Acts 4:36-37(NKJV) 36And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
We have been studying the need for accountability in the body of Christ. This is particularly important for leaders, but we are all leaders on one form or another. If we are going to maintain our walk with God we need people who have the right to “speak into our lives.” This means we are submitted in heart to someone who can say the hard things to us and we will listen.
The best form of accountability relationship is the parent child relationship. As children we are accountable to our parents. However as parents we must be willing to lay down our life for our children. Within this “servant leadership” structure, accountability is not something to be feared. It is what gives us the environment to grow.
In the Old Testament we see this in many forms. We studied Joshua and Moses yesterday. We could also look at Elijah and Elisha, Samuel and Saul or any number of others. In the New Testament there is a person who gets little attention but typifies the kind of relationship we need in the church today. His name was actually Joses, but the disciples saw something in him that caused them to change his name to Barnabas. This means “son of encouragement.”
After he is mentioned here in Acts 4, we next see him in Acts 9. Saul, later the great Apostle Paul, comes to Jerusalem preaching the Gospel. The disciples there are afraid of him because they know his past. Barnabas takes him under his wing and tells the others that this young man has truly been converted. Because of the actions of Barnabas, Saul is accepted in the church at Jeruselam.
In Acts 11 news comes to the Jerusalem church about a move of God in some other areas. It is not Saul they send to investigate. At this point Barnabas is the senior disciple. He is called on to see what God is doing in this far away region. As he travels he thinks of the young Saul and his zeal. He returns from Saul’s hometown of Tarsus and brings him to the city of Antioch.
We can see the nature of Barnabas. He is not just thinking of himself or his ministry. He remembers Saul. Where others see a threat he looks into the future and sees the potential for Saul to become the great Apostle Paul. He brings him with him even though Saul can be a little arrogant and headstrong. He speaks into his life and opens the way for him.
In the twelfth chapter Barnabas takes an offering to Jerusalem from Antioch. Again he takes Saul with him. Upon their return they have another young man with them. It seems Barnabas has picked up another project named John who is also called Mark. Together they fulfill their ministry in Antioch.
In chapter 13 a group of prophets and teachers are together praying when the Spirit of God speaks through one of them.
Acts 13:2-3(NKJV) 2As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.
I want you to notice who has “top billing” in this pair. It is not Saul, soon to be Paul. It is Barnabas. At this point he is the important one in the group. He is the one called the leader. He is taking Saul and John-Mark with him. Soon, however, things begin to change.
On the island of Paphos there is a challenge to the preaching this group is doing. God moves mightily through Saul. The challenger, a sorcerer is blinded as a result of Saul’s declaration. In verse 9 we see Saul called Paul for the first time in Acts. He is not know as Saul again.
In verse 13 an important change takes place.
Acts 13:13(NKJV) 13Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.
Barnabas has been replaced as the leader. It is Paul’s party. How would you feel if you were Barnabas? Would you have been Jealous or offended? Would you have sulked and pulled away from Paul. There is no sign of any of this in Barnabas. Why not? He is a father in the faith.
As the story progresses we see Paul increasing in fame and influence. He becomes the speaker for the group. Barnabas remains with him through the trip. I believe he continued to encourage Paul and was proud to see his young protégé grow in ministry. They have no problems at all between them over Paul’s rise in prominence. They do however get into a dispute.
In the 15th chapter the son of Encouragement once again rises in Barnabas. Paul is ready to start another journey, but Barnabas wants to take John-Mark with them. The problem is that Mark did not finish the last journey. He quit in the middle. At this point in his life Paul considers only the mission. However, Barnabas sees something in this young man and insists they take him along.
The contention becomes so great they part company. Paul takes Silas and Barnabas takes the work in progress, Mark. Maybe Mark reminded Barnabas of another young man he had taken in. Many years later Paul calls for Mark to be sent to him. Listen to Paul’s words.
I wonder if he was thinking of his dispute with old Barnabas? I wonder if Paul finally saw how important the son of Encouragement was to him. How many others had this man effected.
Many of us would like to be like Paul, the great apostle who wrote two thirds of the New Testament. We might like to be like Mark who, as a close associate of Peter’s wrote a beloved Gospel. How many of us would say, let me be like Barnabas. Let me forgo recognition and the influence that comes with it. Let me instead be one who will take another under his wing and nurture him in ministry. Let me encourage, correct and train another so he becomes the one out front.
We all know Paul and we all know Mark, but many of you have just met Barnabas. Yet without him we might not know either of the other two. Think about that and find a Saul, a Mark or some other younger one to pour into. Find and appreciate the Barnabas in your life. Without them the church could never be what God intends it to be.