Summary: Barnabas was perfectly willing to take backseat, to play second fiddle, and to stand in the shadows. He is truly one of the unsung heroes of the early church.
The Unsung Hero Of The Early Church
I never truly appreciated Barnabas, and his contributions to the church, and the cause of Christ until the last week. I am now convinced that Barnabas is the unsung hero of the early church. The first thing that you’ll notice about Barnabas is that his real name was Joseph.....the name Barnabas was given to him by the Apostles, and I think for good reason.
The name given to him had great meaning and gives us a sneak preview of the character, and qualities of this unsung hero.
Barnabas means “son of encouragement”. Barnabas was a source of encouragement. All of us need encouragement......but not all of us give encouragement.
I watched them tear a building down;
A band of men in a busy town.
With a `HO-HEAVE-HO’ and a lusty yell;
They swung a beam and a sidewalk fell.
I asked the foreman, `Are these men skilled?
And the men you’d hire if you had to build?’
He gave a laugh and said, `No indeed!
Common labor is all I need.
I can easily wreck in a day or two,
What builders have taken a year to do.’
And I thought to myself as I went on my way,
Which of these roles have I tried to play?
Am I a builder who works with care?
Measuring life by the rule and square?
Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan,
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town,
Content with the labor of tearing down?
One thing that is desperately needed in our church today are some encouragers. Let me share some reasons why Barnabas was, and is such an encouragement, and why he is the “unsung hero of the early church”.
1. Barnabas sacrificed his fortune.
Barnabas was from Cyprus. He owned land on this beautiful island. The island was famous for its vineyards, wheat, oil, and figs. John Phillips refers to Cyprus as the “secular Canaan”. It was a fruitful land. To own land there one had to be rich, and influential. Yet, Barnabas surrendered his fortune. When he heard, and saw the needs of the early church......he sold his land, and brought the money and laid it at the apostle’s feet. By doing so, Barnabas was declaring that he would live a life of faith. He was answered the call of God, stepping out by faith in the direction that God was pointing him. I have always been greatly inspired by missionaries who answer the call of God to a foreign field, and leave behind their fortune ! It is such a blessing to see those whom God has blessed with the ability to give......give sacrificially. I know that not all of us have to give as did Barnabas. We may not be able to give the amount that he did.....but what a blessing it is to be able to give what we can to the Lord.....to take part in his service.
2. Barnabas supported the friendless. Acts 9:26-27
Paul had been saved for three years...notice.....the Jews believe in conversion and are trying to kill him as a result, but the church want let him inside the door because they don’t believe he has been geuninely saved. The disciples feared him. Yet, Barnabas belived the Lord, he believed that God could save someone like Saul and change him into Paul. He had heard him preach the gospel......it was evident to Barnabas that Paul had been saved. Barnabas showed remarkable courage, and confidence. He was willing to take a chance, and give someone a chance when no one else would. Sometimes all folks need is a chance ! Sometimes we’re not willing to give people a chance. Sometimes all folks need is for someone to believe in them ! Barnabas believed in God, and believed in what the Lord had done in his life. Though we hear little of Barnabas, and much of Paul.....it was Barnabas that God used to get Paul started. Can you imagine what could have happened if Barnabas had turned his back as well ? There are some folks in our community that are friendless......because of some things they’ve done, the way they’ve lived in the past......mistakes made......no one wants them ! They are shunned, desserted, forsaken, abandoned. Will you let God use you to reach the friendless ?
3. Barnabas strengthened the flock.
Word now reaches the church in Jerusalem that many gentiles in Antioch have been saved. The church nominates Barnabas to go down, and check things out. Look at the way God uses Barnabas.
a. He was exemplary.
The church was wise in sending Barnabas. He was a good man, and spirit filled, and a man of faith.
b. He was excited.