His name is mentioned exactly one time in all of Scripture. Yet, we know the Holy Spirit saw fit for it be included in Holy Writ for nothing is included or excluded by accident. When listing obscure names in the Bible, even the best of Bible students might have overlooked the name, Manaen. The one time we read of this man in the Bible, this is what we read, “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who is called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul,” (Acts 13:1, ESV). As you can see, his name is listed with five others who are called prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch. Manaen is described as the synthropos of Herod Antipas (the tetrarch) who reigned from 4 B.C to A.D. 37. Synthropos is a Greek word that means, “nursed with another; one brought up or educated with another, an intimate friend, or friend of the court. Many translations will use the term, foster-brother. As noted above, the English Standard Version uses the term, “life-long friend.”
Recall that it was Herod who had given permission to have the head of John the Baptist removed from his body. It was Herod who had done nothing to stop the crucifixion of Jesus. It was Herod who had killed James, the brother of John, with the sword and because he saw that it pleased the people had arrested Peter and was planning the same (Acts 12:1-4). Luke records the violent death of Herod at the conclusion of Acts 12. To say the least, Herod had done much to persecute and harass God’s people. Yet, we read of his fosterbrother, his life-long friend, not only as a Christian, but listed as one of the teachers (a leader) of the Lord’s church in the city of Antioch. Friends, there are lessons to be learned from this single description of a man sandwiched in a list of others in Acts 13:1. Allow me to share with you three that come to mind.
First, the Gospel is truly the power of God to salvation. Paul makes it clear that this is true in Romans 1:16. While Herod was willing to harass the church (Acts 12:1), the gospel of Jesus Christ was able to convict his life-long friend. While nothing is really known about his upbringing, and nothing is known about how he was presented with the gospel, we know the lasting effect it had for good for the Lord’s church. At the end of Acts 12, Paul and Barnabas had just returned from a trip to Jerusalem and in Acts 13, the Holy Spirit is going to take them away again and it would lead to a rapid spread of the church of Christ. It doesn’t appear that the congregation in Antioch struggled while they were away or that they were hesitant to send them on their missionary journey. Why? Because they had men like Manaen to continue to teach. The church in Antioch knew full well the power of the gospel to save – praise God for congregations with Christians like Manaen who realize and see the good news of salvation!
Second, honest hearts are necessary for salvation. While Herod harassed with a hard-heart, Manaen shows what can be done when one has a soft-heart. Jesus gave the parable of the sower in Luke 8:4-15 – some are hard-hearted and will not receive, others will be choked out and others fail to form roots necessary for growth. Manaen is seemingly a prime example of an honest heart (good soil) who took root and grew to be a great teacher in the Lord’s church. May we strive to be those with honest hearts willing to make whatever sacrifices necessary to be well-pleasing to the Lord!
Third, no one should be denied an opportunity for salvation. Who taught Manaen about Jesus? Who shared the gospel with him? We don’t know, the Word of God does not tell us. However, we do know that someone shared Jesus and salvation in Him with this future teacher. How many Manaen’s have been overlooked because of partiality? How many Manaen’s have been associated with other family or life-long friends thought evil and the judgment made that, “Oh, he would never listen…” or, “he would never be interested…” Friends, the gospel is for all! The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men (Titus 2:11). Manaen may not have been the first choice based on his associations to share with gospel with– but someone did and the fruit of that study may very well be felt still even today! Let us be praying for the help of God to find our next Manaen.
– Adam Orr