Acts 11:23

Some six or seven years had passed since the martyrdom of Stephen, and "the persecution that arose about Stephen." The winds of persecution had now borne far and wide the seeds of Christian truth and faith. In the "ground" of Jewish hearts alone, however, for the greater part of this time had the seed "fallen," so far as men's intentions and purposes had scattered it. In individual cases, however, it had inevitably fallen elsewhere; and besides, as carried by some "Grecians" of the number of the "scattered," so it was freely given, by these at least, to Grecians again, who were not of the pure "Hebrews," and not of "the circumcised." Many "Grecians" thus "believed, and turned to the Lord" (ver. 21). The sacred history returns in some degree upon its steps to speak of these things, and to record, after the signal given of the fullness of the Gentiles being brought in, how it had meantime been faring with these more nondescript Grecians. There is a certain degree of the enigmatic in these two verses. To remove this will at the same time unfold the truth which the Spirit may have intended to teach in this place. We seem to see -

I. AN ELEMENT OF ECCLESIASTICAL AUTHORITY. "Tidings" that presumably were of the best kind, and could mean nothing but good, are apparently not received as such, and are visited with some sort of scrutiny. The facts are exactly so. But it is to be noted that the authority that moved was one that moved itself, and is not an instance of an individual usurping ecclesiastical authority. The authority is not either arbitrary or that of an external hand. It is the Church itself. And it is the Church who delegates one evidently held in high honor, though not an apostle, to go to a long distance to inquire into the "tidings" that have reached itself at Jerusalem.

II. AN INOPPORTUNE EXERCISE OF ECCLESIASTICAL AUTHORITY. If the tidings were on the face of them good, credible in the nature of things, or rather in the nature of what the Church now well knew to be the operation of the Divine Spirit, why need the Church assume the attitude of caution anti do the action of apparent suspicion?

1. It is most grateful to note the first dawning exercise of infant powers and discretion on the part of the Church. This it learnt partly "from above," partly also from bitter and humbled experience of its own. It had already had the faithless within it, and the attempts of the worst worldliness (as in the instance of Simon Magus) to enter within its sacred fold.

2. The real gist of anxiety and of the inquiry proposed turned, no doubt, upon this great new gospel that was now coming upon those who had themselves received the gospel in very deed, and which only shook their faith (if it did shake their faith) lest it be too great, too good, to be true. The "mighty works" of God are being wrought upon and among all, Gentiles and Grecians, as they had been on the day of Pentecost at Jerusalem. Well may the Church stop and turn aside to see this great sight, and to find out for certain that it is not a vision and that they do not dream.

3. The Church, as results proved, did not act for the sake of mere caution or for the mere sake of enlightenment, least of all from love of cold and suspicious criticism, but, if things were real and true, also to give the right hand of fellowship to those who, like its own present members, were "called."

III. ONE SPECIAL CRITERION LOOKED FOR BY BARNABAS, AND GUIDING HIM. No details lie on the page for us, no sealed instructions are mentioned, no open instructions, no parting suggestions even; and nothing is said of all the thoughts and feelings that chased one another or amid which the very soul of Barnabas mused as he traveled afar. No; but we are not left without the necessary clue. He reached his destination, and apparently does not hold or offer to hold any court, and call witnesses, and loftily and inquisitorially investigate the state of things. With a large and open eye he surveys the scene. He looks and sees the proofs of "the grace of God" given to them at Antioch, even "the uncircumcised." He listens, and hears the sounds that attest "the grace of God" given to them. He mingles with them, and he sees the works that none could do unless "the grace of God" were given to them. And he is satisfied. The tree is known by its fruits, and there can be no mistake what the fruits are now. Would that the same simplicity of method of judging one another were the one method known and followed now and ever! For this beautiful expression, "the grace of God," does not stand for mere feeling and experience or profession of the same, but rather for those "works" and "fruits of the Spirit" which only could come of the imparted grace of God.

IV. THE VERY GLADNESS OF HEART ITSELF OF A HOLY MAN. It is emphatically said, "He was glad."

1. It was a relief to an anxious, inquiring mind, on a subject of thrilling interest. How it had weighed on the mind of Barnabas all his journey - the question itself, and his responsibility as delegated to examine into it!

2. It was a relief to Barnabas to think he could speak with such thorough confidence, and in no halting tone at all, to those who had sent him, when he should render his account to them.

3. It was all joy to his heart to think how day dammed at last on the whole world. What startling, ravishing prospects must have sometimes been revealed by the Spirit to the apostles and the early disciples and brethren in those days!


1. Barnabas was mindful of his own duty, to speak the word of exhortation even in the midst of a scene full of present brightness, hope, confidence.

2. He was mindful of the ever-existing temptation to go back to the world, to love the world, to yield in enthusiasm's hour, but to relapse in the long days of heat and toil and trial. And therefore the burden of his exhortation was that they should "cleave to the Lord," and that "with purpose of heart they should cleave to the Lord."

VI. A SOMEWHAT INOPPORTUNE MIXTURE OF COMMENDATION OF BARNABAS AND HIS INDIVIDUAL CHARACTER WITH MUCH MORE SERIOUS MATTER. Let it seem so; let it be so. Yet this is the condescension of God. This is the sympathy of Jesus. This is the Spirit's comforting aid and honor shown to those who are true. However, as the sacred and abiding page of Scripture inscribes these things to the honor and glory of Barnabas, in the midst of matter which all redounded only to the honor and glory of God, we may observe that the character here given to Barnabas:

1. Justified his selection for a new and delicate and important embassy.

2. Explains the very deep, full, genial joy of his heart, its openness to conviction, and its freedom from the least and last taint of Jewish envy and Jewish exclusiveness.

3. Proves withal that it was God's Spirit who was in all," working within" him, when he came, when be saw, when he judged rightly, when he was profoundly impressed, when he was glad to the bottom of his heart, and also when he did not forget duty and solemn trying times to come amid the sympathies and congratulatings of bright hours. For he was "full of the Holy Ghost." - B.

Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad.

1. God is the God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10).

2. God is the giver of (Psalm 84:11).

3. God's throne is the throne of (Hebrews 4:16).

4. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of (Zechariah 12:10; Hebrews 10:29).

5. Christ was full of (John 1:14).

6. Came by Christ (John 1:17; Romans 5:15).

7. Given by Christ (1 Corinthians 1:4).


1. As great (Acts 4:33).

2. Abundant (Romans 5:20, 21).

3. Rich (Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 2:7).

4. Exceeding (2 Corinthians 9:14).

5. Manifold (1 Peter 4:10).

6. All-sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).

7. True (1 Peter 5:12).

8. Glorious (Ephesians 1:6, 9).


1. Necessary to God's service (Hebrews 12:28).

2. Necessary that Jesus may be glorified in the saints (2 Thessalonians 1:11, 12).

3. Necessary to prevent pride (Romans 4:4, 5; Romans 11:6; Galatians 5:6; Ephesians if. 7-9).

4. Saints are what they are by (1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 1:12).


1. Are heirs of (1 Peter 3:7).

2. Receive from Christ (John 1:16).

3. Abound in gifts of (Acts 4:33; 2 Corinthians 8:1; 2 Corinthians 9:8, 14).

4. Should be established in (Hebrews 13:9).

5. Should be strong in (2 Timothy 2:1).

6. Should grow in (2 Peter 3:18).

7. Should speak with (Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6).

(S. S. Times.)


1. His free love or favour (Ephesians 2:5), by which believers are delivered from the curse of a broken law, from wrath, from the guilt, love, and dominion of sin.

2. A Divine principle in the heart (2 Peter 3:18; Colossians 3:16).


1. In spiritual quickening (Ephesians 2:1).

2. In the work of conversion.

3. In the outward deportment (Matthew 7:17; Matthew 12:35).

4. By the company kept.

5. By the places of resort frequented (Psalm 84:1, 2).


1. He was glad —

(1)That sinners were called,

(2)That their lives were reformed.

(3)That Christ was believed on.

(4)That the gospel was received.

(5)That God was glorified thereby.

2. He exhorted them to cleave unto the Lord.

(1)Unto His Person.

(2)To His blood for pardon.

(3)His righteousness for acceptance.

(4)His fulness for supplies of grace.

(S. Barnard.)

1. That persecution, instead of silencing, has spread the gospel. "Tidings of these things." What things? The persecution which had Saul for its instigator, Stephen for its martyr, and the widespread distribution of Christians for its effect.

2. That God can render any pious agency in His Church soul saving and successful. The founders of this Church at Antioch, which was destined to play a most conspicuous and commanding part in the history of the Church, do not appear to have been apostles, or regular ministers.

3. That whenever God extends His Church, the Church should add to her concernment and care. The Church at Jerusalem does not appear to have taken umbrage at what was going on at Antioch. They did not say, "This is irregular, we must interdict it; this has not had our sanction, it must receive our condemnation." They would not pronounce a judgment until they had investigated the cause. They selected a true and trusty messenger; they sent him, as far as I can see, not as a spy, or a critic, or a censor, but as a friend, an inquirer, a counsellor. The eye of Barnabas filled his heart. He was "glad."

I. WHAT HE SAW. He saw "the grace which (is) of God" (τὴν χάριν τὴν τοῦ θεοῦ), i.e., the grace which is manifestly, unmistakably, of God. But how could he see that which in itself is invisible? The grace of God is as viewless as the wind, as impalpable as gravitation. It is a life, and it grows; a leaven, and it leavens the lump; but we might look in vain to see the growth of life, or the influence of leaven. How then did Barnabas see the grace of God? He saw it, as other invisible things are seen, by its effects. We cannot see the wind; but when the trees rustle and their leaves wave, we know that it is because the wind blows. We cannot see gravitation; but when the earth rotates, producing day and night, and revolves, producing the seasons of the year, with their characteristic varieties and attractive beauties, we see by these effects that gravitation is at work. We cannot see the tree grow; but we know from its foliage and its fruit that it must have grown. It is thus the invisible puts on visibility; and "the invisible things" — even of God Himself — "are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made." Where the grace of God is, ignorance of God, both shameful and baneful, gives place to a knowledge of Him which is as wondrous as glorious. Virtue supersedes vice, holiness displaces wickedness, the liar becomes truthful, the blasphemer reverent, the cruel merciful, the selfish beneficent; in fine, God's grace transforms the lion of violence and vice into the lamb of innocence and uprightness. Now, Barnabas saw the wondrous effects of God's grace upon the Grecian believers at Antioch. He saw idolaters discarding their gods, and turning to the "Living God." "Is not this the finger of God?"

II. WHAT HE FELT. Great sights always produce inappreciative observers, powerful emotions. The stupendous works of God, the splendid productions of art, and the manifold inventions of genius, in this way fascinate the eye and stimulate the mind of those who study them. But for a devout mind no sight is so pleasing, and no work so glorious, as the progress and peace of God's Church. Of what character was his gladness?

1. Sympathetic. We are sometimes glad, and sometimes sad, we know not why. Now, it was holy unction, associated with a holy gathering, and admitted by a holy sympathy, that led Barnabas, "when he saw the grace of God," to be "glad."

2. Intelligent. Sympathy is a distinguished power in man, but it is not a distinctive prerogative. It exists, often in a larger degree, in the "inferior creatures" around him. But if they feel, if they love, if they rejoice like him in virtue of a sympathetic nature, they are not like him endowed with the powers of reason and the appliances of ratiocination. So here, Barnabas not only felt when be saw this sight, but he thought; and whether he looked upon it with a sympathetic eye, or reflected with an intelligent mind, he saw equal cause for gladness. For what did this work imply? It implied the presence and the propitiousness of God. It implied the triumph of truth over falsehood, and of Christ's beneficent rule over the devil's foul usurpation. If, then, Barnabas had looked upon this spiritual phenomenon as a Christian philosopher only, he might well have been, as he was, "glad."

