Who is Barnabas
Barnabas was a Levite and native of the island of Cyprus. Prior to the disciples naming him Barnabas, he was Joseph. The disciples renamed him with a name that identified his strongest characteristic – he was an encourager. What if the disciples were to rename you with a name that identified your strongest characteristic? What would your name be?
Barnabas sold his property and gave the proceeds to the church in Jerusalem (Acts 4:36-37). He was also the man that introduced Saul of Tarsus (later named Paul), to the Jerusalem church (Acts 9:26-27). In Acts 11, the early church of Jerusalem heard about the Greek-speaking Gentiles who became believers and a church was planted and established in Antioch. As a result, of the Greeks converting to Christianity, they chose Barnabas to go to Antioch to investigate the preaching to the Gentiles. Barnabas becomes the leader of the work in Antioch and he secures Saul as his assistant. In Acts 11, we learn some important qualities about Barnabas that every Christian should model.
Barnabas was glad
How many times have you gone to church to see some sour-faced saint who can’t seem to do anything but grumble and complain? Maybe that saint is you. When Barnabas arrived at the church in Antioch, Acts 11:23 tells us he was glad. Why? Because he saw the grace of God at work in the church that had been planted there.
Whenever we see God at work, that is cause for gladness and joy. Psalm 122:1 says, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” What if we went into church each week glad to be there? Glad to meet our Savior in His House? Glad to worship, praise, sing, and fellowship with other believers?
Barnabas encouraged them
The cost of discouraging others
How often does the excitement of a new Christian wear off because the sour-faced, grumpy saint squelched the joy? Maybe it isn’t a sour-face, grumpy saint, but a saint with a large does of unbelief in what God can do with a person who has a willing heart. What about kids coming back from youth camp? What about after the church holds a “revival service”? Or what about when God calls someone to a task but family and friends discourage them because “how could God use that person with their past?” What about the pastor who called it quits because the church could only complain, bicker, and demand their way? Or what about the person who drams of finding a cure for cancer? What about the person that struggles with depression?
The danger of discouraging others
We all need encouragers in our lives! However, if you discourage others from what God has called them to do, you’re actually guilty of quenching the work of the Holy Spirit. What if, because of your discouragement, someone gave up on that dream or walked away from a calling? They could have been the one person to lead someone to Christ but because they gave up and walked away that someone never hears how much Jesus loves them.
Or what about that couple who’s marriage could have been saved but fell apart because of your discouraging words? Or that teen who dreams of finding the cure for cancer begins to believe there is no cure and chooses another path because you made them feel like finding a cure was hopeless. But had they stayed true to the dream God gave them, the cure may have been found. Matthew 12:36 says, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.”
Sometimes we don’t discourage others with the words we say – but with the looks we give. Or sometimes its in the words we don’t say. You never know what God is saying to a person because God is speaking to them and not you. If He hasn’t let you in on His plan for their lives, then who are you to discourage them? Instead, we need to be a “Barnabas” to others and speak words of encouragement into their lives and pray for the work that God is doing in their lives.
Barnabas and Saul
We need to be like Barnabas and encourage others. It’s not up to us to determine the dream God puts in the heart of another person. Be an encourager. Barnabas not only encouraged the new church at Antioch, but he also encouraged a man named Saul who had been a persecutor of Christians. But then, on his way to Damascus with letters giving him the authority to round up the Christians, he encountered a blinding light and the voice of Jesus. Jesus renames Saul to Paul and from Paul we get the majority of the New Testament.
What if Barnabas had said, “God can’t ever use Saul! He’s known for persecuting Christians. He’ll never be accepted. The Christians will never trust him.” Be very careful who you discourage because you never know the plans God has for another person. Instead, encourage them in their dreams – even the far-fetched crazy dreams because God likes working in the far-fetched and crazy. And He likes using broken people who have willing heart to be obedient to do the far-fetched and crazy tasks God has for them.
