Who wouldn’t like God to say of him that “he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith”? That is what He said to the whole world of a man who is usually overlooked when a list of the great saints of the ages is reeled off. (Acts 11:24)
Barnabas is the man of whom I speak. Though he was always in a supporting rather than starring role, he was a key figure in the New Testament Church in its infancy.
The world has its role models today, and young people look to them for leadership. They set styles, dictate tastes, and foster fads. Millions mimic their words and ways.
It is an excellent thing when the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ—when any local New Testament assembly that exists as a church, with a mission to perpetuate God’s truth through the publication and proclamation of His Word, and through the planting of like assemblies of the faithful worldwide—has men and women who are role models, especially for our youth. People they can look to and see how, in a practical way, a Christian lives; what he likes; how he looks and what he listens to; in sum, how he lives the life of a believer in a world not friendly to people of faith.
I hope that some who are reading these lines will determine, with God’s help and by His grace, to be that person. Not that you want to be someone or something in and of yourself, but for God’s glory, and for the help of someone else who might look to you for leadership.
Our youth have seen too much of the world’s darlings; they need to see someone who is Christ-like. Sadly, all too often, when young people come to church, they see men and women just like the models of the world. They too often see carnality, covetousness, adultery, and pride.
Because God spoke so highly of this one called Barnabas, we would do well to consider what it was about him that God blessed. If we can’t set him up as a 21st-century role model, we can at least—and should at least try to—duplicate in our lives those character traits that made him the good person that God said he was.
First, Barnabas was dedicated and surrendered to God. (Act 4:34-37) He was engaged seriously in doing the work of God. God says of Barnabas that he was a man full of compassion, generous, and honest. When an offering was taken up in Antioch for the saints in Jerusalem who were suffering the effects of famine, it was sent by the hands of Saul (Paul) and Barnabas. He was a trusted and trustworthy co-laborer of the Apostle Paul. (Acts 11:30)
Though he was not one of the deacons of that first church (Jerusalem assembly), he possessed the qualifications of one. He was said to be a man “full of the Holy Ghost.” That means he was saved (born again), surrendered to the Lord, and filled with the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 5:18) A person such as Barnabas who is filled with the Holy Spirit evidences that filling through the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.” (Gal. 5: 22,23) These have been—and are—the “norm” of Christian living. Barnabas was such a Sprit-filled believer. His life of surrendered service still speaks to us in 2022.
Also, Barnabas, companion of the Apostle Paul on his first missionary trip, was known for his loyalty. He was loyal to the young John Mark, who had made a bad decision when he returned home during that historic first missionary journey (embarked upon by Paul, Barnabas and John Mark). Barnabas was ready and willing to give John Mark a second chance when plans were made for the second missionary trip. Not so with the Apostle Paul; for him it was “one and done.” Again, we note Barnabas’ loyalty to Peter, who had “dissimulated” with some Jewish converts to Christianity who wanted Gentiles to submit to circumcision. Barnabas, “son of consolation,” was willing to give these Judaizers the benefit of the doubt, so much so that he sided with this departure from the truth until Paul came to set things straight. He was loyal, perhaps to a fault, to his friend Peter. (Gal.2:11-14)
And in Acts 15:26, at the church council in Jerusalem, convened to address the matters concerning circumcision, faith, grace, and law, Barnabas is identified by “chosen men of Antioch” as a man who, with Paul, had “hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He was with Paul at Iconium when the rulers of the city planned to stone them. He was with Paul when chief men of the city persecuted them and threw them out of town, and again at Lystra, when Paul was stoned and left for dead. No one who reads the book of Acts doubts that this “second man” with Paul was, like his missionary mentor, the Apostle, a man of great courage.
Paul was the great Apostle. The last half of the book of Acts and one-half of the New Testament was either about him or written by him. Barnabas had a supporting role—but Paul could not have done what he did without the aid of his loyal and trusted companion.
May God give His church today a host of men and women like Barnabas, “son of consolation.” Not only in spirit but in might. Men who will be totally dedicated and surrendered to the work and will of God. “Laymen” and “Second Men” who will hold up the arms of the leader. Men who are Spirit-filled, loyal first to our Lord, the Christ, and then to His appointed leader.
Men who will hazard their very lives, if need be, for the Lord Jesus.
“For better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows no victory or defeat.” (Theodore Roosevelt)
“And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:36,37)