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January 18, 2019

GOD FIRST: Fellowship Breaks Down Barriers

James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.”Galatians 2:9 (NIV)

Ananias would be a microcosm of the skepticism felt at large by the early church toward a newly converted Saul of Tarsus.  Was his conversion genuine? Could he be trusted?  Wasn’t he the one who approved Stephen’s stoning? How could we let a man like that in our fellowship? What if its all a trick?  Better to be safe than sorry.  No doubt that was the consensus of the church at the time.  The Bible says,

“When he (Saul) came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.” Acts 9:26 (NIV)

But, God would not let that remain!  Just as he led Ananias into Saul’s life to place his hands on him and pray for him to see, be filled with the Holy Spirit and baptize him, so God led another Christ follower by the name of Barnabas to break down the barriers that would have hindered the fellowship of the church. In verses 27 and 28, the Bible tells us,

“But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.”

Fellowship removes the barriers that divide us.  Barriers like mistrust, fear, bitterness, jealousy and painful past mistakes.  Grace enables us to begin again.  Fellowship fosters that new beginning with reconciliation, mutual respect and acceptance!  Saul needed the church and the church needed Saul.  He and Barnabas would later lead the first missionary journeys of the infant church as it stretched its borders from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. 

Do you have a Barnabas in your life?  Someone who stepped in when everyone else stepped out?  Someone who believed in you and saw the potential in your life?  Someone who would build a bridge to connect you with others and replace the skepticism with trust?  In his own words when writing to the church in Galatia, Paul said,

“James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me.” Galatians 2:9 (NIV) 

I question whether they would have without the support of Barnabas.  We all need a Barnabas in our lives.  Perhaps, even more personal, we need to be a Barnabas.  Who is there in your world that needs a friend?  They need someone to believe in them.  They need someone to connect them with others and make them feel accepted and loved.  Real fellowship builds bridges.  Offer someone the right hand of fellowship this weekend.

Prayer:

Thank You, Lord, for the people in my life that have been like Barnabas to me.  They have connected me to Your path and encouraged me.  Show me those I may help in the same way.  Use our fellowship to break down the barriers and build bridges of hope and acceptance. 

(If you’re not connected to a church fellowship, I want to encourage you to check out the Membership Class at a Woodlands Church campus near you on Sunday, January 27th and experience a family to belong to, not just a building to go to.  Register now and enjoy a free lunch with us at the class.)