Barnabas had purpose
What was Barnabas’ purpose in encouraging the new church at Antioch? To continue with the Lord. God started a work in this Greek, Gentile church and Barnabas’ purpose was to continue that work. In fact, when he saw what God was doing, he left Antioch in search of Saul. He then brought Saul back to Antioch and they stayed there for a year, teaching and growing this new church.
What was the result? A great many people were saved and it was here at Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians. The term “Christians” likely came from Romans who labeled the people who followed Jesus “little Christs.” While they intended it to be an insult, it is actually a title of honor because it meant that the disciples were living Christlike lives. If the Romans were here today, would they label you as “Christian” or “little Christ”? Do we have purpose in our heart to continue the work of Christ? Are we willing to go and get someone and bring them to help carry out that purpose – even if the person the Holy Spirit is directing you to is a very unlikely person?
Barnabas was a good man
Barnabas lived a Christlike life. As Luke (the writer of Acts) penned, “For he was a good man,” he was affirming that Barnabas lived a morally pure life. He was not a thief or the town drunk. Barnabas didn’t cheat on his wife. He did not live habitually in sin. It doesn’t mean Barnabas never sinned, for we all do. However, his reputation was one that identified him as a man who abstained from evil and sin. In other words, he was a good man.
He was also a man who did the right thing. In Acts 4, he sold his property and gave the money to help the poor saints and relieve their suffering. He found ways to encourage others and he was obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit – even when the instructions were to take a previous-Christian-persecutor-converted-Christian under his wing. After Barnabas’ appearance in Acts, he isn’t mentioned again. However, Paul would go on to do great and might things including writing the numerous books of the New Testament that we read in our Bible today.
Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit
Barnabas lived out Ephesians 5:18, which says, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:18 tell us that we are walking in the Spirit when we are led by the Spirit. We are all full of something. Maybe its sports, work, money, hobbies, family, possessions, fame or love. But if we are full of these things without being full of the Holy Spirit then we’re really just full of bologna. When our lives are full of these things, we allow these things to control our lives, our time, our wallets. But when we live Spirit-led lives, we live in humility toward God, surrendering our will to His and the result is a live of joy and thanksgiving – remember that Barnabas was glad?- he had good reason to be because He was full of the Holy Spirit.
Barnabas was full of Faith
Barnabas had Faith in God
He didn’t have a wavering faith. Barnabas didn’t have faith only when things were going good. Barnabas had a deep faith in God. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them than diligently seek him” Barnabas was full of faith. He believed and obeyed the gospel. He acknowledged that Jesus was his Lord and lived in obedience to him.
Barnabas had Faith in Others
Barnabas also had faith in his brothers and sisters in Christ. Everyone else would have shunned Saul – but Barnabas took under his wing. He listened to Saul’s conversion experience. He also listened to the Holy Spirit who prompted him to go get Saul and bring him to Antioch to help with the new church there.
Saul wasn’t the only convert that Barnabas had faith in. John Mark was Barnabas’ counsin and on the first missionary journey, they took John Mark with them, but when they reached Perga, John Mark went back home. On the 2nd missionary journey, Barnabas hasn’t given up on John Mark and he wants to take him with them again, but Saul (now called Paul) refused. Still Barnabas didn’t give up on John Mark. Instead, Paul and Silas went one way while Barnabas and John Mark went another. We know that Barnabas continued encouraging and training John Mark because later, Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:11, “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.” Paul gave up on him, but Barnabas did not. And now Paul says that John Mark is useful to him for ministry.
Who do you need to be a “Barnabas” to?
Someone today is ready to give up. Someone is hurting. There is someone that is questioning God and don’t understand. Today there is a new Christian who needs to be introduced to the church and taken under a wing. There is someone who needs training and nurturing in spiritual matters. Someone is lost and on their way to hell. Will you listen to the quiet prompting of the Holy Spirit and be a Barnabas today?
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