Barnabas, the missionary companion of the Apostle Paul, is found mentioned throughout the pages of the New Testament Scripture. Although Barnabas is mentioned several times, little is known about this man and his service to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Barnabas, and his service to Christ, are overlooked subjects lost within the pages of the Word.
The name Barnabas means “son of prophecy”; “son of inspiration”; “son of consolation” or “son of encouragement”. This name for Barnabas was not his given name, it was applied to him later in life as a description of his life and ministry (Acts 4:36). Barnabas was a master at giving strength to those who were weary; he helped give hope to the hopeless and accompaniment to the lonely. Barnabas was, truly, an “encourager” above all fallen humans.
By studying the life of Barnabas we will be placing before us the prime Biblical example of giving encouragement to those who struggle in their service to Christ. Would to God we all could become the “Barnabas” of our day…
Col 1:9-13; Luke 22:31-33; 2Cor 1:3-6; Acts 4:32-37; Acts 9:23-28; Acts 11:19-24; Acts 11:25-26; Acts 11:27-30; Acts 13:3-5; Acts 14:14; Acts 14:11-12; Gal 2:8-13
As we study the life of Barnabas, we find several events in his life that help us to understand important aspects of being an encourager…
Event #1 –
The first mention of the events in Barnabas’s life is in found in Acts 4:32-37… here, we find the gifts of sympathy for others in need and a willingness to sacrifice himself for the welfare of others…..
A time of great need had come upon the church members at Jerusalem. Barnabas, realizing the people’s need, was willing to sell personal property to help the poverty stricken church members…
“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any [of them] that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid [them] down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. 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, Having land, sold [it], and brought the money, and laid [it] at the apostles’ feet.”
Event #2 –
The another event in the life of Barnabas displays his willingness to accept those rejected by others. Also, he made honest, spiritual judgments not being influenced by the judgments made by others.
Here, we find Barnabas willing to stand with the newly converted Saul of Tarsus. This same Saul was the one guilty of persecuting and murdering Christians in Jerusalem. Barnabas’ trust in Saul, and his conversion experience, can only be explained as a divine act of grace.
Acts 9:23-28 – “And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let [him] down by the wall in a basket. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought [him] to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.”
In Acts 11:19-24, we see that Barnabas was selected to represent the church at Jerusalem as he visited the newly formed church at Antioch. This tells us he was a very responsible man who could be trusted in difficult situations. This speaks volumes about the person of Barnabas. Note how he was described in the later verses of this section of Scripture…
He is described as a “good man” and “full of the Holy Ghost and faith”. In other words, an Godly encourager must be one that spent his life being beneficial to others; he allowed the Holy Spirit and trust in the Lord to control every aspect of his life.
Also, as we see his actions with the Antioch Christians … he was sensitive to the workings of God in the lives of others, he was joyful to see God at work in their lives, and he called them to action by standing with them.
“Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.”
Barnabas shows his humility by recognizing the need for Paul’s ministry at Antioch. There was no room for puffed up pride in his life. He recognized that, for the Antioch church’s good, Paul need to minister to them as well as he.
Acts 11:25-26 – “Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”
Barnabas was used as a courier/representative by taking offerings from the church at Antioch and delivering it to the Judaean Christians. This showed his trustworthiness, and willingness to serve in any capacity where needed to help others.
Acts 11:27-30 – And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Barnabas, along with Saul, was recognized as having the calling of God upon him. This calling of Barnabus, in context, was to a ministry of missions… however, this calling included the exercise of encouragement during the course of his missionary ministry.
(This is why Barnabas is said to be an Apostle of God in Acts 14:14. Barnabas never held the office of apostle, however, a wider meaning of “Apostle” is “one called of God to be a delegate or ambassador” or “one called to do the bidding of another”.)
Also, please note that Barnabas was a willing servant of the Lord, willing to do whatever he was called to do.
Acts 13:2-5 – “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid [their] hands on them, they sent [them] away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to [their] minister.”
As before in event #4, we see the humility of Barnabas, who was willing to take a back seat to the ministry of Paul. Please recognize, the ministry of Barnabas was JUST AS IMPORTANT as the ministry of Paul. However, Paul’s ministry was a more public ministry that was recognized by many more individuals (“he was the chief speaker” of the two.)
Acts 14:11-12 – “And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.”
Here we find, perhaps the greatest exhibition of encouragement in the life of Barnabas. Previously, John Mark had accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journeys. John Mark, unexpectedly leaves them at Pamphylia. As time passes, John Mark desires to rejoin Paul and Barnabas as they begin another missionary journey. Paul is not willing to take John Mark for fear of him leaving the group again. Barnabas is willing to give John Mark a second chance at service to the Lord.
Here, we see Barnabas exhibiting forgiveness, the willingness to give second chances, the recognition that no one is perfect, and the desire to accompany those struggling to serve the Lord.
Acts 15:36-41 – “And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, [and see] how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.”
As time passes, we find that Barnabas made the right decision in trusting John Mark. We find Paul, in later years, desiring to have John Mark present with him because John Mark had proven himself faithful to the Lord once again…
2Tim 4:11 – Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.
Encouragers are not always perfect… their ministry calls them to make judgments about others all the time. At times, they can make wrong judgments about those they are trying to help… in spite of their imperfections and misjudgments, they continue to serve the Lord and attempt to encourage those who are trying to serve God.
In this case, Barnabas mistakenly encouraging Peter to bend his beliefs to please other men. In the context, there erupts a disagreement between Paul and Peter concerning the gospel going to the Gentiles. At one point, Peter joins with John and James in agreeing with Paul that the gospel should go to the Gentiles… based upon this belief, Peter began to associate freely with Gentiles. However, when Peter enters into the presence of other physical Jews who disagreed with his beliefs, he compromises his stand and separates himself from the Gentiles in an effort to please the Jews. This was a horrible display of hypocrisy. Unfortunately, Barnabas fell into the trap of compromise as well, following the example of Peter. In doing so, Barnabas wrongly encouraged Peter by following his lead.
Gal 2:8-13 – “(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we [should go] unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only [they would] that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.”
Here are a few more points about being encouragers ….
Additional Point #1
Godly encouragers point others to the ultimate source of encouragement and strength, The Lord Jesus Christ
Col 1:9-13 – “For this cause we also, since the day we heard [it], do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated [us] into the kingdom of his dear Son:”
Additional Point #2
Godly encouragers recognize the role of their life experiences in their ministry. They also recognize the importance of their ministry in the plan of God and the lives of God’s servants.
Luke 22:31-33 – And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired [to have] you, that he may sift [you] as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.
2Cor 1:3-6 – “Blessed [be] God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 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. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 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.”
For those who are saved…
Let us all be thankful to the Lord for the encouragers who have aided us throughout our lifetime of service to the Lord. Also, let us take seriously, the opportunities the Lord opens to us to be an encouragement to others. Let us always be watchful for those opportunities and be thankful when we are allowed to help others who are striving to serve the Lord.
For those who have never come to a saving knowledge of Christ…
Do you find yourself in need of encouragement? Do you miss having someone who will always accompany and strengthen you throughout your walk on this earth? Then look to the Lord for the forgiveness of your sins and an everlasting presence in your life.
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