Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
A Man Called Barnabas
Text: Acts 11:19-24
Dr Alex Tang
9 Sept 2012
Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.
AC 11:19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
AC 11:22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
Heroes of the Faith
Reading Christian biographies is inspirational and encouraging. It shows us how other Christians struggle in their faith to remain true to God. It also exposes to new perspective of God we may not be aware of and new spiritual experiences we have not encountered before. Hebrews 13:7 says, "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith." Hebrews 6:12 says, "Do not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." And of course Hebrews 11 is a collection of excerpts from the lives of great men and women of faith. All these examples are for our inspiration and encouragement.
One of my favourite hero of the faith is Sadhu Sundar Singh (September 3, 1889, Patiala State, India). He is believed to have died in the foothills of the Himalayas in 1929. Sundar felt that his religious pursuits in Sikhism and the questioning of Christian and Hindu priests left him without ultimate meaning. Sundar resolved to kill himself by throwing himself upon a railroad track. That very night he had a vision of Jesus who opened Sundar's soul to the truth. Sundar announced to his father, Sher Singh, that henceforth he would follow Christ. His father denounced him, and his brother Rajender Singh attempted to poison him. Sundar's life was saved by the help of a nearby Christian community (Wiki).
Another is William Franklin "Billy" Graham, Jr. (born November 7, 1918) is an American Christian evangelist who is an ordained Southern Baptist minister. According to his staff, more than 3.2 million people have responded to the invitation at Billy Graham Crusades to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. As of 2008, Graham's estimated lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, topped 2.2 billion. During the civil rights movement, he began to support integrated seating for his revivals and crusades; in 1957 he invited Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to preach jointly at a huge revival in New York City, where they appeared together at Madison Square Garden, and bailed the minister out of jail in the 1960s when he was arrested in demonstrations.
There are many biographical persons in Acts which was recorded for us by Luke. Luke a doctor was very precise in his use of language and gives us good glimpses of the personalities involved. One of them is Joses or Joseph of Cyprus. Most of we know him by his nickname Barnabas (Acts 4:36).
Who is Barnabas?
Barnabas is interpreted by Luke as huios paraklēseōs
owned land in Jerusalem. His first appearance in the NT shows him among the
earliest converts, selling his parcel of land and giving the proceeds to the
AC 12:5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
AC 12:6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists.
AC 12:8 Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
AC 12:11 Then Peter came to himself and said, "Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating."
AC 12:12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.
Luke tells us that Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith (11:24)
He was a good man; full of the Holy Spirit and faith
· Good man
· Full of the Holy Spirit
· Full of faith
How do we understand being a good man, fullness of the Holy Spirit and faith?
John Piper helps
How do they relate to each other? Probably fullness of the Holy Spirit and faith is the root or source of Barnabas' goodness. Paul unpacks this relationship in Galatians. He says in Galatians 5:22 that goodness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. You don't get the Holy Spirit because you are good. The Holy Spirit takes over your life and starts to make you good.
But what do we do in that process? We are not passive in this affair of becoming good. That's why Luke doesn't just say that Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit. He is full of the Holy Spirit and faith. Faith is what we do. Now what does faith have to do with the work of the Holy Spirit?
Galatians 3:2 tells us: "Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?" The assumed answer is that we received the Spirit by faith in the Word of God. Then verse 5 says, "Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?" And again the assumed answer is FAITH! The Spirit is received by faith and goes on being supplied through faith.
Putting It All Together
So let's put it all together: At the very beginning of the Christian life we receive the Holy Spirit by trusting in the truth of the gospel (Galatians 3:2). Then as the Christian life goes on and there is need again and again to be strengthened and filled with the Spirit, this too happens by faith in the word of God's promise (Galatians 3:5). One of the practical fruits or products of this Spirit-filled faith is goodness (Galatians 5:22).
So when Luke says that Barnabas was "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith," my understanding is that Barnabas had a great faith in God, and that by this faith the Holy Spirit became powerful in his heart, and that the result was a lot of practical goodness in Barnabas' life.
“@TozerAW: "Real faith not only does something for us, but it also does something to us." AW Tozer (A Disruptive Faith)”
Reflections on the Life of Barnabas
As we examine the life of Barnabas I will suggest six ways in which he acts as an example and inspiration to us.
1. He is open to the grace of God
11:22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
a. Why did the Jerusalem Church send Barnabas?
The church was growing rapidly, especially among the Greeks and Hellenistic Jews, and soon a Christian church was thriving in the city of Syrian Antioch (about 400 miles north of Jerusalem). Initially it was mainly Jewish. Then increasingly more and more Gentiles joined the church especially in Antioch, influenced by men from Cyprus and Cyrene. The church in Jerusalem which consisted mainly of Jews was in a dilemma. Who to send to this Gentile church? Someone who can do cross cultural ministry.
The apostles dispatched Barnabas to travel to Antioch and
to pastor the fellowship there (
Many of us see the world through the lens of ‘them and us.’ This reminds me of a Helen Reddy’s song “You and Me against the World.” I believe the early church in Jerusalem also suffered from this. Now we have Gentiles in the church! What are we to do? They found in Barnabas a man able to make outsider insiders, strangers to be friends. Such a person will be perfect to be sent to pastor the new and growing church of Gentiles in Antioch.
Charles Edwin Anson Markham (23 April 1852 – 7 March 1940) was an American poet, most famous for his poem, The Man With the Hoe. But I really like this poem which express what I have been trying to say:
He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.
The Shoes of Happiness, and Other Poems (1913)
Barnabas’s ability to include others is also reflected in his acceptance of Paul. When Paul returned to Jerusalem after his conversion and lengthy stay in Arabia, the apostles were understandably cautious about him. But as Ananias had brought Paul into the Christian fellowship at Damascus, so Barnabas trusted the integrity of Paul’s conversion and became his advocate among the Jerusalem leaders (Acts 9:27-28). With the help of Barnabas Paul was invited into the center of the church’s life.
27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.
After fifteen days (
29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. 30 When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
2. He is an encourager of men
Because he sees the potential where others see failure
23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
AC 11:25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
Since Tarsus was nearby and
since Paul had become well known in the regions of Syria and Cilicia (
b. Encourages the Jerusalem Church
Barnabas also traveled with Paul on the so-called famine
visit to Jerusalem (
AC 11:27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
Antioch was the third-largest city in the Roman Empire (next to Rome and Alexandria) and its church, no doubt the wealthiest yet, determined to share its riches with the poorer Christians of Judea.
Following the famine visit,
3. He is a mentor to leaders
because he knows the expansion of the work of God’s grace depends on Godly leadership
Barnabas' ministry in Antioch had been so successful that the converts were everywhere. Many of us would say at this point: I am now a respected leader. I have earned a good reputation for my work. It is now time to consolidate my gains and establish myself as a prominent preacher in this part of Syria. Instead Barnabas went to look for Paul. I believe Barnabas sees the great potential in Paul.
a. Risk taking with Paul
The Jerusalem Council.
Following the first missionary journey west, Barnabas accompanied Paul to
Jerusalem in order to settle the now divisive issue of the Law and circumcision.
Barnabas is given equal respect with Paul (
b. Being patient with John Mark
John Mark’s presence in
Acts 15: 36-41
AC 15:36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Who is right and who is wrong? Barnabas wants to give John Mark a second chance but not Paul.
Later Paul will work with John Mark and John Mark will write the Gospel of Mark. Without Barnabas, we may only have three gospels rather than four!
4. He is fallible
a. Incident with Peter and the Judaizers
Peter came to Antioch and mixed freely with the Gentile
Christians; but he withdrew from having fellowship with them when a conservative
delegation from Jerusalem appeared (
Gal 2: 11-14
GAL 2:11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
GAL 2:14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
b. Conflict with Paul over John Mark
The second tour witnessed the rupture of Barnabas’s
relation with Paul. Barnabas wanted to give John Mark another chance, but Paul
Again as an example, John Piper notes:
There is no passage in Scripture that says, "When a young missionary has forsaken the work on his first journey, you shall give him a second chance after 18 months of penitent and faithful service." And no biblical text says not to.
Instead we have principles that say, "Encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all." And we have principles which say that leaders in the church should be above reproach, and well-tested. One principle stresses the glory of God's mercy. Another principle stresses the glory of God's calling. One principle accents the bounty of God. The other principle accents the holiness of God…
But what does wisdom dictate in a choice like this? Barnabas seemed to focus on the need and potential of Mark. Paul seemed to focus on the demands and potential of the larger cause of the gospel and the honor of the mission.
I believe the mistake here is not the difference in opinions. There will always be difference in opinions when people work together. The important point is how to resolve these differences. Barnabas and Paul by now would have worked and served together for 15 years. Could their different opinions be resolved by setting up different teams without the bitterness and break in friendship?
5. He is a giver
a. Generous with his wealth
(Acts 4: 36-37)
AC 4:36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet.
b. Generous with his standing in ministry
In Acts 13:1–3 the Holy Spirit sets Barnabas and Saul apart for a missionary journey to the unreached cities of Cyprus and Galatia. Notice the order of the names in verse 2: it is still Barnabas first and Saul second, the way it has been back in Acts 11:30 and 12:25.
Barnabas and Saul at Antioch (
Barnabas and Saul appointed (
Barnabas and Saul sent off (
Barnabas and Saul on Cyrus (
Paul and Barnabas at Antioch in Pisidia
Paul and Barnabas at Iconium (
Paul and Barnabas at Lystra and Derbe (
Paul and Barnabas separate (
When they get to the city of Paphos on the island of Cyprus, the proconsul invites them to speak to him, and in Acts 13:7 Barnabas still has the honor of first place: "he summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God."
But when Elymas the magician tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith, it was Saul who exploded with the Holy Spirit in verse 10:
You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?
But from this point on, Saul (now called Paul for the first time in verse 9) is in charge.
We see this immediately in verse 13. Luke says, "Now Paul and his company set sail from Paphos." Barnabas is not even mentioned. In verse 16 it is Paul not Barnabas who delivers the sermon in Antioch of Pisidia. When both of them are mentioned, it is now "Paul and Barnabas" not "Barnabas and Paul" (13:43, 46, 50; 15:2, 22, 35; except in Jerusalem where Barnabas is on his home turf, 15:12, 25; and in Lystra where Barnabas is called Zeus and Paul Hermes).
6. He is highly respected
It seems clear that Paul, Barnabas and John Mark shared a
longer working relationship than Acts implies. Paul’s reference to Barnabas in
1CO 9:3 This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. 4 Don't we have the right to food and drink? 5 Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas? 6 Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?
Paul refers to Barnabas as a fellow worker who shares his mission and work. They are friends again.
Luther were convinced that
11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.
Reflections on the life of Barnabas
1. He is open to the grace of God
2. He is an encourager of men
3. He is a mentor to leaders
4. He is fallible
5. He is a giver
6. He is highly respected
Are you a good person, full of the Holy Spirit and faith?
Hawthorne, G. F., Martin, R. P., & Reid, D. G. (1993). Dictionary of Paul and his letters (66–67). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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