BARNABAS, PAUL, AND JOHN MARK
Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., Pastor, Grace Bible Church of Costa Mesa, California
Copyright © 1995-2014 Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., All Rights Reserved
THE ACCEPTANCE OF SAUL OF TARSUS IN THE JERUSALEM CHURCH
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord. (Acts 9:31)
The church enjoyed peace, blessing, and prosperity because they were being built up. They were continuing to grow spiritually because of their intake and application of Bible truth. This spiritual growth caused the Holy Spirit to become their source of encouragement, comfort, and motivation. The Jerusalem Church was a dynamic local church before legalism set in and neutralized the congregation. It was not a matter of fear, worry and anxiety on the part of these advancing believers. They were reluctant to give the right hand of fellowship to Saul of Tarsus though he had been genuinely converted.
He had been baptized and had already spent three and one half years in the Arabian Desert being taught by the Lord Jesus Christ in His resurrection body (called a Christophany). The Lord Jesus left the right hand of the Father, came down to the Arabian Desert and taught the Apostle Paul. There are several occasions when the Lord Jesus appeared on the earth to teach apostles. He did it twice with Paul in the temple and He did it with John on the Isle of Patmos. These were all Christophanies.
These are three special appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ after His resurrection, ascension and His present session. One appearance was to communicate Bible truth to the Apostle Paul so he could be the great apostle to the gentiles and take the message of salvation and Bible truth to the regions beyond. However, many believers were very reluctant to associate with Paul because of his past.
But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. (Acts 8:3)
The disciples in Jerusalem were also afraid to associate with Saul of Tarsus because of his history of persecution of Christians. Saul was one of the chief members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court composed of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Remember, members of the Sanhedrin were practicing operation confiscation. Agents working for the Sanhedrin would approach believers in Jerusalem and pose as Christians and say they had received Christ as their Messiah. They would profess that Christ was the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world and that they had accepted him as such. After the Christians accepted these agents of the Sanhedrin who were faking conversion, they would learn all they could regarding the church members and their possessions. These agents would then report to the Jewish supreme court who would confiscate everything that the Christians owned. They were totally dispossessed!
You can understand why they were very distrustful of Saul of Tarsus. He was not only a chief member of the Sanhedrin, but the chief persecutor of the Church. He thought he was doing God a great favor by killing Christians and imprisoning those that he could not kill. He was holding the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen to death.
You can understand why they wanted to wait a little longer to see if Saul was genuinely converted. However, they failed to realize that Barnabas had already checked out Saul and his true conversion to Christianity. Later, because of their trust in Barnabas, the great son of encouragement, they would accept the Apostle Paul on the word of Barnabas. Do you have the kind of encouraging lifestyle that fellow believers would trust someone else based on your word? Does your lifestyle really reflect the Lord Jesus Christ? Your spiritual lifestyle example can be the most fantastic quality of encouragement to other believers.
THE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE OF BARNABAS TOWARDS OTHERS
The disciples in Jerusalem (Peter, John, and James, who is the pastor-teacher of the church) were very unsure about associating with Saul of Tarsus. That was until Barnabas came into the picture demonstrating his great qualities of encouragement.
When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 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 he had in Damascus preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. (Acts 9:26-27)
Paul had openly expressed his belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and that he believed that Jesus Christ was the God-Man Savior as well as the Messiah of Israel. Members of the Jerusalem Church had seen several people fake conversion. The agents of the Sanhedrin had faked conversion for personal gain of that which was confiscated. It is understandable why Saul needed someone to verify his genuineness.
This incident regarded Saul, who would later be known as the Apostle Paul, shows another reason why Barnabas was an encourager. He had a basic concern for people, particularly when they were being rejected by others. He was willing to trust Saul when no one else in Jerusalem would. Barnabas was such an encourager and had such care and concern for others, especially those rejected by others, that he was willing to trust them when others did not. Again, here is the important principle that the actions of Barnabas were rooted in unselfishness. He truly possessed a maximum unconditional love toward all the brethren - including Saul of Tarsus.
BARNABAS' WILLINGNESS TO BECOME VULNERABLE
Barnabas really laid his reputation on the line in recommending acceptance of Saul who had a reputation as the chief persecutor of the Church. All Barnabas saw was a man in need of help. He saw a man he believed was sincere and genuinely a believer. Barnabas knew that he could assist in this situation. You must understand that Barnabas did not naively trust Saul, but trusted Saul based upon knowledge. Barnabas had the facts. Barnabas knew what had happened to Saul because he took the time to find out.
Barnabas realized that Saul had seen the Lord Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road and that he had talked with him. Barnabas knew there had been conversation and communication resulting in Saul's conversion. He had learned all about Saul's being led into the area where he was baptized, the Damascus Road confrontation by Jesus Christ, and how he had spoken out boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in Damascus. The important principle of encouragement here is to act only upon the facts. Take the time to learn before acting.
Saul had a reputation of honesty. Barnabas knew this. Even before Saul of Tarsus was converted, he was a man of his word. When he believed the Christians were the enemy of God and that he was doing God a favor by wiping them out, he meant it and was sincere in his error. He was sincerely wrong. His word was his bond. Barnabas learned that he had a reputation for being a man of honesty. He knew that having been converted and having received doctrinal training from the Lord Jesus Christ himself, that Saul was a man worthy of the trust of the saints in Jerusalem.
