The “scattered” disciples chattered about Christ, of course (v. 19)—but only to Jews! That shows that they knew when the Lord told them to “teach all nations” (Mt. 28:19) that they knew He meant “all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Lu. 24:47), and that they couldn’t teach all nations until the nation of Israel was saved, so God could use them to reach the Gentiles. God might have just finished teaching Peter that Gentiles were no longer unclean in Acts 10, but that didn’t change what God told the Jews to do.
“Grecians” (v. 20) were Greek-speaking Jews. But some new Bible versions mistranslate this as “Greeks,” the Bible word for Gentiles. But we know that they were Jews because some Grecians tried to kill Saul for preaching that Jesus was their Christ (Acts 9:29), and only Jews were upset to hear that their Messiah was a poor carpenter from Nazareth. Plus, these Grecians later sent Paul out to preach to the Gentiles and, when he returned, he reported that while he was out God opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. That means the door was not opened when these Jews preached to the Grecians.
Now if God didn’t approve of preaching to only Jews, He would have been against these Jews, but verse 21 says the hand of the Lord was “with” them. How’d they know it was with them? The hand of the Lord is associated with the Spirit (Mt. 12:28 cf. Lu. 11:20), so they knew God’s hand was with them when those Grecians cast out devils, etc., by the Spirit.
The leaders of the Jewish kingdom church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to minister to these new Grecian believers (v. 22) because he was “the son of consolation” (Acts 4:36). That is, he had a consoling personality. The word “sole” means single, as when we say someone was the sole survivor of a disaster, the lone survivor. And “con” means against, like when you are trying to make a decision and you make a list of pros and cons. So when you con-sole someone, it means you’re against them being alone—especially when they’re in distress and need consoling. God was able to use Barnabas’ consoling personality when Saul got saved and tried to meet up with the 12 apostles and they were afraid of him (Acts 9:26). It looked for a while as if Saul would have to remain alone, but the son of consolation consoled him.
And this explains why the 12 sent Barnabas to the new Grecian believers. Grecians and Hebrews didn’t always get along, even when filled with the Spirit (Acts 6:1). The 12 didn’t want those new Grecian believers to feel alone and unaccepted by the Jewish church, so sent Barnabas to console them. The Greek word for “exhort” (v. 23) is similar to the one for “console.”
To do something with purpose of heart (v. 23) means with determination (Dan. 1:8). So when Paul says we should give with purpose of heart (II Cor. 9:7), we should be as determined to give as Daniel was not to eat forbidden meat!
Of course, Barnabas told the Grecians to cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart (v. 23). The word “cleave” can mean to stick with (Gen. 2:24), or to divide (Zech. 14:4), but the Grecians were obviously being exhorted to do the former.
That can be hard in the face of life’s many disappointments, but Barnabas knew a thing or two about disappointments. “Joses… surnamed Barnabas” (Acts 4:36) was probably “Joseph called Barsabbas” (Acts 1:23). If so, do you think maybe he was disappointed that God picked Matthias to be the 12th apostle and not him? Acts 1:15-26 says Judas’ replacement had to have followed the Lord for all three years of His ministry, so Barnabas must have. He left everything behind to follow Him as Peter left his fishing boats and nets. Then, even after he was passed over for apostleship, he sold all he had when God asked him to (Acts 4:36,37). If anybody had a reason to not cleave to the Lord, it was Barnabas. He had every reason to get bitter and walk away. But he cleaved to the Lord instead. Who better to tell these Grecians to?
You should cleave to the Lord too! Under the law, God promised to reward Jews who cleaved to Him (Deut. 11:22, 23). But we’re not under the law (Rom. 6:15). God blesses us with all spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3) and then asks us to walk worthy of Christ (Col. 1:10) by cleaving unto Him. So if you’re thankful for your blessings, cleave to Him.
Video of this sermon is available on YouTube: The Chattering of the Scattering – Acts 11:19-23