3. Religious. If, however, as a social and an intellectual man, Barnabas found gladness in the contemplation of this scene, how much more as a religious man and a gospel minister? It was his religion, indeed, that gave complexion and character to the whole case. It was his goodness that gave to him his gladness. Hence ver. 23, declaring his gladness, is conjoined with ver. 24, describing his goodness. "For he was a good man," etc.

III. WHAT HE DID. Barnabas was called Paraclesis (a name similar to that given to the Holy Ghost), and, in harmony with his name, he "exhorted them" (παρεκάλει) — encouraged them, comforted them. Now, his exhortation related to three distinct objects.

1. To God. In fine, God alone is the great Guide, the Almighty Guard, the impregnable Fortress, and the everlasting Friend of His people; and to cleave unto Him is at once their duty, their safety, and their glory. Then think how suggestive this word "cleave" is. To cleave to anything is to grasp it firmly, to hold it tenaciously, and to prefer to be torn in pieces rather than to be torn from it. It is thus the ivy cleaves to the oak, the sailor hangs to the rope that is to rescue him from a furious sea and a watery grave, and thus Ruth "clave" unto Naomi. "Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth clave unto her"; and the incident teaches how much more there is in cleaving than in kissing. So let young converts, and even aged saints, cleave unto or continue "to abide with the Lord"; then they will avoid every by-path.

2. To their own hearts. "With purpose of heart." There is tremendous force in these words. Without a purpose a man in this world will never become a power — never! Abraham and Moses, Paul and Peter, and , Luther and Knox, Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer, wielded great powers because they were swayed by great purposes. But of all purposes, that of the heart is this most thorough. It quails in presence of no danger. The eye may fail to see the shore from which we sail; the hand may fail to hold its grasp, or may be severed from its object; but when the eye is lost in distance, and the hand is no longer capable of grasping, the heart "clings" to a land it cannot see, and to a person or cause it cannot grasp — "clings" with infinite longing and undying love.

3. To their entire number. He exhorted them "all." This shows —(1) His impartiality. He did not select for special regard the rich, the learned, and the Hellenist, to the exclusion of the poor, the unlearned, and the Hebrew.(2) His discrimination, He knew full well there were duties which were not common to all Christians.

(John Stokoe.)

Sermons by Contributors to, Tracts for the Times.
The character in which St. Barnabas is here presented to us is that of a person greatly rejoicing in other men's goodness. He was glad when he saw the grace of God in his brethren. Of his doing so, there are several other instances; indeed, almost the whole of his conduct towards St. Paul is full, from the beginning, of such generous and affectionate joy. Now, concerning this disposition to rejoice in other men's goodness, it is much easier to see how amiable it looks in others than to practise it one's self in good earnest. Do not men envy others, not merely for their outward advantages, but for their goodness itself; especially for those parts of goodness which they themselves have not the heart to imitate? It is an ancient story, told of a virtuous heathen, that when a loud outcry was once raised against him, and he was to be banished from his country, a person of whom he asked a reason why he gave his vote against him, replied, "I have no objection to you, but I am quite tired of hearing everyone call you the Just." And so throughout life, there is a disposition in the unrenewed heart to grudge all those graces which go too far beyond itself; a disposition the very opposite to that which the Holy Ghost wrought in St. Barnabas by faith. He rejoiced, but these are sorry, on beholding the grace of God. It certainly must require no small faith to believe that it is better on the whole for others to do the good which you desire than for it to be done by yourself. St. Barnabas must have his heart steadily fixed on the unseen rewards prepared on high, to make him acquiesce thus joyfully in his companion, St. Paul, receiving so much more of the encouragement provided for apostolical men in this life. Such self-denial, when regularly kept up, and not only indulged now and then, out of laziness or partial affection, is one of the clearest tokens that God's Holy Spirit is with men, preparing them for eternal glory. And it is seen in nothing so much as in making persons continually watchful, to cherish and confirm one another in every good purpose of heart; in which respect the Spirit of the gospel is most directly opposed to the evil and selfish spirit of this age. For I know not how it is, but people, under pretence of liberty of one sort or another, are come to be, very generally, quite indifferent about the grace and salvation of others. Surely the hard, indifferent way in which too many of us treat the thought of our neighbour's condition towards God is sadly like Cain's way: sadly like the temper which led to a brother's murder. The Christian, Catholic, renewed heart is altogether different from this; it is not at all satisfied, as men of the world are, with persons going on decently and quietly; it wants them to be inwardly sound and pure; first of all to have a good "purpose of heart," and then to persevere in that purpose, "cleaving" to our Lord and Saviour continually. That anxiety about your neighbour's soul, which Christian love causes you to feel, will be a continual, a watchful, a self-denying, but, for the most part, a silent principle. It will show itself in deeds rather than in words, in timely prevention of mischief rather than in late and loud remonstrance. It will not be very sanguine, nor reckon too much of any good which appears to be done, knowing that we are all by nature unstable as water. Nor yet will it be too soon disheartened or disconcerted, knowing that there is hope even of the worst, and that constant efforts and prayers, with the Church of God to your aid, will, by the aid of His good Spirit, prevail against everything but hardened obstinacy. Above all, this care of others' good purposes, to be at all like that of St. Barnabas, must be accompanied with scrupulously good example; even as it is here said of this holy apostle, very emphatically, that "he was a good man." Finally, the good advice of St. Barnabas, here given to the people of Antioch, may well serve as a kind of watchword for all Christians of every station, in times when the Faith and the Church are being violently assailed by their enemies. Then is the time to practise a holy obstinacy; not to mind if you be not able to give reasons, and talk knowingly about things, but "with purpose of heart to cleave to the Lord"; that is, to abide by what the Church has taught you let people say what they will. This will be called bigotry and stubbornness; and they who are wise in their own conceit will insist on your giving a reason for everything. Well, then, let your reason be given, not in words, but in a holy life.

(Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times.)


1. His ancestors had settled in Cyprus, for what purposes we know not. There Barnabas was born. He was called at first Joses, but after his conversion to Christianity, Barnabas, perhaps because of his estate — he was a wealthy man, and relieved the necessities of the poor — or because by his preaching he consoled the people of God, and encouraged sinners to come to Christ.

2. Ministers often differ considerably. Some are sons of thunder, others have "the tongue of the learned." Now, never oppose ministers to each other. Their situation, natural complexion, gifts, graces, are different; but the Church needs them, and can well employ them all. Let Paul therefore plant, and Apollos water; let one comfort the feeble-minded, and another be set for the defence of the gospel; let one lay the foundation, and another build thereon. Each has his own work, and each shall have his own reward.

3. Much of the dispositions of persons may be discovered by the objects which awaken their attention and desire when they first enter a country or a town. Some are immediately looking about for scenery, some for curiosities, some for trade, some for buildings, some for libraries, some for pictures. Barnabas was alive to something else — it was "the one thing needful." He immediately looked after the cause of God.


1. "The grace of God" is a principle. Seen it must be to God, "to whom all hearts are open"; and known, it may be, by the individuals themselves. But how can it be seen by other's? I know only one way: by its effects. You cannot see life, but you can see the man alive. You cannot see health, but you can see the freshness and vigour of the healthy man. You do not break a tree to examine the rind, or open it to examine the wood, to know of what sort it is; a tree is known by its fruits. God says, "I will put My Spirit within them." But who is to know this? Read on — "and cause them to walk in My statutes." James says to the professor of religion, "Show me thy faith without thy works. I will show thee my faith by my works": I will show thee the spring by the stream; the sun in the shining; the creed by the conduct.

2. When may we be said to "see the grace of God"? I expect to find in a man in whom there is a work of grace —(1) A change in his outward conduct. If he has been vicious before, he learns to be virtuous; the drunkard becomes sober, etc.(2) A love of good men; for like not only begets, but also attracts, like. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren."(3) A peculiar attachment to the Scriptures.(4) A regard for the Sabbath. I am sure that the righteous man always "calls the Sabbath a delight, and the holy of the Lord, honourable." "The grace of God," therefore, will lead a man to regard the means of grace.(5) Speech seasoned with grace. Physicians look at the tongues of their patients. Ministers should always examine the tongues of their patients. If these are disordered, they may be assured something else is disordered; for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."(6) A temper conformed to the spirit of Christ. Some, in exculpation of their fretful or fierce tempers, say, that the grace of God is sometimes grafted on a crab tree; yes, but when the tree is so grafted, we expect that it will bring forth fruit, not according to the stock, but according to the scion.(7) Family piety.(8) Consistency.

3. With regard to the visibility of Divine grace, there are three things which I must remark.(1) We may, after all, be deceived with regard to it. The imitation may be so nice and fine as to impose upon the most judicious observers. None of the disciples suspected Judas; and Peter, after baptizing Simon Magus, was careful to write of Stephanas, "A faithful brother, as I suppose."(2) You are not to consider persons as destitute of "the grace of God," when their lives are blameless, and they are regular at the means of grace, and in their discharge of the duties of religion. When things are fair in character, you are not to go motive hunting. It is better to be occasionally deceived, than to live always in a temperature of suspicion.(3) Divine grace is compatible with infirmities; otherwise we should exclude all from the possession of it. Our Saviour does not "despise the day of small things." Let us follow His example.

III. HIS PLEASURE. What he saw was not a pleasing sight to all men. It was a hell to Satan to see how things were now going on; and there are those who too much resemble him. The elder brother did not rejoice when he saw the prodigal received, and there are Pharisees now who are ready to say, "Go to heaven with publicans and harlots"! But the salvation of the sinner is "the pleasure of the Lord." The Saviour here "sees of the travail of His soul and is satisfied." The angels "rejoice over one sinner that repenteth." And every convert may say, "They that fear thee will be glad when they see me." We may consider Barnabas as a partaker of this pleasure.

1. As a man of piety. Whenever a man is converted, God has a subject born. Here is one in whom He is then glorified passively, because he displays traces of His perfections, actively, as he is now "made willing in the day of His power." Can a man of piety see this and not rejoice?

2. As a man of benevolence. Barnabas was pleased when he saw the poor healed, the hungry fed, etc. But he knew that the body was nothing to the soul, or the time to eternity. What is every other attainment compared with that godliness which is "profitable unto all things"! Besides, every subject of Divine grace is not only blessed in himself, but he is made a blessing to others. Can a man of benevolence look on such, and not rejoice?

3. As a minister who had come here from preaching. There are some who cannot rejoice to see things done by others, especially, if they do not belong to their own communion. But if a man has the spirit of Barnabas, he will be able to say, Let God employ what instruments He pleases, therein I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

IV. HIS CONCERN. "Exhorted them." Observe —

1. The importance of his admonition — that they would "cleave unto the Lord," i.e., the Lord Jesus. Him they had received; in Him they were to walk. Had we heard Barnabas, it would have been something to this effect: Cleave to Him as your Teacher, as your Redeemer, as your Support in all your duties and in all your conflicts, as your Comforter, as your Master, as your Example.

2. The nature of it. He "exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they should cleave unto the Lord." Now this impulse — not only conviction, but resolution — always issues out of the heart; and what is religion, unless the heart is engaged from the beginning to the end? Where the man can say with David, "My heart is fixed," he will push on notwithstanding difficulties, and will convert hindrances into furtherances.

