Sovereign Grace Blog

Sermon Summary - Barnabas: A Good Man - Acts 11:19-30

Barnabas: A Good Man - Acts 11:19-30

How can the scriptures say, “all have turned aside, together they have become worthless, no one is good, not even one” (Rom. 3:12) and at the same time in Acts 11:24 say that Barnabas “was a good man”? In Romans, Paul refers to our own goodness / righteousness up against the holy God in His perfection. In Acts, Luke refers to Barnabas being a good man in the context of living in this present evil age. But Luke points us at something deeper than just the goodness in Barnabas, he points to the type of goodness that grows and develops by the Holy Spirit producing faith in God, His word, and the gospel. As we continue through Luke’s storyline of the early church, we’ll see glimpses of the goodness in Barnabas. He was imperfect, full of flaws, heartaches and troubles, yet he is a model for believers to follow after.

Luke continues with the persecution that arose after Stephen’s death, scattering Jews as far as Antioch, and how they only spoke the word to fellow Jews. It wasn’t clear how it happened, but the word was preached to Hellenists, regardless of Jewish culture, and the hand of the Lord was with them, causing many of the Gentiles to believe. A report of this reached the church in Jerusalem and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.

Over the years Barnabas proved to be a good, wise man, full of the Holy Spirit. The Jerusalem church could have sent an apostle, another elder or deacon, but chose to send Barnabas for his uplifting, encouraging personality, and reputation for dealing with outsiders. His real name was Joseph but the apostles named him Barnabas, which means son of encouragement (Acts 4:36). He was the one who did not fear Paul after his conversion. Barnabas sought, befriended, and took Paul to the apostles and defended him as a true believer. What stands out to Luke about Barnabas, which is directly connected to his goodness, was that he was full of the Holy Spirit, full of faith in God. “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord” (Acts 11:23). Despite being a new church in Antioch, Barnabas focused on the evidence of God’s grace, he saw the effects of the Holy Spirit, how the Gentiles turned away from being sexually immoral and worshiping idols to loving God.

Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul (Acts 11:25). His heart was to seek the glory of God through the building up of the church and knew that Saul would be the perfect aid. They returned and stayed in Antioch for a year teaching the church to remain faithful to the Lord. This is where they were called Christians for the first time (Acts 11:26). Luke shows us the transition from an all Jewish church to a unified Gentile and Jew church which was a significant historical event. It led to the distinctiveness of the Christian church apart from the Jewish synagogue. Luke also shows us how the work of the Holy Spirit, through the ongoing teaching of the word of God, produces an overflow of love, generosity and compassion for fellow believers.

Prophets came down from Jerusalem and one of them named Agabus foretold that there would be a great famine (Act 11:27). The disciples in Antioch, according to their abilities, full of the spirit, sent relief to the brothers in Judea (Acts 11:29). Luke shows how the spirit worked in the Gentiles to love their Jewish brothers and sisters in Christ, and trusted Barnabas and Saul with the relief money.

The goodness in Barnabas manifested in his trustworthiness. Back in Acts 4:36-37, he sold a piece of land, and laid the money at the apostle’s feet. He didn’t worship money, but worshiped God which gave him a trustworthy reputation. May we take Barnabas’ exhortation to remain faithful to the Lord, steadfast in purpose, and endeavor to be like him walking in the Spirit instead of gratifying the desires of the flesh so that we may glorify God by bearing the fruit of goodness.


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