And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27-30)
Helping The Saints In Judea
The early church was an amazing model of generosity towards one another as members of the body of Christ. From its beginning in the city of Jerusalem, the church of God expressed their gratitude to the Lord by showing their kindness to those in need. Luke writes the first days of the church were filled with the sharing of all things common for the needs of man and many would sell properties to give to the poor and needy of the Lord’s church. When Agabus told of the coming famine, there was no hesitation on the part of the saints in Antioch to send relief to the saints dwelling in Judea. Each person, as they were able, contributed to the benevolent cause of taking what was theirs and sending it to people they had never met. The criteria was simple: there were saints in Judea that were in need and through the blessings of God they wanted to share what they had with those who had a greater need. What makes this more remarkable is that it is likely the Christians in Antioch were not all wealthy members and those who gave of their means were common folk who had enough to care for the family but desired to help others. Generosity is not measured by the amount of gold a man possess but our golden the heart of kindness will be toward those in need. Jesus watched a widow give all she had to the glory of God because of her love for the Lord. Barnabas, an early disciple in the church, sold land and willingly gave the proceeds to the church laying it at the apostle’s feet. Many others followed this pattern of benevolence. All those who had a need in the family of God were cared for by their brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.
When Jesus was praying His final prayer with the disciples He told them the world would know they were the disciples of the Lord by the manner of their fellowship with one another. The first-century church exemplified the love for one another as a pattern for the church to follow in the generations to come. Brethren who are in need, need brethren who will care for them. The sacrifice of self is the foundation of how love is shown. According to the abilities of each family, relief was gathered and sent to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. There was no institution that had to funnel the relief through a bureaucratic organized agency that decided how the funds would be spent and to whom the funds would be given. In the simple pattern of New Testament authority, a single line of benevolence was administered by the disciples in Antioch to the saints who were in Judea. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line and the saints in Judea were immediately relieved by the kindness of fellow Christians living many miles away. Barnabas and Saul were trusted men who would transfer the funds from the appropriate place to the needy of Judea. The hand of disciples taking care of the needs of the early church is the pattern of New Testament benevolence. Receiving the funds the elders knew who needed what and how to distribute the gifts from other Christians. The modern church tries to create a backlog of distribution by leaving the pattern of the early church to a benevolent society fraught with administration and confusion. Judea was blessed by the saints of Antioch and there can be little doubt the reception of the gifts was very personal. Kindness is best served on a dish of personal worth.
Helping the saints in Judea is an example of how God designed the church to meet the needs of those who are able to give and those who are in need. It must have been an exciting time for the church at Antioch to rally together to send relief to a place far away to brethren. They probably did not know many of the brethren but they had the same Father. Taking a part of what God had blessed them to share their brothers and sisters in Christ was the most rewarding and profitable part of their lives. Children learned the gift of giving and love for one another. The saints united together to show unity in the bond of peace. As the brethren in Judea struggled during the famine the gifts from Antioch would endear their hearts to unknown brethren but a family that filled the earth. They would thank the Antioch church for their kindness in daily prayers. God would be pleased to see His children in Antioch send relief to His children in Judea. A smile would cross the face of the Almighty as He witnessed the love of the brotherhood exemplified by the church in Antioch and the thankful brethren in Judea. That same spirit must manifest itself in the church of the Lord today as the needs of the saints are met by the kind regards of brethren who from their own abilities show the love of God to others. The New Testament pattern will always accomplish the work of the Lord when the word of the Lord is followed.