Barnabas [Bär'nabăs]—son of prophecy or consolation. Surname of Joses, Paul’s companion in several of his missionary journeys (Acts 4:36; 9:27).
The features of this lovable man stand out in bold relief.
I. His magnificent generosity. The first recorded deed of this Levite of Cyprus was the selling of his property and the grateful sacrifice of the money secured to the common fund of the first Christian community (Acts. 4:36). The Church has many on her ancient roll who knew what it was to be baptized with the baptism of Barnabas. His exuberant generosity inspired them to surrender their all.
II. His impressive personality. The Lycaonians named Barnabas Jupiter, the name of the emperor of gods in Grecian mythology (Acts 14:12). Evidently this “son of comfort” had a commanding, dignified, venerable appearance and his physical nobility added to his influence. The culture and consecration of a commendable physical personality is not to be despised. Also mentally and morally, Barnabas was a man among men.
III. His innate goodness. What triple grace this man possessed! “A good man and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith” (Acts 11:24). God-possessed, Barnabas was full of love, sympathy and faith. Vision and allegiance were his. Spirit-filled, he exuded the comfort of the Spirit. Dean Church says that Barnabas was “an earthly reflection of the Paraclete.”
IV. His notable ministry. Barnabas had an inspiring influence (Acts 11:25, 26), was trustworthy (Acts 11:29, 30), was adapted to missionary work (Acts 13:2), encouraged converts (Acts 11:23), was a son of Christian prophecy in that he uttered God’s messages, was a devoted toiler and self-supporting (1 Cor. 9:6).
V. His lamentable contention. It is sad to realize that such a captivating man as Barnabas was a party to a quarrel. How true it is that there are “surprises of sin in holiest histories.” The doleful story of the sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas is told in Acts 15:36-39. Perhaps both good men were wrong. Paul proposed to Barnabas that they should visit the brethren in every city where they had labored. Barnabas agreed and wanted to take Mark, his nephew, with them. Paul felt that Mark, having left them once, was not fit to accompany them, so they parted. Had Paul been too resentful against Mark? Had Barnabas been too eager to urge the claims of his relative? Was one too stern, the other too easy? It is good to know that they were afterwards reconciled.
There are also hints of a certain lack of firmness in Barnabas'otherwise strong character. Writing of dissembling Jews, Paul had to say that even “Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation” (Gal. 2:13). Barnabas, like the rest of us, had some defective qualities. There has only been one perfect Man on earth—the Saviour Barnabas loved and rejoiced to preach about.