About 212 miles to the West of Bethlehem is an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. There was a priest who lived in Cyprus in a city called Pampas. This priest had a baby. He and his wife were so excited. They were Jewish and everyone was excited. They took him to the temple and brought him into the temple and named him Joses or the Greek version of Joseph. They were a priestly family of the tribe of Levi. They raised this son to be a priest as well. He was going to follow in the family business. He went to Hebrew school when he was young and it was the goal that he would become a priest.
When he got older, he was sent to Jerusalem. It’s been speculated that he studied under Gamaliel. He might have been one of the original seventy who Jesus sent out to heal the sick and perform other miracles.
Acts 4:36-37 “And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
This was very shortly after the Day of Pentecost. He showed up before the persecution of the church. His name has already been changed to suit his character. Barnabas means ‘Son of Encouragement.’ He was an encourager.
He might have been one of the five thousand who saw the loaves and fishes. He might have been in the upper room. He might have been outside when Peter preached and was one of the three thousand who received the Holy Ghost that day.
He wasn’t one of the ‘in-crowd’. This guy was pulled in early on had made an impression. He was doing something people noticed. He was a Levite.
He also sold his land. (The Levites did have land.) A lot of people did this, but no one was named except him. Barnabas wasn’t a fisherman. He really had no vocation. If he had been a priest, he wasn’t anymore. All he had was this parcel of land. In fact, this was probably his only means of income and he sold it and gave it to the church.
He was completely self-sacrificing and trusting the Lord. He completely and totally surrendered.
Barnabas disappears for about five chapters, between Acts 4 and Acts 9. The persecution of the church begins, Stephen is stoned, and Paul is persecuting Christians, then has a Damascus experience and is transformed.
Acts 9:26-27 “And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.”
The pillars of the New Testament saw Paul and did not trust him. They probably saw what he did to Stephen. Barnabas appeared then and brought him to the apostles.
Barnabas might also have seen Stephen stoned, but he decided to vouch for Paul. The disciples took Barnabas at his word. They didn’t believe Paul. What if Barnabas had not spoken for Paul?
Barnabas took great risk to stand in the gap for a man who didn’t deserve it. Barnabas was a disciple builder, an encourager. He took Paul and tutored him.
Paul heard all these things and learned. The church really started to expand. Paul was in Jerusalem and kind of making a mess of things. So, he was sent back to Tarsus.
Acts 11:24-25 “For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. 25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:”
Barnabas went to Tarsus to get Paul to get him to help with the work in Antioch. Barnabas, again went after Paul to build him. He had a disciple and he wanted to check on him. He couldn’t leave him.
At this point, Barnabas is a head of the church. He got this crazy guy, Paul. For the next year, Barnabas taught Paul. Paul grew and grew. He already was a flame-thrower preacher, but now he has deep roots. He was discipled during this time. They prayed and decided to be missionaries. They also brought along another guy named Mark.
They started in Pampas and preached. As they started the journey, all the references were Barnabas and Paul to Paul and Barnabas. There was a shifting in the leadership. That’s what leaders do.
Barnabas built Paul to the point of replacing himself. They went throughout all of Asia.
At one point, Mark had something go wrong and Paul got upset about that. Paul’s partner didn’t give up on people. Barnabas was a people builder, a disciple maker. Mark went his own way and eventually, everyone ended up back in Jerusalem.
There was a big discussion. Paul was the main advocate for not forcing circumcision on non-Jews. Even after Paul was a big deal, it was Barnabas who kept a level head and convinced people. He was all about building people, making disciples. (This is in Acts 14.)
Paul and Barnabas got ready for their second big missionary trip and Mark really wanted to go.
Acts 15:36-40 “And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. 37 And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. 38 But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. 39 And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; 40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.”
Paul refused, but Barnabas wanted to help build this guy who failed before. What was more important to Barnabas was to encourage Mark to get where he needed to be.
In 1 Cor we find out that Barnabas succeeded in helping Mark. Mark wrote one of the books of the Bible! Without Barnabas where would Paul be? Where would Mark be? We would have missed so much.
What if YOU could be like Barnabas? What if you were a people builder, a disciple maker, an encourager? Barnabas had such a great impact. What might others accomplish through you sticking your neck out for them, just like Barnabas?
Excerpted from a sermon preached by Ben Nolan.
For the full YouTube audio/video, click here.
If you are looking for an Apostolic Pentecostal church and are in the Chicagoland area, come check out The Life Church located at 3030 Central Road in Glenview, IL. Services are Sundays at 1pm and Wednesdays at 7pm. We would love to see you there!