Colossians 4:10 ‘And Mark, the cousin of Barnabas.’

July 2, 2017 by David Farmer 0 comments

Posted in: Weekly Commentary

 Who was John Mark? Who was Barnabas? Both John Mark and Barnabas have excellent scriptural pedigrees. By scriptural pedigrees, I mean the records of the Scriptures by which we have come to know these men. Pedigree means ‘a record of ancestry, or a line of descent.’ And when I qualify pedigree with the adjective of ‘scriptural,’ I intend by that the record, or line of descent of these individuals as is found in the Bible, or the Word of God. In other words, what information are we given in the Word of God by way of delineating for us the person of Mark, and the person of Barnabas? We are actually given a great deal of information about both Mark and Barnabas. Yet, strangely enough, it is not until Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, and included in his parting sentiments, that we learn of the biological relationship which existed between these two servants of God. One source, included in an encyclopedia, offers their assessment of what God the Holy Spirit has recorded of the life and times of Barnabas. In his contribution, he has written that:

This name, Barnabas, “was applied to the associate of Paul, who was originally called Joses or Joseph (Acts 4:36), as a testimony to his eloquence. Its literal meaning is ‘son of prophecy.’ This is interpreted in Acts 4:36 ‘son of exhortation’ RV, or ‘son of consolation’ AV, expressing two sides of the Greek paraklesis, that are not exclusive. The interpretations are admissible in estimating Barnabas as a preacher.”


Were it not for Paul’s comments in our focus passage, we had never been aware of the familial relationship between Barnabas and Mark. They were cousins. But we are this week considering the man Barnabas. And when we look at the given background in Acts, we discover firstly, the magnanimity of this believer. We see him employed by God as a pattern of sympathy toward others as Luke has recorded for us in Acts 4:37. Also, in the context, Luke advises us that Barnabas was a Levite, and a man of Cyprus by race. But this man sold a field and brought the money to the apostles. Only incidentally, this act of Barnabas set the stage for the sad account of Ananias and Sapphira, and their perfidious attempt at imitation.

The next record of this servant of God is not to be found until the ninth chapter of Acts where it demonstrated to us yet more of the character of this person. It is with reference to the beginnings of the ministry of Saul of Tarsus [later Paul] and how that the disciples were afraid of this former persecutor of the Church. They did not believe that he had become a disciple himself. It was our friend Barnabas that then interceded for Saul, convincing the disciples that this Pharisee had truly become a follower of Jesus Christ. Barnabas spoke to them of the conversion Paul had experienced and how then he began to preach boldly Him whom he had once persecuted. It was through the ‘sponsor-ship’ of Barnabas that the apostle to the Gentiles was then received. In this we witness testimony to both the magnanimity as well as the faithfulness and fearlessness of this Levite from Cypress.

Subsequent to this expressed support for this renowned persecutor of the Way, we find the following several references to Barnabas to be that of an associate with Paul, even in some cases seeming to be the leading one of the two. Writers make much of the order of their names. At the beginning of their joint ministry they are referred to as ‘Barnabas and Saul,’ seemingly giving Barnabas the pre-eminence over Saul. In Acts 13:2-3, even God the Holy Spirit appears to grant His imprimatur to this order, for He says in that call to service,

And as they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

Then when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hand on them, they sent them away.

We are not given, as far as I understand, an explanation of why Saul’s name was subsequently changed to Paul, nor do we know precisely when—on what occasion, yet it is, at the very least, most interesting to discover perhaps a latent connection between the change in the apostle’s name and the order of his name with Barnabas. For whatever reason Saul became Paul, he also seems to have moved ahead of his brother, Barnabas, in eminence. This may be expressed in some strange form as found in the enigmatic account that we have in Acts 14. Here our tireless twosome are in Lystra where Saul ‘speaks a miraculous healing.’ We find it recorded;

And at Lystra there sat a certain man, impotent in his feet, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked. The same heard Paul speaking [note that he is called Paul here]; who, fastening his eyes upon him, and seeing that he had faith to be made whole, said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped up and walked.

Upon this the people of Lystra cried out that the gods had come to them. They called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercury, because he was the chief speaker. Here is Paul, designated as the chief speaker, co-ordinate with his being called Paul, it seems. And while Barnabas appears to have been put under the shadow of Paul, and there is no question but that Paul has become the dominant figure hereafter, we should remind ourselves that Barnabas has not been reduced to nothing. It is, at least worth noting, that Barnabas is referenced 27 times by Luke in this book of Acts, the apostle who leaned upon Jesus’ breast is mentioned but 10 times. Son of consolation; son of encouragement; son of exhortation; Barnabas was most certainly a magnanimous believer. He was charitable; faithful; stalwart; ever ready to give the benefit of doubt to others. He is certainly worthy of our emulation. As Paul has written to us that we should follow him as we see him following Christ, surely this was the direction taken by Barnabas. He led Saul but then followed Paul as he saw Paul following Christ. May we be given grace to follow both Barnabas and Paul, thus will we be found to be following our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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