging, and witnessing the grace of God in action. With a smile on their face and a song in their heart.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.
Father, thank you for the grace you extended to me! Don't ever let me take it for granted. And help me to see your grace all around me in the lives of those you have redeemed. Like me, none of us deserved what you have given us. We were beggars invited to a feast. We were murderers given full pardon. We were the hopelessly guilty given complete forgiveness. All because of your incredible grace. Thank you! Amen