The Son of Consolation

22 Oct

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In the conclusion of Acts 4 we are introduced to a man called Joseph who is given the name “Barnabas” by the Apostles, and Luke translates the name as “son of consolation”. However, strictly speaking the name, Barnabas, means “son of prophecy” (cp. Hebrew: H5030 nabiy meaning prophet; and H5016 nebuah meaning prophecy). No doubt Luke intends for us to see the fruit or end result of his new name, for the end of the words of the prophet is to console and encourage his hearers.

There is also a picture given at the conclusion of chapter 4 in Acts, showing how this “son of consolation” was fulfilling prophecy. Long ago when Israel was first being established as a nation, it was foretold that there would come a day when the poor would vanish from among the people, because all would have enough (Deuteronomy 15:1-5; cp. especially v.4). It seems like a contradiction when one reads further and finds in Deuteronomy 15:11 that the poor shall never cease from the land, but the sense is that the prophecy of no poor in the land is fulfilled when all the needs of the poor are satisfied by those who have been blessed with abundance. It was Barnabas’ act of consolation toward the poor in obedience to this word in the Law that the “prophecy” was fulfilled by him, hence his being given the name.

It may be, because Barnabas is singled out here in Acts 4, because he was the first to lay the whole price of the sale of his property at the Apostles feet. A close comparison between what we see here and what we find at the conclusion of Acts 2 seems to indicate that those in the beginning sold land to provide for the poor, but nothing is said of laying the funds at the Apostles’ feet, i.e. to be distributed at their discretion. It may have been that those who sold property distributed it as they thought best. It is also possible that the whole price of the sale was not offered to satisfy the needs of the poor in Acts 2. Perhaps, whatever was left after the needs were satisfied was kept and used by the one who sold his property. The text simply doesn’t say. However, in Acts 4 we are specifically told that Barnabas laid the whole price of the sale at the feet, and therefore the discretion of, the Apostles (Acts 4:17). He may have been the first to do so, and in so doing inspired others to behave likewise.

Within the heart of Joseph/Barnabas was united the spirit of the word of God and the practice of the grace of God, hence Luke saying his name by “interpretation” is the son of consolation. It makes no sense for us to claim we are in the Kingdom of God and under the Lordship of Christ and not practice those things that should be true, if the Kingdom of God were established in actuality. Within the early Church there was not a needy person among the believers. This doesn’t mean there was no poor, but it does declare that all the needs of the poor were met by those who had plenty. This is how it must be, if the Lord is respected and followed by those who claim him as their own, because when the Lord led Israel in the wilderness, no one lacked anything (Deuteronomy 2:7), and when the Lord, Jesus, was with the Apostles and sent them out, they lacked nothing (Luke 22:35). It is the testimony of the Psalmist that those who fear God, lack nothing, but it is the responsibility of those who are devoted to God and have the blessings of God in abundance to fulfill his word/prophecy by visiting the poor among us in their time of need (James 1:27). The consolation of God toward the poor is fulfilled through the hands of the sons of consolation whom God has blessed in abundance.

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Posted by on October 22, 2011 in Acts of the Apostles


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