The First People Called Christians: Devotion for Barnabas

Today we remember the apostle Barnabas, who traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys. Our devotion is an excerpt from A Year in the New Testament: Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year.

Scripture Readings

Isaiah 42:5–12
Psalm 112
Acts 11:19–30, 13:1–3
Mark 6:7–13

Read the propers for today in Lutheran Service Builder.

Devotional Reading

Christian. It is one of many titles that you bear. Other titles may include American, Lutheran, parent or child, employer or employee, teacher or student. Or you may be identified by where you live—if you’re from Nebraska, you’re a Cornhusker, or if you’re from Indiana, you’re a Hoosier.

In Antioch, the believers were first identified as Christians. This was not a title they chose for themselves but what they were called by nonbelievers. To this day, millions of faithful people are known as Christians. For you, the title Christian is a constant reminder that you belong to Christ. He has joined you to Himself as a branch to the vine. He has made you a member of His body. He has joined you to His death and resurrection in Baptism, and He unites Himself with you as He feeds you with His own body and blood in the Sacrament. You belong to Christ; you are a Christian.

Paul and Barnabas’s visit to the church in Antioch occurred almost ten years after Christ’s resurrection and ascension. Until this time, the Church was almost entirely Jewish believers. In the decade following Christ’s ascension, His disciples were reluctant to follow His command to make disciples of all nations. However, Antioch was the exception. Those from Cyprus and Cyrene spoke to both Jews and Greeks, and many believed. Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch for one year teaching the people.

E pluribus unum means “Out of the many, one.” This is the motto of the United States. Immigrants came from many lands and together became one nation. Beginning with Antioch, the same could be said of the Christian Church: out of the many, one. By God’s grace, disciples have been made of all nations. The Church is fulfilling Christ’s commission. In heaven, believers from all nations, tribes, people, and languages will be gathered before the throne of the Lamb. Out of the many, one. The Church is one, one in Christ.

Christians today are often also reluctant to speak God’s Word to those of different nationalities or ethnicities. Maybe you find yourself with this same fear and apprehension. You are worried about how your words will be received; maybe you assume that they are unlikely to believe in Christ. Instead of making excuses, God calls you, and all who bear the name Christian, to confess Christ. Through your vocations, the various titles you have been given, you have the opportunity to speak God’s Word and to sow the seeds of the Gospel.


Merciful Lord, Your Church expanded from Jerusalem to Antioch, where those who believed in Jesus were first called Christians. Through Your servants Barnabas and Paul, Gentiles were evangelized and now called by Your name. Give us courage to speak Your name even in the face of persecution, so that all might hear Your Holy Word and come to the knowledge of the truth; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Devotional reading and prayer are from A Year in the New Testament: Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year, page 207 © 2010 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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