“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.” (Acts 4:36)
During this blessed time of outpouring of charity in the early church, there were many that sold their possessions and gave the proceeds to the church. One of these men who sold his land and contributed the proceeds to the church was Joses. We know Joses much better in the Bible as Barnabas, which was his surname given to him by the apostles which means “the son of consolation”. Barnabas had a great gift to encourage and exhort the brethren in the Jerusalem church; so much so that the apostles named him “the son of consolation”. We need to follow Barnabas’ pattern to console, encourage, and admonish the brethren in the church. We should be publicly known and identified by our exhortation of others. Even more so, we look to the God of all Consolation and Jesus Christ as our Son of Consolation, to console and encourage our soul.
Barnabas, The Son of Consolation
Barnabas displayed a great spiritual gift to encourage the church. The KJV translators’ alternate wording for “consolation” here is “encouragement” in Acts 4:36. Barnabas was “the son of encouragement”. The word for “consolation” is the same word describing the spiritual gift of “exhortation” – “he that exhorteth, [let him wait] on exhortation” (Rom. 12:8). The word for “consolation” and “exhortation” (paraklesis) means “a calling near to one’s side, comfort, solace”. It gives the word picture of someone calling a discouraged member to one’s side and putting your arm around them, and telling them positive, encouraging words to strengthen their walk of discipleship. Those blessed with the gift of exhortation like Barnabas can greatly encourage others in their discipleship.
Barnabas, the “son of consolation”, greatly displays the spiritual gift of exhortation. Barnabas came to the Antioch church and “exhorted them all” (Acts 11:23). Barnabas was a good man and full of the Holy Ghost. When we live under the direction of the Holy Spirit, we will console, exhort, and encourage our kindred. One of the most important things Barnabas did in his ministry was standing up and vouching for Paul to the Jerusalem church when everyone else was afraid of him and didn’t believe that he was a true disciple. Barnabas called Paul to his side, put his arm around him, and then vouched for him to the skeptical Jerusalem church (Acts 9:26-27). Who knows what would have happened to Paul’s ministry if Barnabas didn’t originally call him to his side and vouch for him to the church? Barnabas may have saved the ministry of the Apostle Paul, and he also saved the ministry of John Mark.
Barnabas displayed the gift of exhortation by standing up for John Mark (who was his nephew in the flesh) and comforting, consoling, and exhorting him, even though this caused a division between him and his dear friend, Paul (Acts 15:35-41). When John Mark was discouraged and Paul was ready to write him off because he didn’t think he was committed enough to the kingdom, Barnabas exhorted John Mark, put his arm around him and encouraged him during that difficult time. Barnabas showed confidence in John Mark and even took him to minister with him in Cyprus (v.39). Barnabas was even willing to temporarily lose close fellowship with his dear friend, Paul, to encourage this struggling young man. John Mark’s confidence and later ministry might have been shattered if not for the encouragement of Barnabas. He could have been blackballed by the Apostle Paul, but Barnabas put his arm around John Mark, stood up for him, and he later proved himself dependable and was a great servant of the kingdom in his ministry.
As we know, John Mark went on to pen the gospel of Mark. Peter calls Marcus (John Mark) his son in the ministry (1 Pet. 5:13). Later, Paul, on his proverbial death bed, requests for Timothy to bring John Mark with him to see Paul because “he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11). Paul in the Colossian letter sends a salutation from Marcus (John Mark) who appears to be with him in writing the letter. John Mark who “touching whom ye received the commandments: if he come unto you, receive him”. John Mark taught authoritatively to the Colossian church the commandments of God in the ministry. Paul also includes John Mark in just a few men who “only are my fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort to me” (Col. 4:11-12). Paul was laboring with John Mark in Rome (where Colossians was written from during Paul’s imprisonment). John Mark faithfully served with Paul in Rome.
Paul forgave John Mark for his youthful desertion of them, and he later labored with him in the kingdom. He even counted John Mark as just a few men who “only” labored with me faithfully in the kingdom. John Mark had proved himself faithful and dependable. Paul even says that John Mark was a “comfort” (paregoria, “consolation, address alongside”) to him (Col. 4:12). What an amazing testimony of consolation! Barnabas is the son of consolation to stand up for Paul to the Jerusalem church originally. When Paul is frustrated and ready to write off John Mark, Barnabas is the son of consolation to John Mark. Paul had forgotten that time that everyone doubted him, but Barnabas (and only Barnabas) stood up for him. Barnabas stood up for John Mark and encouraged him during a fragile time when no one else would. John Mark eventually grows up, matures, and learns the gift of exhortation from Barnabas. Then, John Mark passes on the gift of encouragement that he has received and “comforts” Paul in his later years. John Mark didn’t hold Paul’s prior concern against him, but he ministered and comforted Paul with the same comfort he received from Barnabas (2 Cor. 1:3-7).
