Christian Resource Centre


Published / updated: 28 March 2006 | Author: Dele Oke

Barnabas - Men of the bible

Barnabas makes his entry onto the stage with a show of generosity. However his good deeds are often forgotten in favour of the bad performance of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, this couple did exactly the opposite of Barnabas.

A life of Sacrifice

The first mention of Barnabas is recorded in Acts 4: 32 - 37

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.
There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet.

Barnabas simply meant son of encouragement. His real name was Joseph. Barnabas was a nickname given to him: a product of his character. What a testimony! That a man be known by his good deeds. If you continue on reading into Acts 5 you will come across Ananias and Sapphira. The Bible presents them in contrast to Barnabas. A bit like Abel and Cain. Barnabas sacrifice was acceptable while Ananias was not. More importantly, the condition of their hearts was where the real difference lie. God still looks at the heart.

Barnabas appears as from no where and makes a big impact. He keeps popping up at all the major turning points before exiting the stage again in Acts 15. Barnabas played a vital role in the early church. His was a ministry that gave birth to others. Some of the most lasting work in the kingdom of God is done outside the graze of public attention and approval. That is something worth remembering.

Giving birth to ministries

In Acts 9 we observe Barnabas again. This time we see him bringing Saul into the gathering of the Apostles. Without Barnabas the encourager Saul's ministry would have never have been accepted. Saul's conversion was dramatic, yet his earlier persecution of the Church meant the Apostles did not trust him.

Barnabas however had the discernment and reputation to identify and accept Saul into the fellowship of the Apostles. Without Barnabas we (the church) would have lost Saul. God knows we need Barnabas' in the Church today. People who support and encourage new believers. Read the account in Acts 9:26-30.

When he [saul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.

But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.
He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him.
When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Again we witness Barnabas stepping onto the stage at a crucial time in the history of the early church. The Apostles would have missed the vital ministry of Saul if not for Barnabas.

First mention of Christian

Saul eventually returned to Tarsus and we don't hear from him again for about ten years. Then God uses Barnabas to bring him back into the picture again. Acts 11:22-26 contains the story.

News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

The persecution of the believers in Jerusalem as a result of Saul's activities resulted in the believers leaving Jerusalem and preaching the gospel elsewhere. Many came to the faith in Antioch as a consequence of this. The Apostles who remained in Jerusalem sent faithful and reliable Barnabas to Antioch to encourage the new converts there.

Barnabas is the only person in the Acts of the Apostles to be described as a good man. If 'good' spoke of his personality then 'full of the Holy Spirit' hints at his spirituality. Many more people were brought to the faith via the ministry of Barnabas at Antioch. Barnabas needed help and he knew the person to call on. Off he went to Tarsus and brought Saul back from obscurity.

The ministry of Barnabas is one that the church today needs badly (Romans 12:5). The Bible tells us little about Barnabas preaching and teaching ability but volumes about his character. His converts at Antioch took on his character and we read that 'The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch' (Acts 11:26). Barnabas life spoke more than his words.

Barnabas and Saul spent a whole year at Antioch together. It is safe to say that Barnabas was Saul's mentor - applying his life to the fulfilment of Saul's ministry.

Whose ministry are you bringing forth into fulfilment? It maybe someone you are praying for, mentoring, or even a child you are bringing up. Do not expect them to thank you when they get fully established. Sometimes they do, but other times they just walk off. Nevertheless, you would have fulfilled your duty. That is what matters with God.

The Holy Spirit's intervention

Acts 13 unfolds the first missionary trip of Barnabas and Saul, inspired by the Holy Spirit. God's intervention was allowing Saul (who would later be called Paul) to be trained by the best man available. By making himself available to touch one man, Barnabas was having an impact on the wider body of Christ.

Everyone has faults

In Acts 15 we read of the split between Saul and Barnabas. By now Saul has become well established in the faith. The account is recorded in Acts 15:36-40

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing."
Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them,
but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.
They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.
He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

We know from Paul's later letters that he came to appreciate the calling of John Mark (Colossians 4:10). Barnabas brought the calling out of John Mark as he did with Saul. Saul however was too impatient to nurture John Mark to maturity. Thank God for Barnabas.

After this account we no longer read of Barnabas. The reason is simple. Luke who wrote Acts was following Paul and it was Paul's ministry, a product of Barnabas faithfulness, that the Holy Spirit wanted to highlight. Paul wrote most of the books of the New Testament. His work was a product of God's grace. The success of Barnabas can be seen in the outcome with Paul and John Mark.

Barnabas was vital to the body of Christ. His focus was based on what God had called him to do. God will judge our faithfulness on the last day.

References to Barnabas can be found in
Acts 9:27 - 15:39; 1 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 2:1; 2:13; Colossians 4:10

Dele Oke
The Living Word Library
24 September 2006