Acts 4:36, 37
And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite…
The intention of the writer is to set in contrast the work of the Spirit in Barnabas and the work of the devil in the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira, as also to show to us the relation of character and life to one another; the blessing on those that obey the Spirit, the curse on those that lie against the Holy Ghost and resist the will of God in his Church. The difference of meaning in "paraklesis," according to some "exhortation," according to others "consolation," helps us to keep in mind that the exhortation was consolation; that those who preached appeared among men not as mere dry exhorters and teachers, but as proclaiming a kingdom which is "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
I. THE CHANGE WROUGHT in Joseph Barnabas.
1. A Levite, but not passing by the fallen and dying humanity. Notice the contrast between the priesthood of the, old covenant and the priesthood of the new; between the man of a corrupt and decaying system and the new man in Christ.
2. A Cypriot from a country noted for its self-indulgent luxury and sensuality, yet by the Spirit of Christ delivered from selfishness.
3. A man of some wealth, becoming poor for Christ's sake and the gospel's, and subjecting himself to the new law of the apostles. The wonders of the Middle Ages anticipated. Yet our aim should not be to fill the Church's treasuries, but to bless the world with the spirit of self-sacrifice. The abuses of the ecclesiastics have always been their not being true sons of exhortation and consolation, but "greedy of filthy lucre."
II. THE ILLUSTRATION OF GOSPEL PRINCIPLES.
1. Counting all things loss for Christ. Losing life to find it. The Church, as well as the individual, is richest and happiest when it reckons its whole self as devoted to the work of helping others.
2. The sons of exhortation and consolation, i.e. the messengers of mercy, must be examples of self-sacrifice, and enforce their precepts with public deeds of generosity, and manifestation of the work of the Spirit in their own lives. The preaching of the Church will never much affect the world so long as it does not lay its wealth at the feet of Christ.
3. The true law of Christ's kingdom is not "Each one for himself and by himself," but all faithful to the vocation of the Church. "At the apostles' feet." He was a rich man, and probably a highly educated man, but he did not set up a Church for himself. He recognized Christ's rule. He was willing to be a servant that he might fulfill his ministry of consolation to the world, and so he was immediately recognized by those who represented the Master - " surnamed by the apostles."
4. The stamp of special, solemn approval is set on faithfulness to conscience in the money matters of the Church. There is an eye watching our hand. The money brought should be not merely what the world expects to be brought, or what will satisfy the demands of the time and maintain our reputation with fellow-Christians, but what the "law of Christ" dictates, which is the law of absolute self-denial, and overflowing brotherly affection. We may not be a Paul, or an Apollos, or a Peter, or a John, lacking qualifications for such eminence, but we may emulate the example of Joseph Barnabas, and be sons of consolation, channels of blessing and comfort to the world. If we would be so, let us lay what we have at the feet of the apostles, avoiding caprice, self-will, disorder, heresy, strife, self-exaltation. There is a true apostolic doctrine and fellowship in the world. Cling to it, and cast all to it. - R.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,