What Happened To Barnabas?
At the conclusion of their first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas came up to Jerusalem where the first sovereign grace Bible conference in history was held (Acts 15). The reason that conference was held was that the church of God might with one unified voice denounce the legalism of false brethren and make a public declaration of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Paul, Peter, and James were the preachers at the conference. They all asserted the believers total freedom from the Mosaic law, and did so by inspiration of God the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28-29). They drafted a letter and sent it to all the churches to keep God's saints from being seduced by the preachers of legal holiness. Paul and Barnabas, along with Judas and Silas, carried the letter back to Antioch and read it to the church there.
When they were about to begin their second missionary journey Paul and Barnabas had a falling out over John Mark, Barnabas' nephew. Though his name is mentioned in several of Paul's epistles, we read nothing else of significance about him in the New Testament, except that he was carried away with the dissimulation of Peter and other Jews at Antioch (Gal. 2:1, 9, 13). Where he went, what he did, what became of him after this, we are not told.
This much is certain: As far as effectiveness and usefulness is concerned Barnabas' ministry ended when he stubbornly refused to submit his love for family to the cause of Christ, when he chose to defend Mark in his error, even if it meant sacrificing the work to which God had called him (Acts 13:2). What a sad end for a man who had such a brilliant beginning and had been used for so much good! Barnabas sacrificed everything he had once counted dear because of family ties. He who once sold all he had and gave the money to the church (Acts 4:36-37), in the end gave up his place of service in the cause of Christ to defend his kinsman!
The lesson is clear. As far as God's servant is concerned, his family is and must be the family of God. All earthly relations and worldly concerns must be subservient to the church of God, the gospel of God, and the glory of God. No man can serve two masters. We cannot serve our own interests and Christ's.
WHAT HAPPENED TO PAUL?
Barnabas was a true believer. I have no doubt that he lived and died in faith. He sacrificed much and did much in the service of Christ and his church. But Barnabas was a man with weaknesses which satan used against him to destroy his ministry and his usefulness in the kingdom of God. His undue regard for family relations was ultimately the thing that ruined his ministry (Acts 15:36-39). His soft, pliable disposition allowed him to be influenced by the dissimulation into legalism at Antioch, when he knew it was wrong (Gal. 2:1, 11, 13).
Paul was not like Barnabas, though they had been friends and fellow laborers for a long time. After Barnabas forsook him, Paul chose Silas and went on his way preaching the gospel. The departure of his friend must have given him great pain, but it did not interfere with his work in the least. After passing through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches, Paul and Silas went to Derbe and Lystra, to preach the gospel. The last time Paul had been in Lystra he was stoned, drug out of the city, and left for dead. But none of his afflictions and troubles moved him. He truly did not count his life dear unto himself (Acts 20:24). He had been called of God to do a work and was resolutely determined to let nothing keep him from it. He went back to Lystra and preached the gospel there again. His care for the souls of men and the church of God, and his love for Christ and zeal for his glory gave him boldness and determination.
In the end, Paul was imprisoned and at last put to death as a common criminal. Forsaken by his friends, in the face of death Paul was alone. No man stood with him. But the Lord stood with him! In the face of immediate martyrdom, that faithful man wrote what Barnabas could never have written, "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (II Tim. 4:6-8).