"Are You A Barnabas??"
Text: Acts 11:19-30
Quite often Barnabas is seen as just a side-kick or an assistant of Paul’s. But that’s an unfair picture of this Christian man who truly followed the example of Jesus Christ. I’d like you to dig into the Scriptures with me and see what we can learn about Barnabas. Because as we do, you’ll see a wonderful Christian who helped spread the Gospel by being a powerful Encourager.
The first place that Barnabas is mentioned is in Acts 4:36-37. What’s the very first thing you learn about him? Aha! Joseph was his REAL name. He had received the nickname of Barnabas from the apostles. Anyway, what does Luke tell us the name Barnabas means according to verse 36?? Yes, "Son of Encouragement." As you will see shortly, this nickname was a very fitting description of Joseph the Levite.
That’s something else you should know about his background. He was a Levite who had become a Christian. In other words, he had been part of the Jewish religious system... and to break away from that was a huge step! Also, please note that Barnabas was originally from the island of Cyprus. He ends up going back to his homeland on a missionary journey with Paul. One other thing. You notice in verse 37 that Barnabas was also a very generous man. He gave freely to the Church.
Okay, next I need you to skip ahead to Acts 9. Remember now... what does the name Barnabas mean?? Well, you’re about to see why that nickname was so fitting for him. The first half of this chapter tells the amazing story of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. Keep in mind that Paul was an enemy of the Christian Church. He was trying his hardest to wipe it out. But then he had an encounter with Jesus Christ and that changed everything. Suddenly he went from trying to destroy anyone who followed Christ... to preaching boldly that Jesus was the Savior. Well, the Jews didn’t like Paul, the traitor, so they planned to kill him. Paul found out, and the Christians helped him escape safely from Damascus. He ended up going to Jerusalem... where many of the leaders of the Christian Church were located. When Paul tried to meet with them, what did they do?? Look at verse 26. "They were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple." Can you blame them?? They thought it was just a trick. So nobody would have anything to do with Paul.
Nobody... except one man.... Barnabas. Look at verse 27. This "Son of Encouragement" was willing to trust Paul. This "Son of Encouragement" was willing to risk his own safety and reach out to someone who had absolutely NO friends in the Christian Church. Yeah, sure... Paul had done plenty of nasty stuff to earn that bad reputation. But Barnabas was willing to look beyond it and believe in him... and befriend him. Are you and I like Barnabas?? There are people all around us who need someone to believe in them. Like Paul they may have made some pretty bad mistakes. They may have a bad reputation. Are you willing to be an Encourager to them?? Or will you refuse to believe that they have changed?? Will you trust in them and offer them your hand of friendship?? I am convinced that there are many people out in our community who are afraid to come and worship with us... for fear of being rejected. They need a friend like Barnabas who is willing to reach out to them and introduce them to the rest of the Believers. It was risky for Barnabas to do it, and it may be risky for us too. And yet, I believe Barnabas was willing to do it because that’s what Jesus had done for him. Remember how Jesus was treated when He dared to associate with prostitutes and tax collectors?? They were considered to be the scum of the earth, and yet Jesus went to them and encouraged them with the Good News. Barnabas was simply following his Savior’s example. Will we??
If you want to know what was the driving force behind Barnabas, just look at Acts chapter 11. The Good News of Jesus had reached a town called Antioch. A new Christian Church had started there. They needed someone to teach them. Look at verse 22. Who was sent to them?? Barnabas! And according to verse 23, what did this "Son of Encouragement" do?? Well... he "encouraged" their faith in Jesus. But look what the next verse tells us about the heart of Barnabas. It says "He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith." It was the power of the Holy Spirit that made this "Son of Encouragement" do what he did. By faith he was willing to be an Encourager to others. And the amazing results can be seen in verse 24: "A great number of people were brought to the Lord." Imagine how much the Christian Church would grow today if more of us would be willing to Encourage the faith of others the way Barnabas did!!
So what did Barnabas do next?? Did he sit back and bask in the glow of his success?? No. I’m confident he didn’t even consider it HIS success. It was the power of the Holy Spirit working through him that had caused this to happen. Rather than pat himself on the back, Barnabas knew there were more people to reach. He could have gone out on his own as a one man show. And yet look at verse 25. Who did he go to Tarsus to find? Saul... better known as Paul. Paul would become his missionary companion. I suspect that Barnabas saw the great talent that was in Paul. By searching him out and inviting Paul to go with him, he was once again being an Encourager.
Barnabas and Paul became quite the missionary team. In chapter 12, they went out together. And in chapter 13 they were at it again. As you read through these accounts, you’ll notice that the team is always listed as Barnabas and Paul. That is.... until chapter 13 verse 42. All of a sudden the team becomes known as Paul and Barnabas. I believe that’s because Paul was beginning to show how powerfully he could preach the Gospel. But this tells us something very important about Barnabas too. He didn’t mind not being in the limelight. He never complained about playing second fiddle to Paul... even though he was the one who had Encouraged Paul in the first place... and he had befriended Paul when no one else would. All Barnabas seemed to care about was that the Gospel was being shared with as many people as possible. Now that’s true Christian humility.
There’s one more incident with Barnabas that I want you to see which shows how he continued to be a wonderful "Son of Encouragement." Please look at Acts 15:36. Paul & Barnabas had been very active as a missionary team. Now they were getting ready to go out again. Look at verses 37-40. Barnabas wanted to take along a young helper name John Mark. But Paul refused. Evidently John Mark had bailed out on them on a previous missionary journey. Nobody knows for sure why. But Paul figured they had lots of work to do and they needed assistants who would stay totally committed.
Barnabas wanted to give John Mark another chance. Paul didn’t. He thought the mission was too important to risk another desertion. Once again, we see Barnabas being willing to reach out to someone who needed a friend. He was willing to believe that John Mark had changed. Barnabas was so passionate about this that it caused a major rift between Paul and him. They were so deeply divided over this issue that they decided to split up and go their separate ways. Paul took a man named Silas with him to Syria. And Barnabas took John Mark and went to Cyprus again.
Now don’t think for a minute that this was a small thing that Barnabas had done. The Encouragement that he gave to that young man paid off. John Mark evidently proved that he WAS a reliable helper while on his missionary journeys with Barnabas. How do I know that?? Well, years later John Mark became one of Paul’s closest helpers and friends. In Colossians 4:10, Paul says that Mark was helping him while he was in prison. And listen to what Paul writes about Mark in 2 Timothy 4:11, "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." I’m convinced that this change in the relationship between Paul & Mark would have never taken place... if Barnabas hadn’t encouraged Mark the way he did. But even more important than all that... there’s something else that this young man went on to do. John Mark is none other than the man who wrote the Gospel of Mark! Isn’t it amazing what kind of fruit Good Christian Encouragement can produce!?!
We sure could use a whole lot more Encouragers like Barnabas in our churches. Just imagine what we could accomplish for the Lord if we would be willing to believe in people and befriend them. Just imagine what this church would be like if we would be willing to Encourage... rather than Discourage one another. Do you remember what Barnabas’ real name was?? Joseph. And do you know what that name means?? It means "Exalted One." Perhaps that was an apt description of Barnabas before the Holy Spirit got a hold of him. But once he learned what Jesus had done for him, he humbled himself before the Lord... and thus became the wonderful Encourager named Barnabas. By the power of the Holy Spirit working in US, I pray that we too will become bold and brave Encouragers like Barnabas... for God’s glory and for the eternal good of others. Amen.