Paul and John Mark also displayed great humility and forgiveness to put aside their past differences and labor faithfully together in the kingdom of God. That is a great example for us in the administration of our spiritual gifts in the church. There will be times when we disagree in the church, but we don’t burn bridges or write off someone over one difference of opinion. That is the time when the “sons (and daughters) of consolation” in the church need to mend fences, encourage those who are discouraged, and reconcile offended parties like Barnabas. That is how spiritual gifts are supposed to work in the church. We use our gift to encourage someone who then passes that on to encourage another person in the church. When some members of the church get discouraged or need comfort, the exhorter comes to encourage them and stimulate their faith. The gift of exhortation can be a great spiritual cheerleader for those who are weak and need a spiritual boost. When we need an encouragement and boost to our spiritual walk, the exhorter – the “son or daughter of consolation” – will comfort, encourage, and refresh your strength to continue in service to the Lord.
The God of All Comfort
We can offer consolation to others in tribulation because our God is the “God of all comfort (consolation)”. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.” (2 Cor. 1:4) Our God is the “God of patience and consolation” (Rom. 15:5). God is the source of all comfort and consolation for the children of God. When God gives us consolation, we have a responsibility to use God’s blessings of us to help comfort and console others in their time of need. “4) Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5) For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 6) And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7) And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.” (2 Cor. 1:4-7)
Every word for “comfort” or “consolation” in these verses (2 Cor. 1:3-7) are “paraklesis” or the verb form “parakaleo”. God gives us comfort (consolation) in our tribulation so that we are now able to comfort those who are in any trouble (v.4). We need to have an outward focus of our consolation. God blesses us to pass on that blessing to others. If we are afflicted, it is for others’ “consolation and salvation” (v.6). When God blesses us with encouragement, exhortation, and consolation in tribulation, we need to offer that same consolation to others in their tribulation. That is what John Mark did. Barnabas consoled him when Paul wrote him off. He didn’t hold that against Paul, but after they reconciled, John Mark later comforted (consoled) Paul during his tribulation in prison.
We need the comfort of God in the midst of tribulation, but oftentimes that consolation comes from our fellow kindred in Christ. Paul was really struggling spiritually in Macedonia and was discouraged and cast down. “For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.” (2 Cor. 7:5). God is faithful to comfort those that are cast down, but how did God actually comfort Paul when he was cast down? By the coming of his dear friend, Titus. “6) Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; 7) And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more.” (2 Cor. 7:6-7) Not only seeing Titus but Paul was comforted that the Corinthian church consoled and comforted Titus as well. Paul had to rebuke the Corinthian church harshly in his first epistle, and he was nervous to see how they received his letter. Paul was comforted when he found out they received his letter with humility and repentance and consoled Titus as well as the messenger of that letter. We don’t ever need to understate the significance of consolation and encouragement that just our presence and fellowship can have for other believers. God consoled Paul directly by the coming of Titus. I pray we can be used by God in the same way to console other believers in tribulation as well.
Jesus Christ, the Consolation of Israel
Jesus Christ is the consolation of Israel. Jesus is our Son of Consolation. “And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.” (Luke 2:25) Simeon was seeking the “consolation of Israel”, and he did see the Consolation as he held the babe, Jesus Christ, in his arms. “29) Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. 30) For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” (Luke 2:29-30) Simeon had now seen the consolation and salvation of God’s chosen people with his own two eyes, and that was good enough for him to die and depart in peace.
The same word again in Luke 2:25 for “consolation” (paraklesis) that we have been considering means “a calling near to one’s side, comfort, solace”. Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression and embodiment of consolation, comfort and solace; to call one near to one’s side for the purpose of encouragement. Jesus Christ does that for us every single day. We have “consolation in Christ” (Phil. 2:1). Jesus Christ is the God and source of all comfort and consolation in our lives. Jesus encourages and comforts us in a way that no person on this earth can. Remember, that Jesus often sends consolation to us by another person, such as comfort to Paul by Titus, 2 Cor. 7:5-7. Jesus also comes to console us now today by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is introduced by Jesus as “the Comforter” (John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7). The “Comforter” is “parakletos” meaning “to call to one’s aid, comforter, consoler, helper”; close cousin to “paraklesis” or “consolation”. Jesus was going away back to heaven, but he was not going to leave a void of his comfort. No, the Holy Spirit is perfectly one with Jesus Christ, and Jesus comes personally to comfort us today by the Holy Spirit, by the Holy Comforter, in our hearts.
Finally, Jesus Christ has “given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace” (2 Thess. 2:16). The reason we will have eternal consolation and peace in heaven is through nothing more than Jesus Christ. There will be a group of people who will receive nothing but eternal torment because they will be judged according to their works. There is no consolation for the wicked. If we were judged according to our works, there is none righteous, none good, no, not one, and we would all have eternal torment in the flames of the lake of fire. Jesus came into this world to be the “consolation of Israel”. We will have eternal consolation and comfort in heaven by nothing more than the salvation of Jesus Christ. We can be encouraged now by knowing and trusting in this eternal consolation. Because Jesus has given us everlasting consolation through grace, therefore “comfort your hearts” (2 Thess. 2:16-17). Our hearts are “comforted” because Jesus Christ has given us “everlasting consolation”. Now, let us use our consolation to comfort others who are in need in tribulation as well.
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