Barnabas, Son of Encouragement

Barnabas, Son of Encouragement

By Paul R. Blake

                        Joseph was born a Jew of the tribe of Levi on the island of Cyprus. He was numbered among the first Christians in Jerusalem, and was renamed as Barnabas by the apostles. Barnabas literally means "son of prophecy," but is often translated as "son of exhortation" (encouragement). He is remembered as a generous man (Acts 4:36-36), as "a good man full of the Holy Spirit and faith" (11:24), as a prophet (13:1), and as a co-worker of the apostle Paul (13:2). While these are praiseworthy characteristics, it is Barnabas' propensity for encouragement that sets him apart from most disciples, then and now.

                        Men who profess to be Christians often view others with suspicion on the strength of a rumor or a past reputation, and mistrust them in the absence of valid evidence. This is not learned in Christ, who readily accepts the repentance of a converted liar and the confession of a sorrowful cheat. The principles that guide the child of God are of the highest sort, but are not often applied consistently nor zealously by disciples to all persons, as is mandated by the Lord's example.

                        Saul of Tarsus had been converted by Christ and was baptized by Ananias. Shortly afterward, he began to preach the same gospel he once tried to suppress, and was so outspoken on behalf of the Savior that the Jews attempted to murder him. Following a narrow escape from Damascus, he made his way to Jerusalem where he tried to join himself to the disciples in that place. However, they refused to accept him into fellowship because they did not believe he had become a Christian. Fortuitously, the fear and disbelief of Peter, James, and the disciples at Jerusalem were not reflected in Barnabas. At considerable risk to his reputation and influence, he exhibited generosity of spirit in freely giving his trust to one who was known in the past as a Christian-killer. He was a true encourager in that he labored to bring together disciples of the one true faith, thereby increasing and strengthening fellowship. Barnabas fulfilled the role of a true brother in Christ by giving Saul an opportunity to make good his claim to be a believer.

                        Barnabas repeated this behavior for his nephew John Mark. He and Paul agreed to embark on another journey to refresh and reinforce the congregations they helped to build in earlier preaching missions. Barnabas was resolved to bring Mark along with them to the work, but Paul refused to consider accepting his services. He cited Mark's earlier desertion as proof of his unreliability as a travel companion.

            While it was true that Mark left the group in Pamphylia to return home, such a choice might be excused as the weakness of youth, or perhaps as homesickness for a widowed mother. He did indeed leave Paul's service, but he did not abandon Christ or the faith.  Paul's judgment of Mark based only on a single incident of personal weakness seems unduly harsh and rashly abrupt. Apparently, Barnabas was not as inclined to haste in his assessment of Mark's future potential for good. He was determined to take the young man with him and give Mark an opportunity to grow.

                        Eventually, Mark became useful to Paul in the ministry (2Tim. 4:11). Paul described him as "my fellow laborer" (Phile. 24) and wrote a recommendation for him to the Colossians (Col. 4:10). In addition, John Mark was later inspired of God to write the Book of Mark.

                        It seems that Barnabas truly embodied the spirit of Christ in that he took persons dismissed by others as unsuited for service in the kingdom and helped them to realize their potential for Christ. This is the essence of encouragement.

                        Barnabas introduced the rejected Saul of Tarsus to the apostles at Jerusalem; he trained the spurned John Mark until he became a fellow laborer with the apostle Paul. Today, one cannot help but wonder how many Sauls are kept outside of fellowship due to prejudices over old sins long ago repented, or over a rumored reputation no longer relevant. Is it possible that contemporary Marks go unaccepted and untrained because brethren are too quick to brand them for a youthful lapse in judgment?

                        God be thanked for Barnabas who manifested the Christ-like characteristic of looking for the good in his fellowmen and encouraging its development. May his tribe increase among us.


A Moment’s Wisdom

--The hand that gives, gathers.

--I wonder if the straight and narrow path would be wider if more people used it.

--There is no limit to what one can achieve as long as he doesn’t care who gets the credit.

--Change does not merely take time; it also takes commitment.

--The cost of obedience is nothing when compared to the cost of disobedience.

--You cannot dig up much dirt on others without getting into a hole yourself.

--The most unprofitable item ever manufactured is an excuse.

--Faithless is the person who says “Farewell” when the road darkens.

--Time spent thinking up excuses would be better spent avoiding the need for them.

--When you help someone else up a hill, you are a little closer to the top of the hill yourself.

--When we are right, we can afford to keep our tempers; when we are wrong, we can’t afford not to.

--If you do not give people the right information, they will make something up to fill the void.

--People are great manufacturers. Some make good; some make trouble; and, some just make excuses.

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