The two men stood on the wharf, looking across the shimmering water, seeing their final destination only in their hearts. They were about to begin a journey that would not only change them, but would change the world. One was known throughout the church, the other, some people knew his name. He was a relative new comer, with a shady past and a spotty reputation. Those who did know about him figured that he wouldn’t last long, that he’d just be a flash in the pan. Here today, and gone tomorrow. One was sailing to a foreign port; the other, he was simply going home. It’s funny how history is though, because 2000 years later the man who was less known is now considered one of the pivotal people in the history of the early church. The man who was known throughout the church is now merely a footnote in church history.
Earlier in the service Karen read from Acts 13 and part of what she is read was Acts 13:2 One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work I have for them.”
Well we know who Saul was, he was the man we now know as Paul. Paul who was the persecutor of the early church. Paul whose life was dramatically changed on the Damascus Road. Paul who wrote the majority of the New Testament. Paul who was the catalyst for the Christian Church to become more then another Jewish Sect. We all know who Saul was; he was Paul. But who was this man Barnabas?
Acts 11:24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And large numbers of people were brought to the Lord.
And so we are told that Barnabas was a good man. What a drab description to give someone, a good man. Or at least that would be the feeling of many people. To them good just isn’t very interesting, you know if you want to live a dull life then just be good. Too many people feel that sin writes history while goodness is silent. We’ve even come to the place that our heroes are at the very best tolerable, but seldom are they good.
Dr. John Gossip, a theologian from Scotland wrote “It is held by many people as a first axiom that holiness is a dull affair, and God’s company intolerably dreary and that for vividness and colour and interest you must look elsewhere.” It would seem that nobody gives goodness much credit these days and yet without goodness why live?
Without Goodness then the atheist are right, without goodness why strive to make the world a better place. No, sin is not the only author of history, throughout history good men have had an impact and have changed our world. From Martin Luther to John Calvin, from John Wesley to John Newton good men have made a difference. Where would our world be with the Lincolns, without the Grahams, without the Livingstons and without the Schweitzers. What a dreary world this would be without the Martin Luther Kings and Mother Theresas .
Our country was founded and built on the foundation stones of moral goodness; even the very name the Dominion of Canada is a direct Biblical reference. Goodness is not dull, it’s vibrant, and it’s not boring it’s exciting.
But what else do we know about Barnabas? Other then that he was good, or maybe the other things we find out about him will help define his goodness.
The first time we come across Barney is in the book of Acts 4:36-37 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles for those in need.
1) He Was Generous. From this scripture we know that Barnabas was a Levite, that is he belonged to the family of priests who served Israel. We know that he was from Cyprus, which happened to be in the same place then as it is now, here in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. And we know that he sold a field that he owned and brought the money to the apostles.
Why would he do that? Maybe he had been back in the crowd when Jesus told the young Lawyer in Matthew 19:21 “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Or perhaps he had watched other believers as they used their combined resources for the common good of the body. Or maybe it was just Barnabas’ way of saying, “Here you go God, you can have all of me, including my field.” You know that our financial attitudes are often indicative of our spiritual attitudes. As a matter of fact Jesus said that how you handle your money is a pretty good measurement of your spiritual state.
Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be. Oh that was good, let’s hear it again. Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be. Don’t you just love it when he says stuff like that? You know if you say your heart is in God’s work but your money is elsewhere then your hearts not really in God’s work.
Maybe Barnabas discovered that as long as he had the field that his loyalties were torn, maybe he’d been saying, “You know I’d serve God but I have this field I have to take care of.” We don’t know, probably will never know unless we ask Barnabas when we get to heaven. What we do know is that the first time he is mentioned in the Bible he is characterized as a giver. And one of the first characteristics of being good is not just giving what we are, it’s giving who we are.
Martin Luther said “A religion that does nothing, that saves nothing, that gives nothing, that cost nothing, that suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”
I’m sure that Barnabas could of thought of a dozen good places to spend the money, a new tent, a new chariot, Christmas, clothes, summer holidays, celebrations. But he didn’t spend it on any of those things he gave it to God’s work. And I’m sure that those who knew what he did said “He’s a good man”
The next time we see Barnabas is found in Acts 9:26-27 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They thought he was only pretending to be a believer! Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus. Barnabas also told them what the Lord had said to Saul and how he boldly preached in the name of Jesus in Damascus.
2) He Was Caring Let’s put this into perspective. When the church was in it’s infancy it was seen as a group of heretics by the Jews and there were some in the Jewish religion who felt it was their duty to put a stop to this heresy. One of those people was a religious leader by the name of Saul. He became one of the foremost persecutors of the Christian faith, although he would have seen himself as one of the foremost protectors of the Jewish faith. His entire life revolved around imprisoning Christians and destroying Christianity. It was his life, it got him up in the morning, it was his vision and his motivation.
And into his neatly ordered life stepped Jesus of Nazareth. The complete story is found in Acts chapter 9, but through this vision Saul’s life is turned inside out and he begins to serve the Lord. The result is summed up in Acts 9:19-20 . . .Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”
When Saul arrived back in Jerusalem the church wasn’t quite sure what to do him, here was a guy who was intent on destroying the church and he shows up for worship, what would your response have been? The church was naturally suspicious of his motives, and with his background you really would be hard pressed to fault them for their reaction.
But here was a man who cared about Saul, I mean really cared he was willing to go out on a limb, put his own reputation on the line and vouch for Saul. You see love and kindness are grandiose ideas but they are just ideas until they are put into practice.
If we are going to impact our community it will only be as they see our love for one another, when they see how we care about each other. There is no place in the church for squabbles or personality clashes. Sometimes you have to put those things aside and get on with your Christian walk. You ask but what if I just don’t like somebody in the church, one word answer “Tough”. You weren’t called to like them, you were called to love them and if you are wondering what that means then you need to read 1 Corinthians 13. As a matter of fact let’s read it together, you do any public readings lately. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
And remember this ultimately you are not responsible for how another believer treats you, but you will always be responsible for how you treat another believer. When Paul listed the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22 this is what he wrote But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.
And if’n you aren’t exhibiting those characteristics to other believers there’s a pretty good chance you not showing them to anybody.
John Wesley said that his rule for life was “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can.”
A little boy was asked if he knew the difference between kindness and living kindness and he said that was easy, “If I was hungry and you gave me a piece of bread that would be kindness. If you put jam on it, that would be loving kindness.”
Barnabas went out of his way to be kind to this new believer and I’m sure people who knew about it said “He’s a good man.”
Acts 11:25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to find Saul.
2) He Was Sharing. A little back ground for this incident. If we were to go back a little bit in this chapter we would discover that when persecution broke out in Jerusalem that some of the believers fled from Jerusalem and ended up in places like Cyprus and Cyrene from there some carried on to Antioch. As they settled there they told people about Jesus and the bible says that a large number of people believed and turned to the Lord. When the church in Jerusalem heard what was happening they sent Barnabas to oversee the work. Under his ministry even more people became believers and it was at that point that Barnabas went looking for Paul and if we were to continue reading in Acts 11:26 26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching great numbers of people. (It was there at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)
Not everyone is willing to share the glory. I’m sure there must have been temptation when that inner voice told Barnabas, “Ride her out son, you are going to be the pastor of the fastest growing church around.” A temptation to write a book on how to grow a church and to say “Hey look at me, look at what I’m doing” But Barnabas was nearly as interested in furthering Barnabas as he was in furthering the kingdom.
And because Barnabas wanted to serve Christ first he gave Paul his first big break, and pretty soon Barnabas and Saul became Saul and Barnabas. And the neat thing is that it didn’t seem to bother Barnabas at all. And Barnabas didn’t just pick up the phone and call Saul either. He probably walked the 200 kms met his friend and said “Saul this is awesome, God is moving, people are getting saved, the church is growing and I want you to be apart of it as well my friend.”
Sometimes we need Barnabas’ who will let someone else take the glory and the thanks, and sometimes we need to be Barnabas’ who will let someone else take the glory and the thanks. Leonard Bernstein said that the hardest instrument to play is 2nd violin, everyone wants to play 1st Violin but nobody wants to play second fiddle. The Oak Ridge Boys sang a song in the eighties that said “Nobody wants to play rhythm guitar behind Jesus, everybody wants to be the lead singer in the band. It’s hard to get a line on what’s divine when everybody’s pushing for the head of the line.”
I’m sure that when people saw what Barnabas had done they said “He’s a good man.”
Do you remember the first instance when Barnabas was mentioned, it was in Acts 4:36 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus.
He Was Encouraging. What a testimony, the man’s name was not Barnabas, the man’s name was Joseph, but the apostles nicknamed Barnabas which in English just means Barnabas but in Greek meant Son of Encouragement. Would people refer to you as a son or daughter of encouragement? Or of discouragement?
When I was a teenager and went to work for Tip Top the one thing that I often attributed my sales success to one the belief that my manager, Ian Vincent had in me, and six years later when I returned from the states and needed a job it was Ian again who became my encourager. Through the twenty years of my ministry I had a number of fellow pastors who have been my encouragers and it’s interesting to not that my strongest and staunchest supporters are successors. Laurel Buckingham, David LeRoy, H.C. Wilson so are they encouragers because they are successful or are they successful because they are encouragers.
Barnabas was a lifter upper of people. Henry Ford made this statement. “The ability to encourage others is one of life’s finest assets.” Who is there in your life that you can encourage? Are you a lifter upper or a tearer downer.
So was Barnabas a good man because he was a giver, a sharer and an encourager? Or was he a giver a sharer and an encourager because he was a good man? Well the answer is in one of the scripture that we started the message off with Acts 11:24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And large numbers of people were brought to the Lord.
You see we’re not naturally good, that is a myth. Barnabas was good because God was working through him, because Jesus had changed his life and his heart and because the Holy Spirit was in control and guided him.
So where are you at? Who’s in control of your life? And what would people nickname you if they had the chance.
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