Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:…
How Saul had been employed all this time (Acts 9:30) we have no means of ascertaining. We cannot well doubt that he would bring the claims of Christianity before philosophers and urge the proofs that Jesus was the Messiah in the synagogue; nor can we doubt that his labours would be in some degree successful. The work at Antioch required one like Saul, and in our age a telegraphic despatch would have summoned him; but then Barnabas had to go and find him. Notice —
I. THE EMERGENCY WHICH HAD THEN OCCURRED IN THE CHURCH. Observe that —
1. The ideas of Christians up to that time had been limited. It was a slow process by which the attention of the apostles was directed to the regions beyond Palestine, and even then their thoughts were directed to Hebrews.
2. The events at Antioch could not well be mistaken as bearing on this point. The gospel had been preached there to heathen with great power and success.
3. The name Christian was conferred and adopted just as this enlarged view of the nature of their religion was becoming the common view of the Church.
II. THE AMPLE FIELD, ON WHICH THE TALENTS OF SAUL, NOW SUMMONED FROM OBSCURITY, MIGHT ACT.
1. Antioch itself. This Syrian capital, by its wealth, its commerce, its accessibility, its communication with the other parts of the world, its numbers, was one of the most important centres of influence; and we may readily understand, therefore, why he was called by Providence to labour there.
2. The world itself would be suggested as a field for which Saul was especially qualified; and which, in his call, he had been designated to occupy. The new idea was one which could not be confined in its operations to Antioch, for the principles which made it proper to preach the gospel there, made it proper to preach it everywhere. The events now occurring could not but suggest to a mind like Saul's the fact that the whole world was to be visited by like influences of the Spirit of God.
III. THE ARRANGEMENTS FOR CALLING TALENT FORTH TO ACCOMPLISH THE DIVINE PURPOSES.
1. Talent is found in one of these forms.
(1) In preparation for the future.
(2) In obscurity.
(3) Employed in a purpose corresponding to the design for which it was created.
(4) Perverted and abused. These forms may exist separately, or two of them may be combined. Thus talent in preparation, and as yet in obscurity, may be combined, for the occasion may not yet have arisen to call it forth. We have no reason to doubt that while Saul was in Arabia and in Tarsus he was preparing for his great work.
2. There is talent created in each age of the world, for all the purposes of that age. It is not developed from the past; nor is it the production of the mere laws of nature or hereditary; it is as much a new creation as would be the introduction of a new world. There was nothing in Stratford-on-Avon that could produce Shakespeare; nor anything in his father of which "Lear," and "Hamlet," and "Othello" could be the development. The mind of Shakespeare was as really an act of creation as the creation of a world. So with Johnson, Milton, Michael Angelo. These minds were made of such capacity, power, and adaptedness to a particular end, as God pleased; and were brought upon the earth at, when, and how He saw best. There is a difference between the Divine arrangements for the physical wants of the world, and for its mental and moral wants. In the former case, long before man was upon the earth, God had created all that the race would need in all its history. Mind, on the contrary, He brings upon the earth as it is wanted. At every period there is a class of minds needed to carry the world forward in its ordinary course — in working the fields already cultivated. As, however, the world's most marked advances are not by a steady ascent, but rather per saltum, so (when the time arrives for such a new elevation) God creates the mind or minds fitted to the occasion. Thus some great lawgiver, poet, painter, soldier, philosopher. Such men as Moses, Caesar, etc., lay the foundation for new epochs, and such "epochs" really constitute the history of the progress of the world.
3. Under this arrangement much talent may be hidden; much may be in a state of almost unconscious preparation. How little did Washington, amid the quiet scenes at Mount Vernon, how little Oliver Cromwell, on his farm, dream of the great part each was to act in the history of the world! The emergency came. There was enough for those great men to do, and God had endowed them with talent sufficient to do all that was needful to be accomplished in their age.
4. Emergencies do arise to call forth the talent which God has conferred. When liberty is endangered, when reforms are to be effected, when the world is to he prepared for some new and signal advance, then talent before hidden is brought forward to do its work. Such — in a more eminent degree than aught else — was the period when, after so long a preparation, and when "the fulness of the time was come," the Son of God was called from His obscurity in darkened Galilee. Such also — subordinate to that higher purpose, but still so marked in its character as to constitute a new epoch in the world's history — was the calling forth of Saul to act his part on the great theatre of human affairs.
(A. Barnes, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: