For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people were added unto the LORD.

ACTS 11:24

We ought to thank God for the examples in the Bible of so many men who were good—even though they were not considered great!

We are grateful not that they failed to achieve greatness but that by the grace of God they managed to acquire plain goodness.

These men move quietly enough across the pages of the Bible, but where they walk there is pleasant weather and good companionship. Such was Isaac, who was the son of a great father and the father of a great son, but who himself never rose above mediocrity. Such were Boaz the ancestor of King David, Joseph the husband of Mary, and Barnabas the son of consolation.

Every pastor knows this kind—the plain people who have nothing to recommend them but their deep devotion to their Lord and the fruit of the Spirit which they all unconsciously display. These are the first to come forward when there is work to be done and the last to go home when there is prayer to be made.

Their presence is a benediction wherever they go. They have no greatness to draw to them the admiring eyes of carnal men but are content to be good men and full of the Holy Ghost!

When they die they leave behind them a fragrance of Christ that lingers long after the cheap celebrities of the day are forgotten.

We extend this tribute to Christian brothers and sisters in spite of the fact that in our world there is not supposed to be anything dramatic in faithfulness or newsworthy in goodness![1]

  1. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. And a large crowd was added to the Lord.

We make these observations:

  • News. Good news travels fast! Travelers who arrived in Jerusalem reported to the church the phenomenal influence of the Christian faith and the resultant increase of believers in the city of Antioch. First, the Jerusalem church received the news about the Samaritans who had accepted the gospel. In consequence, its members sent Peter and John to them (8:14). Next, the mother church heard about the Gentiles in Antioch who accepted the gospel. In response, the church commissioned Barnabas as the representative of the apostles. Note, then, that the Jerusalem church remained in charge of developments abroad.

When the news came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, the apostles were perhaps in other regions (compare v. 30). The Jewish Christians had no objections to Gentiles entering the church, primarily because Peter had told them about his experience in Caesarea. Although Caesarea was located in Palestine, in the minds of the Jews the city of Antioch was the capital of a heathen nation. Nevertheless, the church in Jerusalem voiced no dissent. Instead the church leaders looked for a person who could represent them and who would understand the situation in Antioch. They appointed Barnabas.

Finally, the Jerusalem church could not take lightly the increase of the church in Antioch. In time, the Antiochean church became the mission center for the Christian faith and overtook the mother church of Jerusalem. Even though Jerusalem provided leadership and direction, Antioch had vision and ambition. From Antioch, the gospel sounded forth throughout the countries that bordered the Mediterranean Sea. Antioch became the Gentile church that occupied a strategic position between the Jewish center in Jerusalem and the Gentile churches Paul had founded. After the fall of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, Antioch filled the leadership vacuum in the church at large.

  • Action. As a Greek-speaking Jewish Christian and native of Cyprus, Barnabas is the right person to promote the development of the church in Antioch. He comes not to exert authority, but to help the believers grow in faith.

Perhaps traveling along the coastal area, visiting and strengthening churches along the way, Barnabas eventually arrives in Antioch. He is amazed at the grace of God when he observes the harmony that exists between Jew and Gentile in the Antiochean church. With spiritual eyes, he looks at the development of the church and gives God the glory. Barnabas rejoices when he sees the effect of Christ’s gospel among the people and, true to his name—Son of Encouragement (4:36)—he immediately begins to encourage the believers to remain true to the Lord. He realizes that these recent converts may become an easy prey of Satan. Therefore, on a daily basis Barnabas instructs them to be true to Jesus. He urges them to cling to Christ with determination (compare 13:43; 14:22).

  • Result. Luke expresses his admiration for the spiritual characteristics of Barnabas. He calls him “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” The description matches that of Stephen (6:5; 7:55) and thus puts Barnabas on the same level as Stephen. The adjective good, applied to Barnabas, denotes the quality of excellence. Luke describes Barnabas as good in the sense that this person is of sterling character, wholesome, capable, and helpful. Filled with the Holy Spirit and faith, Barnabas lives in daily fellowship with God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3). The presence of the Holy Spirit and complete trust in Jesus furnish him with serene stability, genuine love for his fellow man, and unparalleled dedication to the work of the Lord.

As a result, the church at Antioch continues to increase in numbers. Writes Luke, “A large crowd was added to the Lord.” In fact, this is the second time that Luke reports the growth of the Antiochean church (v. 21). The church experiences a development that is unique in the Gentile world and in a sense indicates still greater things to come.[2]

11:24 full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. This does not describe a single experience but a general characteristic of Barnabas’s life. The persecution by Herod (12:1–19) and Herod’s death (12:20–23) would have been inserted at this point in the narrative if Luke had been writing everything in exact chronological order, because Herod died in a.d. 44 (see 12:23), and Paul apparently stayed in Tarsus until a.d. 45, when Barnabas went there and summoned him to Antioch (11:25–26). But Luke here departs from strict chronological order because he is telling the story of the church in Antioch. He continues on this topic until v. 30 and then turns to discuss what happened to Herod at “about that time” (12:1). Cf. notes on Gal. 1:18; 2:1.[3]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 17, pp. 420–421). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2106). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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