Encouragement and Warning

Acts 15:36,41  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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The children of God, so far as their acceptance is concerned, are as fit for heaven on the day they are saved as ever they will be; and why God does not take them there at once, when they believe, is doubtless because He requires them here for a time, associated with His purposes concerning the glory of His Son in this period of His Son’s rejection. God fits His own as vessels to the accomplishing of these purposes, and would have us day by day individually walking, in communion with Himself and using every circumstance arising in our pathway as means whereby to glorify Him; for if we are wrong in our individual path, how can we be right corporately? If we go on with the Lord in the first, we shall be found proportionately in unison with Him in the second.
Furthermore, the Lord would have us make room for Him, so to speak, in our hearts, for we know there was no room for Him in this world, as is shown by the “manger the “cross and the “not where to lay his head” and the world today is unchanged.
It is of vast importance, too, to know God’s mind which He has so clearly revealed in His word to true hearts and simple minds.
Not less important is it to know how we are to be kept suited vessels for Him, and in concert with His mind, in this day of increasing evil in which our lot is cast. God said to His earthly people Israel, in a former dispensation, in connection with what He was then doing, “take heed to thyself.” And surely it is a word equally needful now for His heavenly people. Two things are essentially necessary, namely, obedience and dependence. Mere knowledge of God’s word, human intelligence in the truth, long years of much-honored service, experience, and the like, good as they may be in themselves, are utterly powerless to sustain and preserve God’s people for Himself in a day like this. Nothing short of obedience to God’s word and dependence upon Himself will suffice. Our blessed Lord was the only perfect exemplification of this, and it is very remarkable to see how successfully He met every temptation of Satan with quotations from the Book of Deuteronomy, which, as we know, contains special instruction for the saint’s walk; and He left us an example that we should walk in His steps. Moreover, we have many examples in God’s word, written for our learning, showing how blessed it is to be characterized by obedience and dependence, and how solemnly disastrous it is to be found in an opposite path.
One should tread very softly indeed when referring to the failures of such an honored servant of God, for instance, as Barnabas, who labored so intimately with the apostle Paul. Of course we could not say Paul was perfect, but we must admit that while he went on with God, Barnabas broke down under testing. Satan is ever on the alert to hinder souls and mar God s work, and whenever God is having a special testimony carried on, the enemy is on the extra watch to subvert it. When such a servant as Barnabas could be drawn aside in such a simple way, how it behooves us to take heed to ourselves. The foe knows our tendencies and is well acquainted with our weakest points, directing his attacks accordingly. What would answer his purpose with one saint would probably have no power whatever with another.
We read of Barnabas, in the Acts of the Apostles, that:
1. He introduced Paul to the other apostles at Jerusalem. (Chap. 9:27.)
2. He was sent by the church to Antioch to exhort the saints to cleave unto the Lord. (Chap. 11:22, 23.)
3. He was a man full of the Holy Ghost and of faith. (Chap. 11:24.)
4. He went to seek Paul who had fled to Tarsus, and brought him to Antioch where he and Paul stayed a year together, with the church, when the disciples were first called Christians. (Chap. 11:25, 26.)
5. He and Paul were sent by the elders with relief to the brethren in Judea. (Chap. 11:29.)
6. He and Paul were separated of the Holy Ghost to go to Cyprus, where Gods power in the apostle Paul proved stronger than Satan’s power in Elymas the sorcerer. (Chap. 13:2-11.)
7. He went with Paul after Paul had been stoned and supposed to be dead, to Derbe. (Chap. 14:19-20.)
8. He and Paul together went up to Jerusalem respecting Judaism being taught, and were received of the church, the apostles and elders; and all the multitude gave audience to them. (Chap. 15:2, 4, 12.)
9. He and Paul, who had hazarded their lives, were then chosen with one accord by the apostles and elders with the whole church, to return to Antioch about the same matter, with others. (Chap. 15:22, 25, 26.)
10. And when Paul simply proposed to Barnabas that they should visit their brethren in the cities where they had preached the word of the Lord, Barnabas wanted to take with them Mark, his relative; but because Paul thought it not good to do so on account of Mark having left the work in Pamphylia, Barnabas separated and sailed with Mark to Cyprus their native place; while it is said of Paul that he chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God, and that they went through Syria and Cilicia confirming the churches. (Chap. 15:36, 41.)
It is solemn thus to note that there is but little mention made again of Barnabas. Mark did afterward become profitable for the ministry, and Paul sent for him. In substance Paul remained in the current of God’s mind, and Barnabas left it. Barnabas and Mark might have said of what had happened, that it was merely a personal quarrel between two servants of God, and so forth; but clearly it was that Barnabas at an unguarded moment sacrificed God’s work for natural relationship, preferring to honor his nephew rather than uphold the honor of the One whose name he bore, and whose interests and testimony were in measure entrusted to him.
We do not learn from scripture that he ever got restored to anything approaching the same position of service and privilege, but we do know that another took his place. God, so to speak, must have our obedience, but He can get others to do our work. Barnabas thereby deprived himself of the privilege of witnessing soon afterward with Paul in the prison at Philippi, and of being in the blessing at Thessalonica and other places. In these two cases, can we not hear a voice from God to us, of encouragement on the one hand and of warning on the other?
May God in His grace grant that we may! And may all our hearts he directed into closer occupation with that blessed One who always did those things that pleased His Father in the perfection of dependence and obedience, and so be kept in communion with Himself, and in the current of His mind, and suited vessels to maintain that which is so dear to Himself during the little while of His absence, for His name’s sake.
J. N.