Grace Short Meditations: 10. Transforming Grace
Acts 11:23 “When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad.”
This was Barnabas, sent from Jerusalem to Antioch to see what God had been doing there. God had been working through believers scattered by persecution, who had gone to Antioch, shared the Gospel, so that, “a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” (11:21). The Spirit had brought conviction and repentance and then new birth – all expressions of grace, the working of God, freely given. It’s how the kingdom of God is extended, how God is glorified, as His grace is expressed in these ways and lives are transformed, new creations (2 Cor 5:17) of grace. That is you and me – works of God, works of grace to extend grace under His leading.
So the church in Antioch (and anywhere else for that matter) was a result of the working of the grace of God. At one point in history Antioch was simply a town full of superstitious pagans, their lives, “under God’s curse, doomed forever for their sins, going along with the crowd, full of sin, obeying Satan, their lives expressing the evil within them, doing every wicked thing that their passions or evil thoughts might lead them into.” (Eph 2:1-3 Living Bible applied). That’s what they would have been like, just like any other pre-Christian unbelievers around the world.
And then some Christians turned up (no doubt prompted by the Holy Spirit) and started sharing the Gospel. At this point the Holy Spirit really got to work and started convicting many of those unbelievers and very soon the town had a church – believers growing in grace as the grace of God continued to work transforming them and bringing others to faith. The free undeserved gift of God came into Antioch first in the form of a bunch of faith-filled believers, then in the form of the word of God spoken out, then in the form of the convicting Spirit, then in the form of the life-transforming Spirit who brought about numerous new births, then in the form of teaching by the incoming believers, then in ongoing transformation as faith was built, vision was expanded and grace was extended in gifts of prophecy, teaching and apostleship. And when Barnabas turned up from Jerusalem he recognised all this.
So let’s ask ourselves (Pandemics aside) is this what we have been seeing in our own locations, grace abounding and transforming lives and building church and transforming communities? I suspect, if we’re honest about the church in the West at least, the answer has to be largely, no. So what do we do about that? (Pandemics aside) We wait on the Lord, pray our hearts out, make ourselves available, take whatever opportunities He gives us and then look for this all to happen.