3. Its extensiveness. He "exhorted them all"; not only those who were weak in the faith, but those who were strong; not only the young, but the old. When was Solomon's heart led away? In his old age. And does not Paul even say to that fine young man Timothy, "Flee youthful lusts"?

(W. Jay.)

I. THE FACT WHICH HE OBSERVED. The grace of God operating in the converts. Note —

1. That conversion is always the result of Divine grace — that is, God's free and sovereign favour. "For by grace are ye saved, through faith," etc. True conversion thus resulting from Divine grace always becomes apparent and manifest by its effects. In place of the works of the flesh there will be the fruits of the Spirit, in place of carelessness, impenitence, unbelief, worldliness, and, peradventure, open and flagrant crime, there will be seriousness, there will be contrition, faith, holiness, love to God and to man.

II. THE EMOTION WITH WHICH, IN THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE FACT, HE BECAME INSPIRED. "He was glad." This gladness is justly excited because of —

1. The personal happiness which the operation of Divine grace in conversion secures to those who feel it.

2. The honour which the operation of Divine grace in conversion secures to the Godhead In every conversion there is a display of the Father; for by His purpose the conversion was accomplished, the conversion was directed. There is a display of the Son; for by His sacrifice the conversion was purchased. There is a display of the Spirit; for by His agency the conversion was effected.


1. Its nature. Purpose signifies firm and resolute determination. "Cleave to the Lord" is an expression of Hebrew origin, and it occurs two or three times in the earlier part of the Old Testament Scriptures in a striking manner. To cleave to an individual seems to imply the act of a man anxious to obtain a blessing from another — a man who lays fast hold on his person, being resolved not to permit his departure until the blessing has been obtained; and this is the spirit in which we are exhorted with purpose and determination of heart to cleave unto the Lord. We ought to be steadfast in cleaving to the principles of the Lord; in obeying the commandments of the Lord; in promoting the praise and the glory of the Lord. And each one in whom Divine grace has operated must have it as a constant desire, that in the spirit of steadfastness he may be preserved till death. For this purpose, use the means which God has been pleased to appoint — meditation, the study of His Word with prayer, social conversation with those who are established in the faith and hope of the gospel, diligent and devout attendance on the public ordinances and means of grace, and then the result will be accomplished, and you will cleave unto the Lord. You will emphatically be kept from falling, and be presented faultless before the presence of the Divine glory with great and exceeding joy.

2. The reasons by which this exhortation may be enforced. "Cleave to the Lord" —(1) That you may not produce disgrace to the gospel you have professed.(2) That you may continue and complete the joy of those who have rejoiced over your conversion.(3) That you may partake of the highest joy in this world which Christianity can impart.(4) That you may become endowed with capacities of usefulness to the hearts of others.(5) That you may prepare for that final recompense which will be your portion throughout the eternity of heaven.

(J. Parsons.)


1. What a man sees depends on what he looks for. An architect would have seen buildings, a merchant wares, a soldier fortifications. And Barnabas had an eye to business. He saw a temple built of living stones; to win souls was the gain he coveted; and like a good soldier he calculated how these teeming thousands might be made subjects of His King. True, he saw sights that made him weep, but he does not mention them any more than a navigator reports the vast tracts of water over which he travels. The business of the latter is to report the discovery of islands standing out of the waste of waters, of the former the state of the Church which stood out amidst the waste of sin.

2. Barnabas had this grace in himself, or he would never have seen it in others. Philosophers saw the same people and pronounced them vile fanatics, and many today would have done the same. God's grace is only to be spiritually discerned.

3. But this grace is nothing less than the free pardon of sin, bestowed by God and accepted by man.

II. THE GLADNESS HE EXPERIENCED. Incidentally it throws light on his own character. Tell me what gladdens or grieves a man and I will tell you what he is. The prosperity that made him glad was —

1. Spiritual. Men with an eye and a taste like his are wanted now. We are carried away in a mighty tide of material progress; but the gospel is a more precious treasure than all our inventions.

2. Possessed and exercised by others. There is no finer feature in a man's character than the tendency to rejoice in a neighbour's good. "Charity envieth not."

3. Produced by others. It is easy for a minister to be glad when he sees his own work prospering; but it requires no little piety to rejoice over another's. But God teaches us that converting power does not reside in an arm of flesh. Unknown refugees founded a Church in Antioch while gifted apostles seemed to be spending their strength in vain.

4. Heightened by the contrasted masses of moral misery around.

5. No sentimental or selfish emotion. He brought Saul to share it.

III. THE EXHORTATION THAT HE GAVE. That they should cleave to the Lord. There is nothing here about sacramental grace, the true Church, or a consecrated priesthood. In primitive Christianity everything was made to depend on personal union to a personal Saviour. There is mystery here. Yes, and I have seen a huge piece of iron hanging on another not welded or glued, but clinging with such a tenacity that it could bear my weight and its own. A wire charged with an electric current was in contact with its mass, and hence the adhesion. What that wire is to it, love is to us. We love Him, for He first loved us. Those who would keep a man close to God by brandishing the terrors of judgment before him, turn the wrong pole of the magnet to the steel and thereby repel instead of attract.

(W. Arnot, D. D.)

I. WHAT HE SAW. "The grace of God," and wherever that grace is made visible there we are to recognise a brother. said, "Where Christ is there is the Church." True! but where is Christ? Wherever Christlike men manifest a life drawn from, and kindred with, His life. And so we say where the grace of Christ is visible, there is the Church. That great truth is sinned against by the successors of the more Jewish portion of that Church who sent Barnabas to Antioch, who exalt sacraments and priests to the same place as the Judaizers did the rite of the old covenant. The attempt is about as wise as to try to measure a network fine enough to keep back a stream. The true answer to all that assumption which confines the free flow of the water of life to the conduits of sacraments and orders, and will only allow the wind that bloweth where it listeth to make music in the pipes of their organs, is simply the homely one which shivered a corresponding theory in the fair open mind of Barnabas. It used to be an axiom that there was no life in the sea beyond a certain limit of a few hundred feet. And then when that was settled, the Challenger put down her dredge five miles, and brought up healthy and good-sized living things. We have all been too much accustomed to draw arbitrary limits to the diffusion of the life of Christ among men.

