This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the birth of that noted evangelist, Dwight L. Moody. We might be interested in a significant statement made by him in commenting on Acts 11:21-24.
The scripture referred to speaks of a great work being done in Antioch. A great number believed and turned to the Lord. When the church at Jerusalem heard of these things, they sent Barnabas forth to visit the church at Antioch. And when Barnabas arrived there and saw all that had been done, he "was glad. . . . For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith." Mr. Moody points out: "It goes without saying that Barnabas must have been a good man and full of the Holy Ghost, for he was able to rejoice in another man's success." In other words, he felt that it takes an infilling of the Spirit for a minister of the gospel to be able to see a great number believe and turn to the Lord, and be truly glad when this comes as a result of another man's labors.
Barnabas was happy in upholding the hands of another worker, and in doing his best to conserve his gains. I believe that we can study the example of Barnabas with profit, and that we should rejoice more fully than we often do in the success of our fellow workers. One of our leaders once told me that he held an evangelistic meeting which he was not able to carry on to completion, and left some fifty names of interested people to be follbwed up by his successor. He related with much regret how that worker paid no attention to these interested people, and they were lost to the message for lack of proper attention.
I believe that the converts of other preachers ought to be as precious to us as our own. Of course we cannot but feel, even as did the apostle Paul, that the people who are led into the truth through our instrumentality are a little more closely linked to us than any others. But still, that should in no wise lead us to differentiate between them and people converted by other workers when it comes to the question of keeping people in the truth. When we are called upon to look after a group of new converts, we should redouble our efforts in their behalf.
Our Lord and Master seems to take a special interest in "these little ones," or babes in the truth, launching a strong indictment against those who fail to give proper help to them. In Matthew 18:6 we read: "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." It seems that this text refers to new converts to the truth, as it speaks of "these little ones which believe in Me." Weymouth's translation makes it a little clearer: "But whoever shall occasion the fall of one of these little ones who believe in Me."
If we are in any way responsible for the falling away of any of these "little ones," Christ is very much displeased with us. Seldom in all His utterances does the meek and lowly Saviour use words that express such tremendous concern for a single, struggling soul coming into the light of truth as do those He uses on this occasion. His feeling on such an occasion almost amounts to fury. What stronger language could He possibly employ than to say it were better for an offender that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should then be drowned in the depth of the sea?
These words of Christ should cause every one of us to pause and seriously consider our responsibility when there is the slightest temptation to allow any converts—those of another, or our own—to fall away from the faith because of neglect on our part. It would be profitable for us to reflect often on the example left us by Barnabas in this important matter. He "was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord."