Summary: This sermon examines the life and ministry of Paul’s companion and co-worker Barnabas.
Introduction: The Bible is full of people that we could pattern our lives after. Of course our ultimate role model is Jesus, but there are many others that we could learn and benefit from. For instance, Like Abraham, we should strive to have such a close relationship to God, that we too would be called the Friend of God. Like Queen Esther we should always be willing to take a stand for what is right, regardless of what the consequences might be. Like the Apostle Andrew, we should look for opportunities to bring others to Christ, just as He brought his brother Peter. Like Phillip we should be sensitive to the Leadership of the Holy Spirit and be willing to go wherever He tells us to go, and do whatever He tells us to do.
This morning I want us to focus on another man. If more of us would follow this man’s example it would transform our homes, revolutionize our churches, and change our communities.
We are introduced to this man in the Fourth chapter of the book of Acts. In verse 36 Luke writes: “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 Apostle’s feet.” (Acts 4:36 NIV).
Barnabas was a nickname. In New Testament times a nickname often represented or described the kind of person the individual was. Last Sunday I mentioned that Jesus gave James and John the nickname ‘Sons of Thunder’ because of their explosive personalities.
Sometimes today people are known more by their nicknames than they are their real names. My dad used to work with a guy they called “Radio.” His real name was Jerry Green, but everybody knew him as “Radio” because He was always talking.
Here in this verse of Scripture we are introduced to a man named Joseph, whose nickname was Barnabas, which meant “Son of Encouragement.” Most of you probably didn’t know what Barnabas’ real name was, because most of the time when he is mentioned in Scripture he is called by His nickname. Barnabas was the kind of guy who encouraged people wherever he went. He had the ability to bring out the best in other people. He was the kind of guy that would do everything within his power to cheer you up if you were down. He was the type of person that would go out of his way to comfort or minister to someone who was hurting. He was always on the lookout for someone to encourage.
He was also the kind of person who was willing to reach out a hand to help someone up that had stumbled and fallen. Barnabas was the one that would help them get back up on their feet and help them realize that even though they may have failed, that failure is not final.
He encouraged people to learn from their mistakes and focus on the future. Which is essentially what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 2: when he said, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Barnabas understood that God is a loving and compassionate God, who is willing to forgive us of those times we have failed him. Not only that, Barnabas understood that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel of beginning again. He realized that the Holy Spirit can transform the tragedies of our past into glorious victories for the Kingdom of God. That’s the kind of person Barnabas was. He became a strong leader in the early church, and God used his ability to encourage people to make a difference in the lives of many individuals, some of which went on to accomplish great things in the Kingdom of God.
One of those individuals was a man named Saul of Tarsus. Saul was a very religious and determined man. He was a Pharisee and had received his religious training from a Jewish Rabbi by the name of Gamaliel, who was one of the most respected Rabbi’s of the First Century. Saul hated Christians and felt that it was his God given responsibility to wipe the Christian movement off the face of the earth.
He went to the High Priest in Jerusalem and asked Him to give him the authority to go to Damascus, Syria to search for the followers of Jesus Christ. His intention was to find them, arrest them, and bring them back to Jerusalem to stand trial for blasphemy. His prayer was that they would not only be found guilty but would be punished for their crimes against God and against Judaism.