Summary: Barnabas - is an encourager and we should learn from him
ENCOURAGEMENT TO BE AN ENCOURAGER
The Duke of Wellington, a famous military leader who defeated Napoleon was asked at the end of his life if he had any regrets. He said that if he had a regret it was that he did not give more praise. Someone once said “flatter me and I may not believe you, criticise me and I may not like you, ignore me and I may not forgive you, praise me and I will not forget you.” There is something about praise and encouragement that, although we may find hard to believe or accept, never leaves our hearts or minds. This morning I want to encourage you to become an encourager. To be one of those people who encourage others on to greater things in the kingdom of God. To help us understand this I am going to look at Barnabas in the book of Acts.
Turn with me firstly to Acts 4.36-37 – this is where we first encounter Barnabas in the book of Acts. He is mentioned 34 times in the NT and all but 5 of those are in the book of Acts. I want you to note first of all that his name was ‘Joseph.’ His parents had called him Joseph but he was given the nickname ‘Barnabas’ –which meant ‘son of encouragement.’ Bar = ‘son of.’ ‘Nabas’ was Hebrew referring to a prophetic exhortation which encouraged or built people up. We know also from this text that he was a Levite. That is, he was from the priestly tribe of Israel. We learn that he was from Cyprus and this enabled him to be an important bridge between the Hebrew and Hellenistic worlds in the church, which would become significant later.
Turn now with me to Acts 9 verses 26-27. Saul (Paul) has been converted to Christ on the road to Damascus and has come to Jerusalem to meet the Apostles. They are justifiably afraid of him and it is Barnabas who takes Paul to the Apostles. In fact we read in verse 27 that it is Barnabas who retells the story of Paul’s conversion to them and not Paul himself.
Turn to Acts 15.36ff. Paul and Barnabas have a disagreement over John Mark. John Mark had let Paul down on a previous journey but Barnabas wants to give John Mark another opportunity to serve. Paul and Barnabas disagree and separate at this point. Later Paul calls for John Mark and he describes him as one of his closest companions and servants in the gospel. Barnabas takes this opportunity of encouraging a young man who has failed in the past by offering him another chance to serve. He saw in John Mark the grace of God even if at this point Paul does not.
Now turn to the passage we read this morning from Acts 11.19-26.
Verses 19-21. Stephen has been martyred and once again the Christians have been scattered by the persecution. Luke tells us that they continued to preach the gospel and that many people had come to faith in Christ. Luke records for us that there was a significant number of people who came to faith and that this was because the hand of the Lord was upon the believers. We have here the geographical and cultural expansion of the gospel. Geographically it has spread from Jerusalem to Judea and then on into Samaria and now out to the Gentile nations. Culturally it has moved out from the Jews in Jerusalem to the Jews in the Diaspora and now on to the Gentiles.