Joses, meaning “ fruitful," was such a lovable character that he was surnamed Barnabas by his fellow-apostles. He was not only a man who was generous in disposition, but a man of large physical proportions, as Acts 14. 12 seems to suggest. “Jupiter is the Emperor of Gods. The whole constitution seems to be moulded by him."Barnabas was a Levite by birth (Acts 4. 36) and lived in Cyprus. As a class the Levites had failed, and God sets them aside and pronounces judgment upon them for their declension (Mal. 2. 5-9). They are mentioned only once in the NT, in John 1. 19, but two individual Levites are mentioned, Luke 10. 32 and Acts 4. 36. Let us look at some of the features of this life of Barnabas that endeared him to his brethren, and may we have grace to follow him as he followed his Lord. In him we see spiritual progress, for the first picture of him presents him to us as
A Consecrated Man, Acts 4. 46-37
He is much less prominent than Paul, but he is just as practical and readily acknowledges the reasonableness of God’s claim upon his service. He begins at the altar of God and having deeply appreciated the sacrificial work of his Lord he is prepared to follow Him in altar sacrifice, Rom. 12. 1. The background of this act is interesting. He was a member of an assembly marked by persecution (v. 29}, by prayer (vv. 24-30), by power (v, 31), by practical fellowship (v. 32), and by great grace (v. 33). Barnabas feels he must give himself and all that he possesses to the Lord.
Like him we need to acknowledge that we are not our own and have been redeemed by precious blood. He sells his earthly possessions and leaves God to take care of him in the pilgrimage of faith. He becomes a pilgrim and a pioneer, he ventures for God, has victory over fear and is constrained to follow the Lord, sustained by the vision of a glorious future.
A Helpful Man, Acts 9. 2R-27
Twelve to eighteen months have passed and the Church has suffered much at the hands of Saul of Tarsus, but the lion is now a lamb. Saul is conquered by God, and as a new convert he is seeking a spiritual home. Arriving at Jerusalem he presents himself to the Church there, but. is not very welcome. The man who surrendered his life to God and whose will was under Divine control now comes forward with sympathetic understanding and helps the young brother Saul. Barnabas is seen here as a shepherd caring for the lambs of the flock and, but or his brotherly act, Christ like spirit, manly courage and ready help, Saul would have been lost tothe company.
Future life and activity confirmed the testimony of Barnabas relative to Saul (vv. 28-30},Broadmindedness instead of bigotry, brotherliness instead of apprehension and doubt, should mark all who care for the saints. The Church was enriched, established and encouraged by the oral and written ministry of Saul (renamed Paul) the great apostle to the Gentiles.
A Good Man, Acts11. 23-30
Seven or eight years have passed since Saul was welcomed into the fellowship of the Church at Jerusalem. The persecution of saints has turned out rather for the furtherance of the gospel, and the first Gentile Church has been established in Antioch.
Barnabas becomes the messenger of the Church and is honoured by being made their representative. His qualities as a leader among the saints, and his ministry which brought inspiration and help, are recognized and he arrives in Antioch as a good minister of Jesus Christ. No greater thing can be said of any child of God than this “ a good man.” How much this poor, enslaved, disillusioned world needs good people. We cannot all be great but we can all be good and, like our Lord, spend ourselves in doing good for others. What are the features of this good man. As to self, “ full of faith “ ; God-ward, “ full of the Holy Ghost “ ; man-ward, “ a good man," and church-ward, a help and a blessing. He had an observant eye, he looked for the work of God in the lives of the saints, and what he saw made him glad.He rejoiced in the work of others and was glad – not mad that he had no part in forming this assembly! True greatness is evident when we thank God for what others have done in His Name, Not only was he a happy man, but he was a helpful and a holy man (v. 24). He knew his own limitations and kept to his God-given ministry – an exhorter, he exhorts them to cleave to the Lord and continue in His grace. He sees here potentialities for God, and in searching (or Saul to teach these saints we note his humility (Phil. 2. 5). He could have carried on the work and made a name for himself, but no “ good “ man would countenance such a thing. His consistent life and testimony, his godly influence, his co-operation in ministry with Saul, left its mark on the lives of the saints and they were called Christians ("Christ’s ones “) first in Antioch.
A Separated Man, Acts 13. 1-4.
Now comes the call of God to definite enterprise and missionary work. Barnabas is one of the gifts furnished by God and functioning for God under the authority and sovereignty of the Spirit of God (v. 1).
He has proved himself in association with the saints – diligence in service and integrity in business matters. Dependence upon God fits him for the foreign held. A Divine principle is here enunciated, one that we do well to observe and follow. The word ‘ separate ‘ signifies separation, from evil (2 Cor. 6. 17) and separation to God (Rom. 1.1); and both of these things were true of these servants chosen of God, called by the Spirit, and commended by the saints. As a true Levite he is separated, and this act is attested by commendation and commission (Num. 3. 5-13 ; Acts 13. 3). The Church confirms the choice of God so evident in the lives of these servants Paul and Barnabas. They were called while they were serving, fasting and praying (vv. 2, 3), and God’s order has not changed. They both became worthy messengers, and faced extreme hazards for the sake of the gospel.
A FearlessMan, Acts 15. 25-27
Tribute is paid to these dear missionary brethren along with their fellow-labourers. They are highly esteemed and are noted for their courageous confession of Christ. These younger men commended by the Church are good soldiers of Jesus Christ and, under the able leadership of Paul and Barnabas, are greatly used of God. Loyalty to the Lord Jesus and love to the saints marked the ministry of these men of God. Alas that the page of this dear servant’s life should be soiled by the energy of the flesh, possibly evident in both as they contended and eventually separated. The facts of the case are not recorded but we can learn for our admonition that good men can disagree, that men greatly used can err, and God records this for our benefit. History probably proved that both view points were right, and Paul learned to appreciate the help of the young man who became homesick and ceased to be his minister. May we be like Barnabas and surrender ourselves to the Lord, seek the welfare of His saints, serve Him amid defection and declension, and suffer if need be as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.
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