The Service of a Good Man Full of the Holy Ghost and of Faith

Acts 11:24  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The Spirit of God has seen good to give us for our profit this notice of one whom He could use fully, in service to the saints, for the glory of Christ; one, a pattern, doubtless, and worthy of imitation by all. It is here unreserved devotedness which is so essential to blessing in service, whatever may be the line in which the servant may move, or the place filled by such a member of the body of Christ.
Let us notice, first, the start of this “good man.” It is “Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas (which is, being interpreted, the son of consolation) a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.” (Acts 4:36, 3736And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet. (Acts 4:36‑37).)
Here is one disentangling himself from the things of this life, and ready to enter on the service of Him who had called him to be a soldier, with a heart for the needy too; but we see him getting rid, for Christ's sake, of the things which might burden and fetter him in the race. (Heb. 12)
Thus is he ready (a convert on the day of Pentecost) early for the Lord's work; nor do we find him long unemployed. If the apostles were tardy in carrying out the Lord's instructions (given after His resurrection, and consequent on their being endued with power from on high on the day of Pentecost, for which they were told to wait), “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” (Mark 16:1515And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)), He is not at a loss for instruments for the work. If the children do not cry “Hosannah” in praise of Messiah, Son of God, the “stones will;” for God's decree is that His beloved Son must be owned and honored when here; neither is He going to be hindered in having the name of that blessed One told out to the ends of the earth, as a Savior for man lost in trespasses and sins. If some had settled down, He can fit instruments for His purpose out of materials more unlikely than “the stones.”
There is the chief of sinners standing by the clothes of those who had laid them down at his feet to take care of, until they stoned the Lord's faithful servant, Stephen—mad with rage against Christ and all that owned Him. This man is to be made a willing instrument to carry the name of Christ, “the Son of God,” to all the nations.
The Lord speaks from heaven, and in a moment he is turned and ready. “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” is what expresses it. He must, however, tarry awhile, and then he shall know, not only what the Lord would have him to do, but what “he should suffer for his name's sake.”
And now has the Lord a service ready for the “good man,” whose eye was so single at first, and as a clean vessel, to be honored and used by the Master.
Saul, escaping from Damascus, would “join himself to the disciples at Jerusalem: but they were afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.” They did not know of his conversion; but Barnabas knew; and the Lord uses him to bring in Saul to the assembly at Jerusalem. “But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.” We are not told how Barnabas knew all this, but it is remarkable that he should know so much better about Saul's conversion than the apostles and disciples at Jerusalem. His heart was in it all, and the Lord, doubtless, had put him in the way of knowing all this, in order to form a link between these two for future work together.
The persecution which arose about Stephen opened out this. Saul had been the means of scattering abroad the church at Jerusalem, also Judea and Samaria. These simple disciples, driven away from their homes for their faith in the Lord Jesus, yet carrying Him in their hearts, must needs speak of Him wherever they go, even at last “to the Greeks;” and “the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed, and turned to the Lord.” This spontaneous work is specially owned of God, carrying out His purpose by the gospel, to the glory of Christ, among the Gentiles.
The apostles had not done this work. Saul was the instrument used. “The Lord makes the wrath of man to praise him, and the remainder He restrains,” by stopping the wrathful man on his way to Damascus, and fitting him to labor, side by side, with those whom his wrath had driven among the nations, to tell of God's love in Christ.
Here there is more work also for the “good man,” “son of consolation,” fit instrument to be used and honored in service.
“Then tidings of these things came to the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem, and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch, who, when he came and saw the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they should cleave unto the Lord.”
