By J.A. Medders
“He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” Acts 11:24
Growing up I wanted to “be like Mike.” Who didn’t? He was the King of Basketball. I loved watching Jordan, and I loved imitating his dunks on my bedroom door’s Nerf goal. He was my role model – but a very poor one. He had great zeal and skill on the court, but like many other epic sports figures, his character was not to be desired. And in the end, “I wanna be like Mike” isn’t shooting high; it’s a lateral move.
We need a greater vision for manhood and the Bible’s got it.
Men in our churches need godly, powerful examples of true manhood. Too often we take role models for what they can do and not for who they are (1 Samuel 16:7). We need an about-face. Looking at an often-neglected man can profoundly shape our pursuit of biblical manhood. We have a lot to learn from Barnabas.
Less Barbarians, More Barnabians
The stereotypes of manhood in our culture are often flat, uninspiring, and one-dimensional. And out of all of the men we see in the Scriptures, Luke gives an account of Barnabas that should make Christian men lean forward and listen.
“The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 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 11:22–24 ESV)
The simplicity of Luke’s description of Barnabas is what we should all long to hear about our lives: He was a good man. We want to be good men. We want to raise up good men in our churches and we want our sons to become good men. This isn’t the moralistic, pull-out-the-chair-and-hold-the-door-open-goodness (which are good things to be sure), but this flavor of good man is much more.
We need a vision of good-manity that is nothing less than simply being a godly man. And that is exactly the picture Luke gives us.
Good Men are Full of the Spirit and of Faith
The way Luke explains good man is by being full of the Spirit and of faith. Is this not a brilliant summation of Jesus of Nazareth? He was (and is) the Good Man.
The only way we can be good men is if we have faith in the God-man. Good men are gospel men; they are full of faith in the Triune God. And to be full of faith is to stand on the Rock in all things. Additionally, being full of faith means that your faith extends to the perimeter and edges of your life; it’s not just a Sunday thing.
The first thing we must realize about biblical manhood is that without the life, power, and presence of Jesus of Nazareth at work in us by the Holy Spirit, our hopes of biblical manhood are dashed on the rocks of the culture. Jesus is the Alpha Male, and we can walk in his manliness, kindness, love, strength, and resolve by the power of his Spirit. To be a good man is also to be a Spirit-dependent man. Meaning, we seek to be led by the Spirit, as a son of God, and not the residual flesh nature (Romans 8:14).
This point of good-manliness cannot be overstated or overrated. There is plenty of bad-manliness to go around, but the gospel of the Kingdom changes the course of manhood. We no longer have to be associated with the failures of Adam of Eden because we can be found in Jesus of Nazareth. There is hope for all men in him. Our earthliness needs an infusion of the New Earthliness to come, and the risen Jesus is our help. All men default to an East of Eden manhood, but Jesus gives us a new and better manhood – one even better than Adam’s.
Like Barnabas, the best role models should be found on membership rosters. The best manly role models shouldn’t be found on ESPN; they should be in our churches. Our churches should be discipleship breeding grounds of good men. The small country church pastor who loves his wife, his bible, and his God is a better role model than Lebron. Imagine a church culture where little boys look at the pastors and think, “Gee whiz! I wanna be like Pastor Tom!” That should be our vision; after all, it is the New Testament’s (Hebrews 13:7).
Good Men Are Encouraging
Barnabas’s name isn’t Barnabas – it’s Joseph. He was so encouraging, they changed his name to “Son of Encouragement;” now that’s a legacy (Acts 4:36). Men can often be downright negative, whiney, and cynical. These are not godly attributes. Rather, we should strive to be a source of Christ-saturated encouragement.
Biblical encouragement is a lot more than helping people feel good about who they are; it’s about stirring others to be steadfast to Jesus and to look to Jesus. Barnabas encouraged the Christians at Antioch to “remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” (Acts 11:23). Why? “For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24).
Good men point to Jesus. They point their kids to Jesus and they help their wife behold King Jesus. They tell their non-Christian friends and co-workers about the goodness and loving-kindness of Jesus, who died so we could be made new.
Good Men Love the Grace of God
When Barnabas arrived in Antioch and saw the grace of God, he smiled. “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad” (Acts 11:23). When good men see the gushing grace of God, a good mood is ignited. Barnabas was thrilled to see God being glorified; that’s what makes good men happy. Good men are most satisfied when God is being glorified. Grumps get consumed by God’s grace and a Barnabian man emerges because grace gladdens grumpiness (Psalm 92:4). Ideally, older men should be some of the happiest men in the world. They have decades of more sin on the youngsters, which means they have seen decades of God’s grace on their lives. Happy is the graced man, and his face will surely show it (Prov. 15:13).
Barnabian men don’t yawn at the thought of revival—they yearn for it. Pray it. Fast for it. Good men rejoice at every little flicker of God’s grace that pops in the church, and they ask God for more.
Let’s pursue a Barnabas-like manliness that is full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. There is nothing better we could be, for good men will be like the God-man, our Savior, Jesus Christ. We want to be like Jesus more than Mike. And God has promised our Christiformity (Rom. 8:29). That’s really good news.
J.A. Medders is the Lead Pastor of Redeemer Church in Tomball, Texas. He is chasing a M.Div. at Southern Seminary. He and Natalie have one precious little girl, Ivy. Jeff loves books, caffeinated refreshments, the Triune God, and sour candy. He blogs at www.jamedders.com and tweets from @mrmedders.
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