The Experience and Work of Barnabas
Acts 11:23
Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all…


1. What a man sees depends on what he looks for. An architect would have seen buildings, a merchant wares, a soldier fortifications. And Barnabas had an eye to business. He saw a temple built of living stones; to win souls was the gain he coveted; and like a good soldier he calculated how these teeming thousands might be made subjects of His King. True, he saw sights that made him weep, but he does not mention them any more than a navigator reports the vast tracts of water over which he travels. The business of the latter is to report the discovery of islands standing out of the waste of waters, of the former the state of the Church which stood out amidst the waste of sin.

2. Barnabas had this grace in himself, or he would never have seen it in others. Philosophers saw the same people and pronounced them vile fanatics, and many today would have done the same. God's grace is only to be spiritually discerned.

3. But this grace is nothing less than the free pardon of sin, bestowed by God and accepted by man.

II. THE GLADNESS HE EXPERIENCED. Incidentally it throws light on his own character. Tell me what gladdens or grieves a man and I will tell you what he is. The prosperity that made him glad was —

1. Spiritual. Men with an eye and a taste like his are wanted now. We are carried away in a mighty tide of material progress; but the gospel is a more precious treasure than all our inventions.

2. Possessed and exercised by others. There is no finer feature in a man's character than the tendency to rejoice in a neighbour's good. "Charity envieth not."

3. Produced by others. It is easy for a minister to be glad when he sees his own work prospering; but it requires no little piety to rejoice over another's. But God teaches us that converting power does not reside in an arm of flesh. Unknown refugees founded a Church in Antioch while gifted apostles seemed to be spending their strength in vain.

4. Heightened by the contrasted masses of moral misery around.

5. No sentimental or selfish emotion. He brought Saul to share it.

III. THE EXHORTATION THAT HE GAVE. That they should cleave to the Lord. There is nothing here about sacramental grace, the true Church, or a consecrated priesthood. In primitive Christianity everything was made to depend on personal union to a personal Saviour. There is mystery here. Yes, and I have seen a huge piece of iron hanging on another not welded or glued, but clinging with such a tenacity that it could bear my weight and its own. A wire charged with an electric current was in contact with its mass, and hence the adhesion. What that wire is to it, love is to us. We love Him, for He first loved us. Those who would keep a man close to God by brandishing the terrors of judgment before him, turn the wrong pole of the magnet to the steel and thereby repel instead of attract.

(W. Arnot, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.

WEB: who, when he had come, and had seen the grace of God, was glad. He exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they should remain near to the Lord.

The Exhortation of Barnabas
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