The church at Jerusalem had perfect confidence in this “good man,” as having spiritual discernment as to the work of which they had heard. Their confidence is not misplaced. He discerns at once the Lord's hand, and the reality of that which was wrought thus far, apart from any official channel. His whole heart is in it. “He was glad when he saw the grace of God,” and in service follows up by “attending to exhortation,” All was right thus far; they must have “full purpose of heart, and cleave unto the Lord.” It is but the echo of his own state of soul; he was but leading them, and encouraging them to walk in the path he had trodden hitherto himself. There had been “full purpose of heart” in “Joses, surnamed Barnabas,” from the day that the grace of God had met him, and delivered him so completely. He did not lead them beyond himself—this was not possible. Blessed state of soul, and blessed the servant, or saint, who was, or is, in it, and increasingly blessed its results: “and much people were added to the Lord;” “for he was a good man,” &c. The Spirit of God gives as a reason for the large blessing, “full of the Holy Ghost and of faith,” the state of this man's soul. What could hinder large blessing when such was the state? May we lay this to heart.
Next we see what is most beautiful. The work is enlarging, and help is needed in this field. Barnabas knows of the one whom he introduced to the church in Jerusalem, and he knows what he is. “Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus for to seek Saul.” The disciples do not send for Saul. This “good man” judges Saul to be fitted to help in this work. Was Saul unemployed at Tarsus, waiting for the Lord's call? If so, he has it by Barnabas, and immediately responds to it; for “he found him, and brought him to Antioch,” and there these two labor, and “teach much people for a whole year,” after which the church sends them to Jerusalem, with relief to the brethren there in their distress; and they return to Antioch, bringing with them John Mark,
This work, then, at Antioch goes on not independent, indeed, of Jerusalem, Barnabas being the link of connection in service; yet was it the free and spontaneous action of the Holy Ghost for Christ, if I may so say; and He (the Holy Ghost) is in Antioch, as in Jerusalem at the first, not only in the salvation of the souls of much people, but in giving gifts; so we find “at Antioch certain prophets and teachers, as Barnabas, and Simeon, that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen—and Saul;” five in all, harmoniously ministering in Antioch, the mention of the names beginning with Barnabas, and ending with Saul. These two distinguished ones must yet go together in service.
“As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” Thus the Holy Ghost still keeps this “good man” in his preeminent place in service. I do not follow them in this their first tour, taking John Mark with them to help, who lowers himself by turning back to Jerusalem, at Perga in Pamphylia (lacking the faith and full purpose of heart needed in a true servant), just remarking in passing that Paul increases in energy, and is the “chief speaker,” changing his name to Paul, it would seem, at Paphos.
This service being completed, they return to Antioch, “and declare all that God had wrought by them.”
Up to this point, with the exception of John Mark's defection, all had gone on harmoniously in this new work, at and from Antioch; the freshness of first love was there, until certain men come from Judea, and introduce, or try to introduce, circumcision. I pass by this to notice the place that Barnabas still held in service; but now it is “Paul and Barnabas, who had no small dissension and disputation with them;” and this not settling the question, it is “determined that Paul and Barnabas should go to Jerusalem about it.”
Their mission there is successful, and they return to Antioch, with “letters from the apostles, elders, and brethren,” settling the question in dispute, which, when read at Antioch, caused them to “rejoice for the consolation;” “Paul and Barnabas continuing in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with, many other also.”
Here we would gladly stop in following the path of this “good man,” if the Holy Ghost stopped here. But no. Up to this all had been bright; and how sad that such a light should be dimmed How it grieves one's heart that these two beloved ones, laboring so long and faithfully together, should quarrel and part Mark, indeed, whose default was the occasion of it, is afterward deemed “profitable unto Paul,” as he writes. Had the Lord called away His beloved Barnabas then?
Yet so it was. Had he forgotten his own beautiful exhortation, “with purpose of heart to cleave unto the Lord?”
His relation, John Mark, and his native island of Cyprus, doubtless weigh too much with him as a man naturally, and not Christ's interests; and the Holy Ghost drops him out of the record further given in the
Acts. Up to this last all was worthy of imitation, and full of encouragement; this last is but as a beacon light, to warn our souls of danger, when and where it may be least expected. In all there is instruction and profit.