Amidst the increasing apathy, rejection, and persecution which continues to raged on against Jesus’ followers in Judea, the gospel exploded with great success in other regions, particularly Antioch. In all unlikeliness, Antioch is the least expected place where the gospel prospered in such a way! Particularly the fact that it has taken root even among the gentiles community. In other words, Antioch church could be seen as the first successful multi-ethnic church in the New Testament!
So, what did the Apostles do to support the work in Antioch? They sent Barnabas as a missionary. The decision to send Barnabas might be based on his background as diaspora Jew who is familiar with the culture and worldview of gentile world. Luke recorded that through the ministry of Barnabas, “a great number of people were brought to the Lord”(Acts 11:24 NIV). Despite attaining wonderful result, Barnabas did not stop there. Luke further wrote that Barnabas “went to Tarsus and to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch.” Barnabas did not write a letter to call Paul, he did not sent someone to look for Paul; Barnabas personally went to Tarsus and met Paul all by himself. He went all the way to recruit Paul. Why would he do that? Because Paul is his friend, and a good friend always have that longing to serve together in God’s work.
The partnership of Barnabas and Paul continues beyond Antioch Church. As they gathered to worship, the Holy Spirit ask the church to anoint Barnabas and Paul as a missionaries to unentered territories. And for three years, Barnabas and Paul actively evangelized in unentered regions, while building a community of faith wherever they go. Their ministry is inspired by their passion to reach the gentiles for Christ.
Despite having tremendous success among the Gentiles, Barnabas and Paul missionary trip triggered a theological debate among the Early Christians, particulary in regards of the circumcision and Jewish identity. During the Jerusalem Council, it was their testimonies that served as a counterpoint against those who insisted on staying firm with their Jewish roots. And when the verdict was decided, Barnabas and Paul gladly proved that the gospel is now open for everyone, regardless of their race or background.