Series 46


STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 8 -11)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 11:19-30

In approaching our study of Barnabas in Acts 11, we must begin by making reference to Acts 4:36-37 and Acts 9:26-28.

The first of these references tells of this man’s great generosity and that his real name was Joses (or Joseph), that he was a native of Cyprus and that he was a Levite. Dr Paul Rees says of him that “he had a stewardship rather than an ownership view of property” – look up 1 Corinthians 4:2.

In the second reference to Barnabas (Acts 9) we learn of his magnanimous spirit. With the blood of the martyrs still on his hands, Saul found he was without friends, but when he sought fellowship with the Christians, they were afraid of him! How gracious Barnabas was to befriend and commend him to the Lord’s people! But it is to Acts 11:19-30 that we turn to see the kind of members the Church needs. Notice in verse 24 Barnabas is referred to as “a good man”. No greater thing can be said of any man than this; we may not be great, talented or prosperous, but we can all be good; and how the Church needs people of the Barnabas type. Notice some of his characteristics:-


1. We know that Barnabas was a good man because of what he saw

It is important to read Acts 11:19-22 and then, connecting it to verse 23, to notice what Barnabas saw – “When he…saw the evidence of the grace of God…” But how can we see the grace of God? It means that Barnabas saw souls who had been saved, lives that had been transformed and Christians who were rejoicing in the Lord. He saw the grace of God in action; and a good man will always see what God is doing in others. The first mark of goodness, then, is to see the best in others, not the worst.


2. We know that Barnabas was a good man because of what he felt

What were his innermost reactions when he saw the grace of God? – verse 23 tells us – “he was glad…” This surely means that he experienced Lamentations 3:51 and felt a thrill when he saw what God was doing. Some people get mad when God begins to work in revival power, when souls are saved and Christians are blessed; others are genuinely glad and they rejoice in what God is doing – look up Psalm 126:1-3. Notice that Barnabas rejoiced in the work of God although he had no part in that work. Do we rejoice when God is using others? Are we glad when someone else is the special instrument of His power?


3. We know that Barnabas was a good man because of what he said

Speech is a good barometer of character, and our tongues certainly have a great power for good or evil (James 3:1-11). Verse 23 tells us that Barnabas “encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord”. Notice what this means:

  1. 1. He encouraged the new converts (Acts 18:26; Hebrews 10:25).
  2. 2. He urged them to be steadfast believers (1 Corinthians 15:58).
  3. 3. He helped them to fix their eyes on Jesus and to keep close to Him – compare John 15:4-5 and Hebrews 12:2.

Barnabas had a glorious opportunity to start a new sect, denomination or movement, such as ‘The Sons of Consolation’; but his great concern was that these new believers should make much of the Lord Jesus (see verse 26).


4. We know that Barnabas was a good man because of what he did

There is something wonderful indicated in verses 25-26. Barnabas sent for Paul, the more gifted man. This was a mark of true humility. He did not say, ‘I will keep this work in my own hands!’ It is a mark of grace to be willing to discover a more talented man than yourself and then to be willing to fade out of the picture. Obviously Barnabas had a humble spirit (John 3:30). He was content to fill a little space so long as the Lord was glorified (Romans 12:10).


5. We know that Barnabas was a good man because of what he was

The real test is not what we see, feel, say or do, but what we are; and verse 26 tells us that Barnabas lived a whole year among the Christians at Antioch, which suggests that his life was consistent. He practised what he preached.

How greatly our churches need members of the calibre of Barnabas! But what was the secret of his life of goodness? Was he inherently good in himself? – look up Ecclesiastes 7:20 and Romans 7:18. The secret is in verse 24 – “He was…full of the Holy Spirit and faith”. One writer says, ‘Barnabas was an earthly reflection of the Holy Spirit’.

In closing this study let’s notice that even a good man like Barnabas may fall short of the Lord’s purpose of holy living and fruitful service! There are “surprises of sin in the holiest histories”, and this is seen even in the life of this good man – look up Acts 15:36-39; Galatians 2:13.

Let us learn these lessons: Failure is not necessary; failure is always possible; failure need never be final.