Every man desires to be considered a “good man”. If God has given a man 75 years of life and he looks back at it, nothing would give him more joy than to know that it wasn’t in vain. Further, the church is in desperate need of good men. The reason of course is that good men honor God and multiply themselves. Good men make more good men.
But, what do they look like?
In the Book of Acts we read of Barnabas and he is specifically called a “good man”–why?
Let’s set the context. Acts 11.19 tells us that there was a scattering because of the persecution of Stephen. People left the center of Jerusalem. In this scattering, some Christian men began speaking to Gentiles (11.20) and God saved them. In fact, it sounds like he saved a lot of them. When those in Jerusalem heard about what was happening they sent Barnabas there (11.22).
Then we read:
When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. (Acts 11:23-24)
Luke, our author here, is making a point: Barnabas the churchmen was a good man. What characterized this title? He was full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.
What does this mean?
A Good Man is Full of the Holy Spirit
When we think about being filled by the Holy Spirit it is helpful to distinguish something. When one is converted they are filled with the Holy Spirit. That is, they are indwelled by God the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-13; Rom. 8:9, 11, 15; Gal. 4.6). But then there is also the ongoing filling of the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 5:18 Paul writes, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,” (Ephesians 5:18). This is the contrast between be controlled by wine (drunk) and being controlled by the Spirit (godliness).
Peter O’Brien is helpful here in his commentary on Ephesians:
To be admonished, ‘Be filled by the Spirit’, then, means that Paul’s readers are urged to let the Spirit change them more and more into the image of God and Christ, a notion which is consistent with Pauline theology elsewhere. This explanation accords well with the parallel passage in Colossians, ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom by means of Spirit-inspired psalms, hymns and songs, singing thankfully to God with your whole being’ (Col. 3:16). (Commentary on Ephesians)
A Good man then is one who is full of the Holy Spirit.
A Good Man is Full of Faith
This means that Barnabas trusted and treasured God. He loved God, knew the truth, rested everything upon it, and lived in light of it. Faith is an active, vibrant, dynamic reality (Heb. 11). It touches every aspect of one’s life; either they trust and treasure God or they don’t. Our lives are a referendum on our faith.
We should note also that the two go together. You can’t be full of the Spirit and empty on faith. Your believing God and submission to God are joined together by the grace of God (Eph. 2:8-10).
A Good Man Understands Grace
I would also like to note, along these lines, that these virtues that make Barnabas a good man are not natural, but rather supernatural. On first thought you might say, “Well, these are outside my reach since I cannot do them.” This would be the prideful way to think. Barnabas knew (because of what is said about him) that he is not much on his own. Faith looks outside of self and latches ahold of God. When we appraisal ourselves and see lacking this is good news! We look unto God who is sufficient and willing to bless us with his grace! The fact that this is all of grace should encourage you that you too can be a “good man”.
A Good Man Loves the Church
This good man also has a mind to the church. Let’s not miss what he did: “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose”. Because a good man knows it is all of grace he rejoices when he sees evidence of grace! It makes him glad. He wants more people to be impacted by the gospel. This is why he gives himself to strengthen others in the church. He wants to see an expanse of grace.
The church needs some good men. What do they look like? They are full of the Holy Spirit, full of faith, understand grace, and love the church.
Let’s pray for more good men even as we pursue this calling ourselves.