In world & biblical history, behind every successful person were great supporters and helpers. Abraham had Eleazar. Moses had Aaron and Hur in battle, and his father-in-law Jethro to advise him. David had his 3 warriors & mighty men and also Jonathan. In today’s passage, we see that Apostle Paul had Barnabas. Who was Barnabas and what kind of person was he? And as we learn of him, may the blessings that Barnabas received become ours too!
1. Barnabas was an encourager
Barnabas, a Levite, was born on an island called Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea. His original name was Joseph. The apostles gave him the name Barnabas meaning “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). In Greek, it is “huios parakleseos”. “Huios” is ‘son’ and “Parakleseos” means to encourage, comfort, console & support. It comes from the root word “parakletos” the biblical name for the Holy Spirit, the Helper whom Jesus said He would send (John 16:7). Barnabas followed after the call of the Holy Spirit to be a comfort and a consolation. May you and I become people of encouragement, who can give hope and strength to those who are going through difficulties, in darkness & without hope!
Barnabas the encourager played a very important role in establishing apostle Paul. Before he became Paul, he was Saul, a known fervent persecutor of Christians (Acts 8:1,3; 26:10; Galatians 1:13). To the early believers, he was the devil incarnate. One day, Saul met Jesus on the way to Damascus & became Paul, a completely different person. He was now preaching Jesus and desired to join the church & the rest of the apostles. But they were justly cautious till Barnabas “took him” & brought him to the apostles. “Took him” in Greek is “epilambano” & means to grab, take firm hold of, sometimes forcefully. And Barnabas spoke up for him explaining how Paul has truly changed (Acts 9:26-29).
In the church today, we need more people like Barnabas who can do the work of mediation & bridging. Just as the Holy Spirit is a mediator between God and us, let us be sons and daughters of encouragement, who can mediate between 2 parties, by seeing the truth & centre of people’s hearts through the help of the Holy Spirit!
2. Barnabas dedicated himself to God’s work and the church without holding back
In the early church, those who believed in Jesus put their property and possessions together and shared with one another. Those with much gave much, those with little gave little, doing so for the kingdom of God (Acts 2:44-46; 4:32,34-35). Is it possible to share & not have greed? I believe it is already happening in our church. In this chapter in Acts, one name appears, Barnabas, as the exemplary example (Acts 4:36-37), unlike Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. Barnabas gave selflessly just as many others did too. However, Ananias and Sapphira who promised to sell their land and give its entirety to the church lied & kept back a portion (Acts 5:2-3). The sin is not in keeping back a portion but in lying. They paid the price with their lives when they were stricken dead immediately. The focus here is on how Barnabas wanting to do God’s work did not hold anything back while Ananias’ and Sapphira’s focus was for their own glory even when doing God’s work.
Later, Barnabas was put in charge of & entrusted with church money because he proved to be faithful, focused & trustworthy before men & God. May there be more such Barnabas-es in our church today who are totally focused on doing God’s work while putting aside their own greed, interest, benefits, glory, & desire for recognition!
3. What kind of blessings are prepared for those dedicating themselves to God’s work?
During the recent church AGM, one of the projects next year is to help hard-stricken regions in South-East Asia to receive the Word. The bible tells us that when we are gracious to a poor man, it is like lending to the Lord (Proverbs 19:17). And God tells us that He will certainly pay us back. We will be blessed & our children will also become a blessing (Psalm 37:26; 139:12; Isaiah 58:10).
When the believers were scattered because of the persecution, Barnabas was sent to Antioch to shepherd and encourage them to continue in the good work. And a great number believed & turned to the Lord (Acts 11:19-26). May we be ‘Barnabas’, whom God can entrust to send for His work! And may we also bring ‘great numbers’ into Zion Church in the year 2022 & beyond!
What is interesting is when Barnabas saw the numbers growing, he did not claim the glory. Instead, he searched for apostle Paul (Acts 9:15) and put him in the forefront. Why did Barnabas do that?
Paul (Saul) was involved in the persecution & death of Deacon Stephen. By bringing apostle Paul back, Barnabas was providing Paul with the chance to make amends. The people were scattered because of Paul, and now he would have the chance to minister to the very same people whom he had persecuted. Do you think it would be easy? Paul was their greatest enemy, yet he was to minister to them. As a result, there was reconciliation & the church grew, and it was there, believers in Jesus Christ were first called Christians.
It happened because of Barnabas’s dedication and humility. Today as Christians, may we too be as humble, generous and as focused as Barnabas was! And perhaps in 5 or 10 years or 50 years, because of our small dedication at Zion Church, may Singapore become a Christian nation! And all those poor churches we helped & their countries to become Christian nations!
The time we have left on this earth is very short, even if we live to 120 years old. But if in this short lifetime we can do 1 thing that God can remember, that will fulfil the purpose of our existence here on this earth, how greatly blessed would we be in the kingdom of heaven? The spiritual fruits born out of this little thing we did in obedience to God’s Word, surely our entire life will not be a waste!
Let us be like Barnabas, who was Jesus’ assistant! Let us assist and support our Lord fully like Barnabas!