For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added to the Lord.
We have had this man introduced to us before, but his character is most fully described in this passage. It may reasonably be asked why St. Luke, in writing the Book of the Acts, should take this opportunity of recording the received opinion about Barnabas. The most simple answer is that he had subsequently to record the dispute between St. Paul and St. Barnabas over Mark, and he was therefore anxious to ensure that his readers did not get a wrong impression, from that incident, of the temper and spirit of Mark's relative. Deeply as we may regret that sad misunderstanding between the two earnest missionaries, we must not let it throw its dark shadows over Barnabas, for "he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith." The immediate occasion of sending Barnabas to Antioch has been differently explained. It is remarked, in ver. 19, that the scattered disciples went "as far as to Antioch," but they "preached the Word to none but unto the Jews only." Then it is noticed that some preachers came from Cyprus and Cyrene to Antioch, and they preached unto the Grecians. Now this term may mean either Hellenistic Jews or Gentiles. The best manuscripts have the word Greeks, and this should be distinctly referred to the heathen, or Gentile, population. If it were so that these disciples preached the gospel to the heathen, and news of this came to the Church at Jerusalem soon after St. Peter's account of what had taken place at Caesarea, there was good ground for sending Barnabas to inquire into matters at Antioch, to explain the new view of the scope of the gospel as revealed to St. Peter, and to ensure harmonious working between those who labored for the Jew and those who labored for the Gentile. If this was the mission of Barnabas, it is important for us to be told concerning his personal character; for upon it the success of his mission would very largely depend. Only a man of great goodness and generous feeling would be likely to meet aright the difficulties that would be presented. There are many circumstances in life in which "character "can do more and better than "talent," and talent wins its noblest triumphs when it is united with and sanctified by godly character. Three things are specially noticed in relation to Barnabas.
I. HE WAS GOOD IS CHARACTER. "A good man." Our attention is directed by this term to his natural excellences of disposition. There was amiability, kindness of purpose and manner, generosity of spirit, considerateness for others, and readiness even to sacrifice his own things for the good of others. He was just the kind of man to win the confidence and esteem of all those among whom he worked; and it would seem that his very failing, in the matter of his dispute with St. Paul, arose from the warmth of his affection for his young relative Mark, and his too great readiness to make excuses for him. "His very failing leaned to virtue's side." His "goodness" may be seen and illustrated from each of the incidents in which he is introduced to us.
1. He seems to have set the example of devoting his property to the needs of the early Church (Acts 4:36).
2. He it was who overcame the apostolic suspicion of the newly converted Saul, in the generosity of his trustful disposition. When they were all afraid of Saul, "Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles," etc. (Acts 9:26-28).
3. His trustfulness is further shown in his making Saul, the new convert, his companion in his missionary labors. It may be urged that, while Christianity masters and corrects naturally bad dispositions, it wins its noblest and most beautiful triumphs when it inspires and sanctifies the naturally amiable and generous and trustful disposition. It is a thing to be ever devoutly thankful to God for, if he has given us characters that may win the love and esteem and confidence of our fellow men.
II. HE WAS FULL OF FAITH. This is something more than natural trustfulness, though closely allied to it. Two things may be included.
1. He had a strong grip of the gospel truth, and was not troubled with weakening and depressing doubts. He held, fast and firmly, the Messiahship and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and all that these involved. And only men of faith can be men of real power as God's witnesses and preachers. Men do not want to hear from ministers about their questionings and doubtings. The great cry is, "What do you know of God and truth and duty? What do you believe?"
2. He had a clear vision of the broader aspects of the Christian system. He was a follower of Stephen. He was prepared for the admission of the Gentiles to Christian privileges. And so he was just the man to go down to Antioch and deal with the difficulties that might arise from breaking down the old Jewish bondages. And there is constant demand for such men of faith, who can hopefully accept the passing changes of thought and feeling within the Church, even when they cannot personally sympathize with them. We need men of faith in the sense of broad outlooking and high hope for the future.
III. HE WAS FULL OF THE HOLY GHOST. That Holy Ghost came as the seal of all sincere believers, but it is here suggested that the measures and degrees of his gracious inward workings directly depend on the moods and attitudes and character of the man. And here lies the practical application of our subject. Barnabas, because he was a good man and full of faith, was also full of the Holy Ghost. And we shall find that anxious and careful culture of Christian character will also open our hearts, lives, and workings to the full energies of God the Holy Ghost. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.