The visibleness of true religion
By "the grace of God" in scripture, is generally meant his favour to the unworthy, in opposition to merit or desert. It supposes that God is under no constraint in exercising mercy, and that man has no claims upon him. It is the only source of all the great things that are done for us in this world, and of all the blessings we shall enjoy in the next. This grace is displayed in our regeneration, sanctification and preservation; and when its subjects are completely glorified, grace will be fully satisfied. Faith is necessary to salvation, but does not lessen its freeness, for that also is matter of free favour. "By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph 2:8, 9). Grace is sometimes put for the effect of God's free favour towards us, and is so to be understood in our text. Considering it as the original cause of our salvation, it is grace in the fountain: in its operations, it is grace in the stream: grace in the principle, and in the product. In both respects it is absolutely free, without money and without price. It prevents our deserts and endeavours, and far exceeds our highest hopes. Let us proceed to notice two things principally arising from the words before us - namely, that where true grace is, it ill be seen - and, that the appearance of it in others is matter of joy to Christians, especially to faithful ministers.
2. The grace of God will be discovered in their conversation.
3. It may be seen in their conduct and deportment.
Barnabas was only a visitor at Antioch, and had not been the instrument of this great work; it was effected chiefly by the preaching of the men of Cyprus and Cyrene; yet he rejoices in it, and afterwards abides with them, and much people were still added unto the Lord. He rejoiced on their account who had received the grace of God, on his account who bestowed it, and also on his own account, as affording a prospect of success in his future labours among them.
2. They were such as had appeared openly for Christ, as well as truly believed on him.
3. The converts at Antioch appear to have been eminent in their profession, as well as sincere, and this also was matter of joy to Barnabas.
(1) If believers may see the grace of God in others, why not in themselves? That which is an evidence of grace in one is so in another, and yet it often happens that what we see in others we cannot see in ourselves, though others cannot see it in us. But we know more of our own defects than others' can know of us, and therefore it is that we are more doubtful of the good that may be in us: yet we should do ourselves the justice to consider that as an evidence of grace which we allow to be so in another. "Let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." Gal 6:4
(2) If our seeing the grace of God in this world be matter of joy, what will it be hereafter, when its work shall be completed, and every imperfection be done away! If the first-fruits be so sweet, what will be the harvest ? The church is now fair as the moon, but then it will be clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners. "The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." Isa 35:10.