Summary: “When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.” Note two things in this verse that will help us understand why we need more people like Barnabas in the church to
MEET MISTER ENCOURAGEMENT
As I began focusing on what to preach on Baptist Men’s Day, the Holy Spirit led me to take a fresh look at one of my favorite Bible Characters. A man by the name of Barnabas.
We first encounter Barnabas in Acts 4:36, “And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement). A Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land sold it and laid it at the apostles feet.” Now most of you have heard the name Barnabas, but you may not know that his real name was was Joses or Joseph. Barnabas was his nick-name. That name means “son of consolation” or “son of encouragement.”
The late Dr. Huber Drumright of SWBTS called Barnabas “Mr. Encouragement.” I like that. It certainly fit his character for he was always encouraging people and encouraging the church. He was a man who deserved his nick-name. We know that he was a generous man and that he was an encourager. One of the greatest needs is for men like Barnabas who will be encouragers to others, especially in these discouraging times.
Time will not permit our examining in detail every passage in which Barnabas is mentioned in the Book of Acts. Though he is not as prominent as Peter and Paul, his influence is seen throughout the early church. Let’s look at the passage in Acts 11:19-26. Verse 24 gives us a key to understanding how God used him in such a mighty way.
1. He was a good man. Now this is much more than what we mean when we say of someone, “He was a good ole boy.” It meant that he was morally honorable, pleasing to God, and beneficial to others.
2. He was full of the Holy Spirit.
3. He was a man of faith.
4. He was a soul winner. He always pointed to Someone beyond himself. That is, he always pointed people to the Lord.
With these character traits in mind, let’s examine the impact of Barnabas’ life and ministry in Antioch. The church at Antioch was a church that was started as a result of the persecution following the death of Stephen. Some of those who were scattered went to Antioch and preached to both Jews and Gentiles (v. 20). God was moving in a mighty way at Antioch and many were coming to the Lord. When the church at Jerusalem heard of this, they sent Barnabas to investigate. No doubt they knew that this new church needed someone like Barnabas to encourage them in the faith.
V. 23 is the key. “When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.” Note two things in this verse that will help us understand why we need more people like Barnabas in the church today.
I. HE SAW EVIDENCE THE GRACE OF GOD
What were the evidences of the grace of God at Antioch? Several evidences can be observed in this passage as well as in the context of this passage. How does one witness or see the grace of God? What did Barnabas see that convinced Him he was witnessing nothing less than the activity of God’s grace?
A. He saw conversions (11:21): “The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” Note that “The hand of the Lord was with them.” This means that the Lord was giving His approval to what was happening at Antioch. “A great number believed and turned to the Lord.” Conversions are always a sign of God’s activity. Such activity continued when Barnabas arrived at Antioch (24b).
B. He witnessed sacrificial and spontaneous giving (11:27-30): When the prophet Agabus predicted a great famine that would affect the church in Judea, the people immediately responded.
C. He saw barriers fall down between Jews and Gentiles Verse 19-20. Antioch was the first international Church. The congregation at Antioch was made up of Jews and Gentiles. This meant that barriers between Jews and Gentile believers were coming down in Antioch. This may not be significant to us, Jews and Gentiles together was unheard of in the first century. The barriers that divided them were not only racial but also religious and cultural. Seemingly insurmountable barriers are obliterated in a moment by the grace of God.
D. He saw a church with a heart for God and a vision for the world. (13:1ff). It was the church Antioch that began what we now call "Paul’s missionary journeys." That church gave, fasted and prayed, and sent out the first missionaries to other countries.
II. HE ENCOURAGED THE CHURCH TO CONTINUE IN THE GRACE OF GOD.
What Barnabas witnessed at Antioch of Syria brought gladness to His heart. What a thrill it was for Him to worship together with God’s people. Barnabas was true to his character and to his name, “Son of Encouragement.” He was always an encourager. Let’s look back in the Book of Acts at some of the ways Barnabas was used to encourage others.