Sunday School Lesson
Feb. 02, 2003
BARNABAS: ENCOURAGER AND ENABLER
Bible Background—ACTS 4:36-37; 9:26-27; 11:19-30; 15:36-40
Focal Verses—ACTS 4:36-37; 9:26-27; 11:22-26; 15:36-40
Devotional Reading—HEBREWS 10:19-25
1. We will be able to understand the value of people who bring comfort and encouragement to others
2. We will be able to explain the impact Barnabas had on the early church
3. We will be able to determine to follow Barnabas’s example by looking for opportunities to encourage and comfort others.
“Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of GOD, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the LORD. For he was a good man, and full of the HOLY GHOST and of faith: and much people was added unto the LORD” (Acts 11: 23-24).
Biblically, we traverse four chapters of the Book of Acts to discover gems in the life of Barnabas. Joseph, who was called Barnabas (“one who encourages”), sold a field and gave the proceeds to the apostles (4:36-37). When the apostles were frightened of Saul, Barnabas vouched for his good character (9:26-27). The church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to check out the situation in Antioch, and he welcomed the new converts with joy (11:22-24). Barnabas sought out Paul to minister with him in Antioch, where believers were first called “Christians” (vv. 25-26).
Barnabas and Paul decided to make a second missionary journey, but instead went their separate ways when Barnabas insisted that Mark go with them (15:36-41). From this lesson, we gain insight into the life of a Christian as manifested by one of the early saints, Barnabas. Here we learn that it is important for us as believers to take the posture of encourager in the life of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Too many of us are critics instead of encouragers. We can also learn from Barnabas’ generosity. He could not keep the blessing of the LORD to himself; he had to share it with the people of GOD. We learn of his outreaching spirit as he makes the first missionary journey with Paul.
By way of background, Barnabas is probably the best-known missionary of biblical times. Nothing is known of Barnabas’ life before his initial appearance in the Book of Acts. However, once he comes on the scene, he becomes a prominent character in the founding of the early church and the spread of the Gospel.
Paul accompanied Barnabas on the very first missionary journey to take the Gospel to the Gentile world. This journey resulted in a chain of predominantly Gentile churches reaching far into Asia Minor. Ultimately, Barnabas became a leader in the church and a missionary to the Gentiles. He may also have been influential in the Christian activities in Syria since it is there that Saul became a Christian. The great missionary played an instrumental role in the development of Paul’s early ministry.
Luke describes Barnabas as a man of triple grace—a good man, full of the HOLY GHOST and of faith. His ministry was one of inspiration and encouragement.
1. A GENEROUS BEGINNING (Acts 4:36-37)
After the outpouring of the HOLY SPIRIT on the Day of Pentecost, the church grew rapidly (Acts 2:46-47). These early Christians were united in spirit; they were of “one heart and one soul” (v.32). A church that is of one heart and one mind can effectively fight the forces of darkness in a community. That is why Scriptures teach us that we must endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).
The people also realized that all their possessions were blessings from GOD, so they shared their possessions with the other saints in the church. Christians who understand and live by the principles of stewardship are eager to share with others.
One of the people who were a part of the Jerusalem church was a man name Joses, a Levite from Cyprus. Barnabas’ given name was Joses (Acts 4:36). The name Barnabas comes from the Greek phrase huios parakles (pronounced hwee-AHSS pah-rah-KLAY-seh-ose), which literally means “son of consolation.” The reason the apostles changed Joses’ name to Barnabas was probably because he comforted other believers who may have been discouraged and wanted to return to Judaism. Barnabas was the one who admonished, encouraged, and strengthened believers to hold on to their faith.
It is vitally important that we have men and women in our churches whose job is to admonish, strengthen, and encourage people who may be going through trials and tribulations in their lives. What better place to get encouragement than from other believers who may have had similar problems in their lives but are now experiencing victory?
2. AN ACT OF CONSOLATION (8:26-27)
The next time we see Barnabas is shortly after Paul’s conversion experience. After his conversion, Paul immediately began preaching the Gospel in Damascus. The Jews in the city were completely dumbfounded at his change and new message. After preaching in the city for nearly three years, the Jews decided that the only way to stop their former ally was to kill him. When word of the Jewish plot reached the disciples, they helped Paul escape the city, and he went up to Jerusalem (see Acts 9:20-25).
When Paul arrived in Jerusalem, his situation was difficult. The Jews there had originally commissioned Paul (Saul) to apprehend CHRIST’S followers in Damascus and bring them back to Jerusalem. At his conversion, Paul not only turned against his Jewish leaders, but he joined the opposition. These Jews would be less than pleased at his return to the city.
On the other hand, the disciples remembered how viciously Paul had pursued and persecuted believers. They may have felt he was a spy, and his three-year disappearance may have caused some concern (Galatians 1:17-18). There were many unanswered questions that helped to create an air of suspicion. Paul had been run out of Damascus, was hated by the Jews in Jerusalem, and he was not trusted by the disciples there.
