Yesterday, while reading in Acts, I took note of how Barnabas started to disciple new believers in Antioch. Not by giving them a list of prescribed actions, but by exhorting them to a lifelong principle: “Remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” (Act 11:23b).
Today, as I continue to read of the birthing of the church, and as new believers continue to be added to the body of Christ, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that I encounter more foundational advice for new believers. And so, this morning, I’m chewing on the importance of staying with grace.
Paul and Barnabas had been “sent out by the Holy Spirit.” “Set apart” for the work to which the Spirit had called them (13:2-4). And that work involved a ministry of itinerant preaching. Traveling and proclaiming the word, initially at least, in the synagogues of the Jews. And, it seems to me, they encountered a Spirit-prepared congregation when they come to Antioch in Pisidia (central Turkey, today).
Wouldn’t always be the case, but this particular Sabbath the Spirit allows Paul to get through his whole message. And the Spirit stirs the heart of Peter (not the apostle, but the guy sitting in this chair) as he reads the message preached by Paul that day, recorded by Luke sometime later, preserved by God through the millennia, and supernaturally illuminated by the Spirit this morning as I read God’s living and active Word.
“Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this Man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by Him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”
(Acts 13:38-39 ESV)
And for a number of the brothers, and I’m thinkin’, sisters, it was known. And they did believe. And they followed Paul and Barnabas as Paul and Barnabas followed Christ.
And what first instruction were these new followers of Christ given on how to follow Christ?
And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.
(Acts 13:43 ESV)
They “urged them,” says the ESV. Earnestly and persistently they “persuaded them” (CSB, NKJV) to continue in the grace of God.
Not a gimme that those who had been saved by grace — especially Jews and devout converts to Judaism who had grown up on a religion of blessing for obedience — would intuitively get that they must be sustained by grace. That what had begun as a work of the Spirit could not be brought to fruition by any works of the flesh. That what was birthed by faith was designed to grow by faith.
And so they urged these babes in Christ to continue in the grace of God. To continue. To persist. To remain or abide. To stay with. It would take intentional effort to rest and rely on God’s finished work. It would take focus to walk by faith. It would take holy determination to allow His strength to be known in their weakness, to trust that the work He had begun in them He would complete in them. “Stay with it,” Paul and Barnabas would say.
And that “it” is the grace of God. They earnestly persuaded these new believers to stay with the grace of God.
Staying with grace. It’s what new believers need to hear as they embark on the pilgrimage. It’s what we more seasoned believers need to hear as well, again and again, as we continue to run the race. It’s what they needed to know when they knew so little. It’s what we need to remember when we can be tempted to rely on all that we’ve experienced.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me! . . .
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
Remain faithful. Stay with grace.
Good advice for believers. For the yet to be weaned and, for the weary warrior.
By His grace. For His glory.