In Acts 11:24 Barnabas is described as “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” Which proved to be jolly useful because he’d just been sent to Antioch by the apostles in Jerusalem to find out if a whole bunch of Gentiles really had been “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (verse 16).
The apostles figured Barnabas would know, because he was so “full of the Spirit” himself that he’d easily recognize if others were full of the Spirit too. And true to the apostles’ expectations “When Barnabas arrived (in Antioch) he saw the evidence of the grace of God,” verse 23. Meaning that, yes, he could easily see that these Gentiles, and lots of them too, had responded to the “men from Cyprus and Cyrene telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus” (verse 20).
So out of the blue, with no input or preaching by the apostles themselves, a new church full of Gentiles had sprouted up in Antioch. And they were easily recognizable as being baptized with the Spirit too. It was a shock that “the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles” (Acts 10:45), but the evidence was undeniable: God in his grace (Acts 11:23) had filled these Gentiles with the Holy Spirit too.
But what made that so recognizable? Well, three times in this chapter the same basic point is repeated, that these Gentiles “believed in the Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 17), they “believed and turned to the Lord” (verse 21), and they’d been encouraged by Barnabas in verse 23 to “remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.”
People who are “full of the Spirit,” therefore, are easily recognized as such by their obvious focus on Jesus being Lord and Christ. But how was their “obvious focus on Jesus” also recognizable too?
It was in God granting them “repentance unto life,” verse 18. The “repentance” part could easily be seen in the entirely new direction their Gentile lives had taken when they realized that “God had anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil,” Acts 10:38. What a revelation that was for these Gentiles, that Jesus would now do this for them too, opening up a whole new life to them that would free them of all that junk the devil had filled their heads with.
Their lives would now be directed “unto life,” the entirely new life Jesus had opened up through his death and resurrection that would change them into people like Barnabas, who was “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” And that was now theirs to experience “in full” too.
Imagine having that kind of power flowing through you, where goodness oozes from you wherever you go, all the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 are yours in full all the time, and you have total trust that Jesus will live his life in you all day and every day. And chuck in the gifts of the Spirit Jesus gives us too, that enable us to serve with wisdom, skill and practical healing that reaches right into people’s innermost deepest needs.
All this makes being “full of the Spirit” easy to recognize. And it was certainly recognizable among those Gentiles in Antioch, because when they heard that “severe famine” had really hit “the brothers living in Judea,” they immediately wanted to help (verses 28-30).
Imagine that, Gentiles wanting to help Jews. It was a total turnaround, a “repentance unto life,” because instead of sworn enemies hating each other they’re calling each other “brothers.” And instead of being stuck with the devil’s divisive rubbish they’re living a brand new lifestyle that is clear and visible witness to the new life and love that Jesus was now living in those who believed in him.
Oh yes, being “full of the Holy Spirit” is easy to recognize, and in such obvious and dramatic ways that it’s no wonder “a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord” (verse 21).