This was a low point in Paul’s life and ministry. If anyone ever needed the comfort of a friend, it was Paul. He found this friend in Barnabas, the “son of comfort.” Though the other disciples refused to believe that Paul had changed, Barnabas stepped in to help. Perhaps Barnabas could see the call of the LORD on Paul’s life, or maybe he felt bad about the way the other believers treated him. Whatever the reason, the “son of consolation” took Paul directly to the apostles and introduced him to them
Barnabas was excited about what he had seen and heard of Paul’s conversion experience and the way he preached boldly in the Damascus synagogue. As a result, Barnabas vouched for Paul’s integrity and character. Paul had enemies among the religious leaders and skeptics among the other disciples, but he had a true friend in Barnabas.
Barnabas’ stature with the apostles and members of the Jewish community in Jerusalem was so high that he was able to vouch for Paul’s integrity and guarantee his conversion. After listening to Barnabas speak on Paul’s behalf, the disciples of Jerusalem were reassured and welcomed Paul into their midst.
3. AN ACT OF EXHORTATION (11:22-26)
After the stoning of Stephen, the Jews persecuted the church, and many believers fled Jerusalem and scattered to other parts of Palestine, including Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch. In spite of severe persecution, the disciples persisted in preaching the WORD to Jews and Gentiles in every city and village they came to. Many people throughout Palestine accepted JESUS CHRIST as their SAVIOR.
News of the conversion rapidly spread throughout the region and soon reached the apostles in Jerusalem. The apostles were anxious to find out what was going on. So they sent Barnabas—the “son of consolation”—to Antioch to get a firsthand report of events.
When Barnabas arrived in Antioch, he was overjoyed at what he saw. The grace of GOD was evident among the people, and Barnabas, true to his name, “encouraged them all to remain true to the LORD with all their hearts” (v.23, NIV). The original disciples did not assume that new converts would always remain true to the LORD. They knew that the world, the flesh, and the devil would tempt new believers to turn away from their newfound faith. Barnabas provides an excellent example of how new believers should be treated and encouraged.
The Greek word for “exhort,” parakaleo (pronounced pah-rah-kah-LEH-oh), means to comfort, encourage, and to come alongside to console others. JESUS uses the same word to describe the HOLY SPIRIT, who is called to our side as our encourager and comforter (John 14:16). These verses affirm Luke’s description of Barnabas as “a good man, full of the HOLY SPIRIT and faith” (v.24, NIV).
Barnabas was so excited about the events in Antioch that he left the city to go to Tarsus to search for Paul. Paul had been sent to Tarsus by the apostles after certain Jewish leaders had plotted to kill him (Acts 9:2-30). Once Barnabas found Paul, he explained to him what was happening in Antioch and convinced him to come to Antioch to assist him in the church’s growth.
Barnabas and Paul spent a year in Antioch, teaching the people and establishing authority, order, and government in the church. In fact, Barnabas and Paul had such an impact on the city that the disciples were first called “Christians” in Antioch (v.26). This name, Christians, was given to followers of JESUS CHRIST by non-believers, and it was not commonly used by Christians themselves at first. The name “Christian” is found only two other times in Scripture: Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16.
4. A SAD ENDING (15:36-40)
It is somewhat tragic that our last encounter with Barnabas is spoiled by an argument between the great missionary and his dear friend, Paul. However, Scripture does not give us pictures of perfect people, but of ordinary people with faith as well as strengths.
A little while after the Jerusalem Council, where the matter of Gentile circumcision was resolved. Paul suggested to Barnabas that they revisit the towns where they had planted churches. Barnabas was naturally excited about the idea and suggested that they take his cousin John Mark along with them (see Colossians 4:10). John Mark had accompanied the pair on their first missionary journey but had left them in Galatia and returned to Jerusalem.
Paul disagreed with Barnabas’ suggestion because John Mark has deserted them, and Paul thought he should not be given a second chance. The disagreement between the two men was so sharp that they parted company. “Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus” (Acts 15:39, NIV).
There will be times when disagreements will occur between even the most loving believers. When these disagreements cannot be resolved, it is sometimes best to separate and continue the work of the LORD separately. The key is to never allow disagreements over GOD’S work to sink to the level of hostility and bitterness.
Whenever we encounter Barnabas in Scripture, he is consoling, exhorting, or encouraging others to be their best for JESUS. Not all believers are going to impact the kingdom publicly like Peter, nor are we all going to plant churches like Paul, but WE CAN ALL BE LIKE BARNABAS AND GIVE GOD AND HIS PEOPLE OUR VERY BEST!!!!
Rev. Chris Lowe, Sr., DD
Rev. Chris Lowe, Sr., DD
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