When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord . . . Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. (Acts 11:23; 13:43)
Whenever the grace of God is allowed to work in human hearts, visible spiritual evidences eventually appear. This can bring joy to those who are outwardly observing this inward work of grace. Still, it is appropriate to exhort those who have made progress in grace to continue in the grace of God.
When Barnabas arrived in Antioch to evaluate the reported spiritual revival, he was able to observe the outward confirmations of God’s inward work of grace. These verifications of grace caused him to rejoice. “He was glad.” However, he knew that words of exhortation were appropriate. Thus, he began to urge them to press on with Christ. He “encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.” It is important for those who have started out with the Lord (through faith in His name) to go on with the Lord. Life in Christ is basically about the most vital relationship of all. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). The Christian life is not only about meeting the Lord and receiving eternal life. This life-giving relationship with the Lord is to be nurtured and developed day by day unto abundance of life.
Some time after Barnabas shared this exhortation with the saints in Antioch (north of Israel), he and Paul were visiting the believers in another Antioch (in Pisidia, in the region of modern day Turkey). Here, they gave a similar exhortation. However, on this occasion, their urging was related to God’s grace: “persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.” Yes, grace is not only the way we begin with the Lord, but it is also the means by which we go on with Him. God’s grace is something we are to be seeking after every day. It is a major error of the faith to relegate grace to days gone by. We can praise and thank the Lord for all of His grace experienced in previous years. Nevertheless, the grace of God is essential today — and in each new day. Also, it is so fitting that the saints in one town were exhorted concerning continuing in the Lord, whereas others later were urged regarding continuing in grace. Grace cannot be separated from the Lord Jesus. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 8:9).