Summary: A look at the life of Barnabas - known for his disposition of encouragement

The DNA of an Encourager

Unedited transcript of sermon delivered at Windsor Park Baptist Church

550 East Coast Rd, Mairangi Bay, Auckland, New Zealand, E-mail:

Sunday 18/3/2001,  Brian Winslade, All rights reserved

Unless stated otherwise, all Scripture quotations in this publication are taken from the HOLY BIBLE. NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers

I want to introduce you to a friend of mine. He is one of those guys who really inspires you in life. Whenever you hear anything about him or what he has done it motivates you to do something similar. His name is Joe. He’s a Jew by ethnic background although he actually grew up in Cyprus.

Really good mentors in life are like gold. To have a positive role model to look up to and follow is really helpful and Joe is one of those kind of people. Not only is his own life really encouraging but just noting the way he lives and goes about life inspires you to do something similar yourself. His attitude towards people kind of rubs off on you.

Actually I suspect a number of you know my friend Joe or at least you have heard about him. Some of the things he has done have made him rather famous. However, I suspect he wouldn’t want to accept much in the way of credit - he is more of a “behind the scenes” type of person.

In introducing my friend Joe I guess I need to come clean and admit to the fact that I have never actually met him personally. You see he lived 2000 years ago; he’s a character we read about in the New Testament. But the fact that we have never met face to face doesn’t diminish in any way the respect I have for him or the impact his life has on mine.

When I say that a number of you also know Joe, or at least about him, you may not recognise him by that name. Joseph was the name that his parents gave him but most people recognise him by the nickname that the leaders of the early church gave him. They didn’t call him Joe, they called him Barnabas. The term Barnabas was derived from two words or phrases: “bar” was like a personal pronoun meaning “son of…” and “nabas” referred to prophetic exhortation that encouraged or built people up. So Barnabas literally meant “son of encouragement”, and it was a nickname which stuck for Joe throughout a large chunk of his life.

To call someone the “son of something” in Jewish culture was a way of describing their character – as if they were the offspring or outcome of a particular behaviour. For instance, the disciples of Jesus, James and John, where from the Zebedee family but their nickname was “sons of thunder” – presumably because of their personality. Barnabas, or “son of encouragement”, was a way of describing or capturing the personality of a person who was extremely encouraging to be around. To be known as Barnabas was a huge compliment. It represented a reputation of incredible honour. People thought well of you. When your name was mentioned the muscles in the faces of people formed into a smile, rather than a grimace. To be known as Barnabas was to have an extremely positive reputation. People looked forward to spending time with you.

I would venture to suggest that the reputation of Barnabas is something that every one of us would aspire to. I am yet to meet anybody who genuinely wants to be disliked or hated by other people. All of us want to be loved and accepted, but also to have other people think well of us. Sometimes we might behave in ways that achieve the opposite but I doubt if any of us would turn down the offer of a reputation like our friend Joe had. To have people refer to us as an encourager or someone positive and uplifting to be around is a goal we would all aim to achieve.

So what was it about this character Barnabas that was so different? Are there elements in Barnabas-type DNA that we can clone or genetically modify into our personal genetic code that would somehow give us that kind of reputation? Can the character of Barnabas be duplicated to the extent that we too become “Barnabai”

I want to lead us on a journey of discovery into the life of Joseph, known as Barnabas, to see if there are any keys in his genetic code that we can impute into our personality. Let me initially suggest three things ;

1. Barnabas DNA is characteristically generous not tightfisted.

There are around 34 referenced to Barnabas in the New Testament; all but five of them appear in the Book of Acts. The first definitive reference we have to him is in Acts 4:36 where Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, had been writing about the incredible sense of community and fellowship that existed amongst the first Christians. People were sharing their excess or surplus wealth with others in the church in need and Luke gave a specific example ;

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