II. WHAT HE FELT. It was a triumph of Christian principle to recognise the grace of God under new forms, and in so strange a place. It was a still greater triumph to haft it with rejoicing. We are apt to forget the strength of the convictions which these Jewish Christians had to overcome. Hence the context seems to consider that Barnabas's gladness needs explanation, and so it adds, "for he was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith." And there is much to overcome if we would know this Christlike gladness. Our natural interest in the well-being of our own Churches makes our sympathies flow most deeply in denominational channels. And then come in abundance of less worthy motives, and we have but a very tepid joy in anybody else's prosperity. Let us set a jealous watch over our hearts that self-absorption, or denominationalism, or envy do not make the sight a pain instead of a joy; and let us remember that the eye salve which will purge our dim sight to behold the grace of God in all its forms is that grace itself.


1. The exhortation itself, The sum of all objective religion is Christ — the sum of all subjective religion is cleaving to Him. From, whatever point we approach Christianity, it all resolves itself into the person of Christ. He is the revelation of God; theology properly so called is but the formulating of the facts which He gives us. He is the perfect exemplar of humanity! Wrenched away from Him, Christian morality has no being. He is the sacrifice for the world, the salvation of which flows from what He does, and not merely from what He taught, or was. There is a constant tendency to separate the results of Christ's life and death, and unconsciously to make these the sum of our religion and faith. Therefore it is well to mark how vividly these early Christians apprehended a living Lord as the sum and substance of all which they had to grasp. We begin to be Christians, as this context tells us, when we "turn to the Lord." We continue to be Christians, as Barnabas reminded these beginners, by "cleaving to the Lord." Let us cleave to Him —(1) By continual renewal of our first faith in Him. The longest line may be conceived of as produced simply by the motion of its initial point. So our progress should not consist in leaving our early acts of faith behind us, but in repeating them over and over again till the points coalesce in one unbroken line which goes straight to the throne and heart of Jesus. As in some great symphony the theme which was given out in low notes on one poor instrument recurs over and over again embroidered with varying harmonies, and unfolding a richer music till it swells into all the grandeur of the triumphant close, so our lives should be bound into a unity, and in their unity bound to Christ by the constant renewal of our early faith. Each moment must be united to Christ by its own act of faith, or it will be separated from Him. So living in the Lord, dying in the Lord, sleeping in Jesus, we shall at the last be found in Him at that day, and shall be raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.(2) By habitual contemplation. There can be no real continuous closeness of intercourse with Him, except by thought ever recurring to Him amidst all the tumult of our busy days. The Church has forgotten how to meditate. Many of us are so busy thinking about Christianity that we have lost our hold of Christ. Cleave to the Lord by habitual play of meditative thought on the treasures hidden in His name, and waiting like gold in the quartz, to be the prize of our patient sifting. And when the great truths embodied in Him stand clear before us, next must come into exercise the moral side of faith, the voluntary act of trust, the making our own of the blessings which He holds out to us.(3) By constant outgoings of our love to Him. The same love which is the bond of perfectness between man and man, is the bond between us and Christ. Cold natures may carp, but love is justified of her children, and Christ accepts the homage that has a heart in it. The order is faith, love, obedience, that threefold cord knits men to Christ and Christ to men. For the understanding a continuous grasp of Him as the object of thought. For the heart a continuous out-going to Him as the object of our love. For the will a continuous submission to Him as the Lord of our obedience. For the whole nature a continuous cleaving to Him as the object of our faith and worship.

2. Its sufficiency. If Barnabas had been like some of us, he would have said, This irregular work has been well done, but there are no authorised teachers here. The first thing is to give these people the blessing of bishops and priests. Some of us would have said, A good work has been done, but these people are terribly ignorant. The best thing would be to get ready as soon as possible some manual of Christian doctrine. Some of us would have said, No doubt they have been converted, but we fear there has been too much of the emotional in the preaching. Plain practical instruction in Christian duty is the one thing they want. Barnabas knew better. He did not despise organisation, nor orthodoxy, nor practical righteousness, but he knew that all three, and everything else that any man needed for his perfecting, would come, if only they kept near to Christ, and that nothing else was of any use if they did not.(1) We spend much effort in perfecting our organisations, and I have not a word to say against it. But heavier machinery needs more power in the engine, and that means greater capacity in your boilers and more fire in your furnace.(2). A definite theology is needful, but the basis of all theology is the personal possession of Him who is the wisdom of God, and the light of the world.(3) Plain straightforward righteousness and everyday morality come most surely when a man is keeping close to Christ. The same life is strength in the arm, pliancy in the fingers, swiftness in the foot, light in the eye, music on the lips; so the same grace is Protean in its forms, and to His servants who trust Him, Christ ever says, "What would ye that I should do unto you? Be it even as thou wilt." The same mysterious power lives in the swaying branch, and in the veined leaf, and in the blushing clusters. With like wondrous transformations of the one grace, the Lord pours Himself into our spirits, filling all needs and fitting for all circumstances. Therefore for us all, individuals and Churches, this remains the prime command, With purpose of heart cleave unto the Lord.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Provide things honest in the sight of all men. Not only be honest, but let your honesty be seen. "A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid." "Show forth the praises of Him who hath called you." As Bengel remarks in connection with our text: "A gem should not merely be a gem; it should be properly set in a ring, that its splendour may meet the eye."

Exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord
The only rational religious belief is that goodness is almighty, and the great Being, who comprehends all goodness in Himself, our Father. We owe Him everything, for He hath both made and redeemed us, and we should cherish towards Him the devoted affection of a son to his father, such as was shown in the following story. A little boy, the son of Sir George Staunton, was with his father, during his return to England, on the deck of the ship Lion. The father, imagining that a French man-of-war was going to attack them, desired his son to go below. "My father, I will never forsake you," was the youth's spirited and affectionate reply. So, when God's way seems the path of danger, we should resolve to stand to it at all cost.

The Pastor Jacob of Oroomiah, Persia, writing to his son, in Manchester, narrates the following: "I have a young Mohammedan friend whose name is Koola Bak. For nearly a year and a half he has been coming to my house to hear the Word of God. On account of his being so Christ-like, some wicked people went and complained to their Great Moshtahed, or priest. He was taken to the Moshtahed's house and asked what was his faith. He replied, 'In Jesus Christ.' Upon hearing this the Moshtahed rose up in great rage and beat him with his stick on the head. He again asked him the same question three times. The young man gave the same reply each time. He was then bound upon a beam and beaten by three servants with switches until the blood gushed out of his back and feet. Shortly afterwards the young man came to my house with his bleeding body and told me all about it. He said to me: 'Pastor, I will not give up Christ, even if I am to be killed. I believe that He is my Saviour, and is able to deliver me from these wicked people, who try to torment me because of my belief in Jesus.' A few days after this incident took place, the Moshtahed sent a gift to the young man and asked his pardon. The next day the Moshtahed with his brother visited the young man's house, and they still try to win his heart, but he boldly said, 'No, it is impossible for me to forsake Jesus, in whom I have believed as my Redeemer.' So they left him and went their way."

Barnabas was the Son of Consolation." But exhortation is as needful as consolation, and he could stir up as well as comfort. He knew that it was not sufficient to begin well; it is the end that proves and crowns the whole.

I. THE AIM OF THE EXHORTATION. Barnabas urges his hearers to cleave unto the Lord. The exhortation is urgently needed —

1. Because there is a natural tendency in the human heart to cleave to inferior things.

2. Because He is the only one worthy of our regard. He is the only Teacher, Saviour, Helper, Protector. The only Comforter, for He is the God of all comfort.

II. THE CHARACTER OF THE DUTY. "With full purpose of heart." This implies thoroughness and persistency.

1. Without the heart religion is a poor business. So in anything else. Unless the affections and purpose are enlisted a man enters upon his business concerns with listlessness and apathy.

2. Without the heart nothing else can be given. It is principle God looks at. Outward actions weigh but little with Him. But it is here "full purpose of heart." The whole soul is thrown into the work. It is not a divided heart.


I. We exhort you to this DECISION AND MANIFESTATION OF CHARACTER. "Cleave unto the Lord," consecrate yourselves to Him.

II. We exhort you TO ADHERE TO THE FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS OF THE GOSPEL. "Cleave unto the Lord" in His personal character as revealed in the sacred Scriptures.

III. We exhort you to cherish A SPIRIT OF CHARITY TO ALL WHO DIFFER. The difference of Christians on minor points proves the truth of the great ones on which they are agreed.

IV. We exhort you TO PROMOTE THE WORSHIP OF GOD. Attend to private, to family, and to public worship.

V. We exhort you to vigorous attempts TO RECOVER SINNERS.

(J. Liefchild, D. D.)


1. It supposes those to whom it is directed to be already entered upon a religious course of life.

2. It requires the habitual exercise of all the graces of the Christian life; the constant performance of every commanded duty.

3. It requires that we make an open and honest profession of our adherence to the Lord.

4. It requires that we persevere in our adherence to the Lord to the end of our lives. We must hold on our way, and wax stronger and stronger as we proceed.


1. That the same reasons which at first determined you to choose the ways of God, are equally forcible for inciting you to persevere in them to the end.

2. That all the bribes which can be offered, in order to seduce you from your adherence to the Lord, are vain, precarious, and unsatisfying.

3. What obligations you lie under to this Lord to whom you are exhorted in the text, to "cleave with purpose of heart."

4. That this duty, although difficult, is by no means impracticable. All necessary aid is provided for you, and ready to be conveyed to you as often as you shall ask it.


1. Labour to have your minds as richly furnished as possible with true Christian knowledge.

2. Besides the speculative knowledge of Divine truths, you must also labour to acquire an inward experience and relish of them.

3. If you would cleave with steadfastness unto the Lord, attend constantly to the inward frame and temper of your hearts. Make conscience of watching over your most secret thoughts.

4. "Be not high-minded, but fear." Remember what our blessed Lord said to His disciples, "Without Me ye can do nothing." A holy diffidence of ourselves is the true temper of a Christian, and will both serve to keep us out of the way of temptation, and teach us to act with the caution of men who perceive their danger and are careful to shun it.

5. Avoid, as much as possible, the fellowship of wicked men.

6. Beware of neglecting the instrumental duties of religion.

(R. Walker.)

Lord: —



1. All who profess to enjoy the grace of God should be careful thus to show it — On principles of prudence; that their own eternal salvation may be secured (2 Peter 1:5-10). On principles of piety; that God may hereby be glorified (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 4:11, 12). On principles of benevolence; that their weak brethren may be strengthened (Hebrews 13:13), and that their pastors may hereby be comforted (1 Thessalonians 3:8 3John 4). As an incitement to holy diligence, on this generous principle, our text teaches us —

III. THAT WHEN THE GRACE OF GOD IS SEEN IT AFFORDS PLEASURE TO WELL-DISPOSED MINDS. "When he saw the grace of God, he was glad"; and his joy was both pious and pure.

