Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:…
The history of Christianity at Antioch is on a small scale the history of Christianity in the world. Study the growth of one tree, and you will have a knowledge of the laws which regulate development in the vegetable world. The flowers that bloom today obey the same laws as did those of Paradise, and the Churches of today spread themselves after the same fashion as did that of Antioch. It is of the first importance, then, that we should know all that the name Christian means.
I. CHOICE. Choice does not rule everywhere. We did not choose whether we would have life, parents, name, country, or not. And there are some things connected with Christianity which may be put in the same list — Christian land, books, thoughts, facts, etc. We are not Christians because we live among these circumstances, any more than a man becomes a horse by being put into a stable, any more than a sheep's clothing makes a sheep. Doubtless there are thousands who believe that baptism makes them Christians, just as Pagans believed that, by going through certain rites, they obtained the favour of the gods. But the New Testament teaches that Christianity is to be chosen. There must be first a willing mind — not a mere non-rejection of Christianity, but a clear acceptance of Christ. There is something inspiriting in this. Christ appeals to our manhood. He does not treat us like children to be led by the hand, nor compel us to a kind of religious slavery, but teaches us to stand erect in our humility.
II. OBEDIENCE. Authority is essential to all life. Natural life must be regulated by well known rules, which we did not invent, but which we found invented for us. So with spiritual life and communion. We may be improving their outward forms and adapting them to the changing culture of the age. But we must build on the same foundations, and progress on the same principles as the earliest Christians did — in one word, bow to the authority of Christ. The Church has suffered from the usurped authority of kings, parliaments, bishops, mobs; but the Church's true Head is Christ. Alas for the Churches, they have too often lived as though the Head were a mere caput mortuum. But the Head of the Church is a mind that thinks of its difficulties and trials; it governs a hand that can guide it in all its devious paths; it moves a will that can defend it, and has a mouth by which the law of God can be made known.
III. SEPARATION. One of the reasons why Christians were so much hated was that they stood aloof from the common enjoyments of life. But this was inevitable, for the festivities and customs of Greece and Rome were so leavened with idolatry and sin that indulgence in the one involved complicity with the other. The early Christians consequently were in danger of asceticism, and were tempted to confound what was innocent with what was sinful. Society, thanks to Christian influence, is not now so corrupt. And yet our danger lies in too much laxity and indifference. Depravity has not been charmed away, and there is no less peril in the world's friendship today than there was eighteen hundred years ago. If, then, we would do good service in the world we must separate from its evil. The hope of the Church is in its clean hands and pure heart. Separation from all known evil is the mark alike of the Christian soul and the Christian community.
IV. WILLINGNESS TO SUFFER for Christ (1 Peter 4:16).
(S. Pearson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: