Purposeful Living

KEY VERSE: “Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.” —Acts 11:23

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Acts 11:19-30; 12:24, 25

EXCLUSIVE FAVOR FOR Israel’s invitation to the high calling of God came to an end in A.D. 36, when Cornelius, his kinsmen, and friends—who were all Gentiles—were baptized into Christ. The way was now open for other Gentiles to receive an understanding of God’s plan.

It is evident that the persecution in Jerusalem at the time of Stephen’s death was designed by God to force many to leave Jerusalem, and to spread the Gospel message to others in far-flung areas. Those who left went into other parts of Judea and Samaria, and later to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch preaching to Jews only. However, some who had lived among Gentiles in other lands, went to Antioch, and they began to speak to the Greeks, who were Gentiles. A great number of these Greeks believed the Word, and joined the congregation of Jewish Christians in that city.

The congregation at Caesarea became the first one to have both Gentile and Jewish Christians; Antioch being the second. News of these developments reached the ears of the apostles in Jerusalem, and they decided to investigate. They sent Barnabas to explore the matter, since he had lived in Cyprus among Gentiles before coming to Jerusalem. Barnabas was a good choice because the Scriptures say, “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” (Acts 11:24, NIV) And because of his capability, “a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.”

When Barnabas arrived in Antioch he could see the evidences of the grace of God in the hearts of’ the new believers; his task was to encourage them in this path. However, Barnabas knew that Saul of Tarsus had been selected by God and Jesus to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Therefore he went to Tarsus to find him. When he found him, they both returned to Antioch and became elders of the congregation, staying a whole year teaching the new members.

Barnabas must have conveyed his findings to the apostles at Jerusalem, although he did not see them immediately. There was a new purpose for his ministry, and the ministry of the apostle originally called Saul. After his conversion, Saul had to leave Damascus when the Jews plotted to kill him. This was because his preaching was so compelling that no one could refute it. At that time Saul went to Jerusalem, where the other apostles thought he had come into their midst to spy against them. It was not until Barnabas had taken him aside and heard his story that Saul was able to get a hearing before the apostles, and became accepted by them.

But when the Hellenistic Jews in Jerusalem plotted to kill Saul, the brethren sent him to Tarsus for his safety. At that time, the Lord’s purpose for him may have seemed unclear, but now he was brought to Antioch where so many Gentile believers wanted to know all they could about Christ. Saul—Paul—now had a clear purpose for his life, and taught others a purposeful life as well.

So it often is with us. When we begin to serve the Lord, obstacles may be placed in our way. As we strive to work around the obstacles, and continue to seek purposeful living, suddenly opportunities arise, and the way and the purpose of our life becomes clear.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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