1. His joy on this occasion was pious. It was the joy of a saint excited by seeing the grace of God manifested, and sinners saved. He was glad, as "a good man," or a lover of mankind; because hereby many were benefited, being raised to a state of safety, happiness, and honour (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:1-6); and the welfare of the civil state was also promoted (Proverbs 14:32). He was glad, as a holy man; for he was "full of the Holy Ghost." Hence he was glad, because the felicity of angels was hereby augmented (Luke 15:10). Christ was hereby most pleasingly satisfied (Isaiah 53:10, 11); and God was hereby glorified (Isaiah 61:1-3). He was glad, as a faithful man; for he "was full of faith." Hence, he confidently expected the fulfilment of God's Word (Psalm 2:8). He beheld in these converted Gentiles the earnest of Christ's universal dominion, and could exclaim with David (Psalm 72:19, 20).

2. His joy on this occasion was pure. He was glad, though the subjects of this grace were Gentile strangers; it was not the joy of bigotry: and though he was not the instrument of their conversion, it was not the joy of self-complacency.

3. His joy on this occasion was exemplary; worthy of our imitation. Wherever the grace of God is seen we should rejoice: without bigotry, this is unchristian (Ephesians 5:24), and without envy, for this is devilish (James 3:14-16). Our text teaches us —


1. By the Lord is meant our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our Guide (Psalm 48:14), our Sovereign (Matthew 23:8), our Strength (Psalm 46:1), and our Foundation (Isaiah 28:16).

2. It is the duty of Christian converts to cleave, unto the Lord. Cleave unto Him — By habitual attention (Acts 3:22, 23), by persevering obedience (Hebrews 5:9; Psalm 106:3), by importunate prayer (Hebrews 4:16), and by entire dependence (1 Peter 2:5, 6; Jude 1:21, 22).

3. All Christian converts should thus cleave unto Him. All, of every age, of every religious attainment, and of every station in the Church (John 15:5; Hebrews 3:12).

4. We should thus cleave unto the Lord "with purpose of heart." This should and must be the object of our deliberate choice (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20), of our steadfast resolution (Joshua 24:15), and of our incessant care (1 John 2:28; Philippians 3:16). Our test teaches us —


1. To whom this exhortation should be addressed. As cleaving unto the Lord is a duty required of all Christians, so we find all of every description exhorted in the oracles of God. Private Christians are urged to this (John 15:4; Colossians 2:6); and public characters are also thus stimulated to exertion (1 Timothy 4:16).

2. By whom this exhortation should be employed. It should be given — By all those to whom the care of souls is committed (1 Corinthians 14:3; Colossians 1:28), and by all private Christians in their mutual communications (Hebrews 3:13; Hebrews 10:24, 25).

3. How this exhortation should be enforced. It should be urged by the consideration of our own total insufficiency (Jeremiah 10:23; 2 Corinthians 3:5), of Christ's all-sufficiency (Hebrews 7:25), of Satan's malice, who purposes and seeks to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8, 9), of the dreadful evils to which apostacy would expose us (Hebrews 10:38; Revelation 3:11; 1 Chronicles 28:9), and of the blessings with which God is engaged to crown unfainting perseverance (Galatians 6:9; 2 Peter 1:10, 11).

Barnabas knew that it required quite as much "grace" to go on as it does to begin. And he knew how only they could secure it, by cleaving unto the Lord.

I. THE IMPORTANCE OF A PURPOSE. When there are religious feelings, and convictions, the great thing is to gather them all up to some distinct object. This "purpose" must not be only of the deliberate intention of the mind, but a "purpose of the heart." But then feeling needs a focus. If you wish to keep a thought, turn that thought into action, else it would all evaporate. Give it an object, and it will live. The question then is, what fixed "purpose of heart" can we make for ourselves today? I advise you to determine —

1. That henceforth it shall appear to all men "whose you are and whom you serve."

2. That your besetting sin — temper, or selfishness, or indolence shall be conquered.

3. That you will be more real and earnest in your private devotions.

4. That you will throw more love into daily life, and be more attentive to all home duties.

5. That you will exercise greater care, and more regularity, in your religious duties.

6. That you will undertake some new work for God; become a Sunday school teacher, or a district visitor, etc. Now if you would live for any such purpose, you must be much in prayer. Put less trust in your own good intentions. Be looking up for sustaining grace, for the great gift of perseverance.


1. This means to be feeling that He is your very life; and to be always trying to make Him closer, and closer. It is God's word for marriage: "A man shall cleave unto his wife."

2. Only remember the power of this "cleaving" comes not from you who "cleave," but from Him who all the while draws and holds you to the "cleaving." He has "apprehended," i.e., "laid hold of you," that you may "lay hold" on Him.

3. Meanwhile, be very jealous of anything coming in to separate you for a moment, for that moment that you are separated from Christ your soul dies!

4. But do not be content even with mere nearness. There must be oneness. If you are really a believer, you are one with the Christ, just as any member in your body is at this moment one with your head. And, oh! what life, strength, safety, heaven is here. Your life is in Him. Where you are, at this moment, He is.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

To cleave to the Lord is —

1. To adhere to Him as the Revealer of the Truth, and to the Truth as revealed by Him.

2. To make Him the object of our constant faith.

3. To abide in His commandments.

4. To follow His example, who went about doing good and bore His Cross.

5. To abide in Him who is the fountain of grace and the Giver of the Spirit.

6. To cling to Him as our Portion and Happiness.

(J. W. Alexander, D. D.)

At the oceanside, where cliffs jut out to the waves, certain molluscs may be found sticking tightly to the rocks. Each mollusc clings so tenaciously that the concussion of the waves cannot smite it off. The secret of its hold is that the mollusc is empty. If it were filled either with flesh or with air, it would drop off immediately. This beautifully illustrates the condition of every sincere, humble, conscientious believer, who has been emptied of self, and therefore clings, by a Divine law of adhesion, closely to the Rock of Ages. If he should become puffed with pride and self-conceit, or gorged with fleshly indulgence, he would yield to the waves of temptation and be swept away.

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