For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added to the Lord.
It is interesting to distinguish the historic names of the Church, and to recognise the forms of greatness that we associate with them. As were Peter and Paul and John in the apostolic age — men distinctively practical, intellectual, and spiritual, so it has been in every age since. The Church has had its practical workers, men full of spiritual earnestness and power — its dauntless and fervid preachers, its Chrysostoms, Fenelons, Whitefields, Baxters, Wesleys; its apologists, its men of broad intellectual views, its teachers, its controversialists, its Augustines, Luthers, Pascals, Butlers, Chalmers. And it has had its contemplative, spiritual men — men full of goodness, and practical solicitude, charity in them triumphantly reigning over knowledge, and tongues, and prophesying. Such were Bernard, Fenelon, Melanchthon, Fletcher of Madeley, Watts, and Doddridge. In this latter class we should assign a place to Barnabas. Note —
I. THE EVANGELIST'S IDEA OF A "GOOD MAN." He evidently means more than that he was merely a good-natured man, and more than that he was simply a virtuous man. He was good in the sense in which the work was good; himself a converted, a spiritual man; good in the sense of being "full of the Holy Ghost and faith." In the highest and scriptural sense of the term, no man can be good who is unspiritual. A man's goodness must regard God as well as man; spiritual obligations as well as social ones. The most moral imperatively needs conversion; for what is conversion but the awakening in a man of the thought of God; the quickening in him of the love of God; the producing within him of sympathy with God; the restoration of him to the image of God; the begetting within him of a feeling of practical gratitude to God, which makes him do everything to please and to glorify God? A man may be very virtuous, and yet be utterly godless. As such he is only half a good man. The "faith" which is attributed to Barnabas was his spiritual recognition and reference; he "walked by faith, not by sight"; lived ever "As in the Great Taskmaster's eye"; did all things with a spiritual reference, and to a spiritual end. A man can preach only as he believes, and he will preach vividly or dully, tamely or earnestly, in proportion as he believes.
II. IT WAS IN VIRTUE OF THIS EMINENT SPIRITUAL GOODNESS THAT HE REJOICED IN THE WORK WHICH HE SAW GOING ON. It was contrary to his national and dispensational theories; it shocked many of his prejudices; his instructions were to discourage, if not prohibit it; but the spiritual sympathies of the saint were too strong for the notions of the theologian, for the proprieties of the ecclesiast, for the dignity of the commissioner. He sees the manifest work of grace; and who is he that he is to gainsay it. He is learning that our proprieties are not always God's methods; that God often chooses uncanonised ways and unconsecrated agents to do the mightiest things. The work appeals to the good man's heart; it touches his spiritual sympathies. He sees sinners converted, however irregularly; he "sees the grace of God, and he is glad." And should we, were we men of holier hearts, of stronger spiritual sympathies, have so much difficulty with our ecclesiastical theories and proprieties? If our piety were more fervent, we should more vividly appreciate the preciousness of men's souls, and the unspeakable blessing of their salvation; and in our joy over the fact we should scarcely care to ask who had done it. Wherever we saw a spiritual work done, there we should recognise God's worker, and rejoice over spiritual conversion by whomsoever effected. If we be good as Barnabas was good, we shall rejoice with his joy whenever we see what he saw.
III. THE SPIRITUAL GOODNESS WHICH LED BARNABAS TO REJOICE IN THE GOOD THAT HAD ALREADY BEEN DONE, LED HIM ALSO TO COOPERATE WITH IT; AND THUS "MUCH PEOPLE WERE ADDED TO THE LORD." He found a work of conversion going on; and instead of contenting himself with mere commendation, he gave himself heartily to cooperate with these irregular men and their irregular work. He had energies to contribute, an influence to exert. Who was he that he should stand aloof when God Himself was working? If it be ours to work, in the mere peradventure that God will work with us, assuredly we may not without culpability withhold our effort when He is palpably working. Who but He can awaken solicitudes about salvation, and out of the sinner evolve a saint? And when these results are seen, we need be in no doubt whose work they are. And eagerly and fervently should we strive for the honour of working with Him. All good men do this. They wilt turn away from your strifes of doctrines and modes; but demonstrate your devoutness by your spiritual achievement, and then, just in proportion to their goodness, they will come and help you.
IV. THE GOODNESS OF BARNABAS WAS THE CAUSE OF HIS SUCCESS. And so it will ever be. Men are not converted by demonstrations of the gospel, but by inspirations of it. Men are never reasoned into spiritual life; they are quickened into it. We must ourselves be what we seek to make others. We can raise them no higher than our own level. I am not faithful to Christ merely because I eloquently and urgently preach His gospel; He demands of me that I be what I preach — His "living epistle, known and read of all men." Learning may be desirable, eloquence needful; but piety is essential: it is the basis and power of all spiritual work.
(H. Allon, D. D.)
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.