So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. (Acts 9:28-30)
All the believers in Jerusalem could think about were the failures of people in the past. They did not want to trust them because of their past failures. They did not want to recognize that people can and do change. Saul the proud one and the arrogant one had become Paul the little one, the grace oriented one, the one who was characterized by maximum humility. Barnabas knew this. He realized that people could change. Barnabas was a person who was willing to get involved in other peoples lives. He was willing to invest the time to find out what was really true and then to act upon that knowledge. You must remember that even if you have what you think are all the facts, you must exercise an element of trust.
Barnabas was willing to believe in Saul (who would later become Paul) primarily because Barnabas believed in people and he did not permit the exceptions to disillusion him and destroy his capacity to trust. Barnabas had a maximum capacity for unconditional love of other people. He was spiritually self-sustained and even trusted people who had failed him. He did not become disillusioned and discouraged because other people had let him down. The actions of Barnabas revealed a willingness to become vulnerable, if necessary, to convince the Jerusalem Church to trust the Apostle Paul.
BARNABAS AS UNSELFISHNESS PERSONIFIED
Barnabas was indeed unselfishness personified. Barnabas' attitude and actions in Jerusalem were a consistent part of his life. Several years after this defense of Saul, Paul and Barnabas were called by the Holy Spirit to serve together as missionaries on the first missionary journey. There was a young man whose name was John Mark who was a nephew of Barnabas. John Mark's mother is Mary in the Book of Acts who had a church in her home.
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. (Acts 12:12)
Did you know that the first 500 years of the Church Age were characterized by local churches meeting in church member's homes? There was no such thing as a church meeting in a so-called sacred building. This activity began with Constantine who made Christianity the religion of the state. He brought in all of the paganism of Roman theology, the systems of pantheons and the worship of many gods and amalgamated the whole thing together. He believed all services should be held in one building. That is where it all began.
Home Bible classes follow a tradition that started in the first century A.D. Mary had a church in her house. Philemon had a church in his house.
Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 5:42)
With a home's informal atmosphere, Bible doctrine can be communicated with that close eyeball-to-eyeball contact. The environment is very conducive to an open attitude where you feel like you can come up to the pastor-teacher and ask questions about what was taught. These surroundings allow fellowship with fellow believers after class and can be a great blessing. This is a part of the fellowship of the Body.
In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. (Acts 13:1)
Prophecy was a pre-Canon spiritual gift. Early Church Age men who had been given the temporary spiritual gift of prophecy by the Holy Spirit at salvation could, under the ministry of the Holy Spirit, receive divine revelation and communicate it to the local churches which met in different houses. This was a stop-gap measure before the completion of the Canon of Scripture. Teachers had the gift of teaching that is mentioned in the Book of Romans.
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. (Romans 6:17)
This is different from the pastor-teacher who is the highest authority and leader within each local church. The prophets and teachers in Antioch were called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch) and Saul. They were ministering to the Lord and fasting. The term "fasting" here is the temporary cessation of certain normal activities to concentrate on a crash program in Bible study and prayer. They were going to be there under the ministry of the Spirit for a short time and so these men who had teaching gifts, like Barnabas and Saul, were spending maximum time in study and prayer even to the elimination of certain bona fide functions in life, like eating. They were spending maximum time in Bible study and prayer to communicate and to get the information out to these baby believers in the church in Antioch.
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:2-3)
This is still the pre-Canon period of the Church Age when the voice of God was still a bona fide means of giving divine direction. The voice of God stopped between 96 to 100 A.D. because the entire Word of God was completed. The completed Canon of Scripture became the only rule and the only norm and standard for faith, doctrine and conduct. Since the Canon of Scripture was completed and circulated, God has not conveyed truth to mankind by any other means since that time.
Acts 13:2-3 indicates what was to be Paul's first missionary journey. The "laying on of hands" is not a special miraculous operation where they laid hands on someone who was thereby healed or received some special shot of divine power. This was simply a ritual of identification. The Antioch Church leadership identified with Saul and Barnabas because they felt that God the Holy Spirit had selected them to carry this special work of evangelism on this missionary journey. By laying on of hands, they showed that they, as a local church, were identified with them. They were conveying their support of them through their prayers, giving and assisting them.
You may never become a missionary, but when you pray for your missionaries or give financial support to your missionaries, you are "on the mission field with them." You are on the mission field with your missionaries through your prayers and through your gifts. You are identified with them.
The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper. (Acts 13:4-5)
This is the background for the first missionary journey. A short time after they began their evangelistic tour when the going got tough, the tough didn't get going - John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem.
From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. (Acts 13:13)
THE ACTIONS OF BARNABAS
Paul and Barnabas completed the trip without John Mark. John Mark did not return to Jerusalem because of failure. He was not spiritually mature enough to be giving out all of this tough service. The rigors of missionary life, ministering, and serving to Paul and Barnabas were too much for him at this early spiritual stage. He decided to go back to Jerusalem to take in more of the Word of God so later, once spiritually mature, he would be able to serve with the correct motivation based on God's grace. Sometime later, Paul and Barnabas agreed to return to the recently established churches and Barnabas suggested that they again take John Mark. He, now more spiritually mature, became a wonderful positive contribution to the apostolic ministry.
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." Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 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. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:36-41)
Paul disagreed sharply with Barnabas about allowing John Mark to join them. The Greek word paroxusmos means to insist unequivocally and dogmatically in the negative. Paul was originally rejected by the Jerusalem Church. Barnabas was the only one who went to bat for him and so encouraged him and the congregation that the entire congregation accepted Paul. Now, Paul has the same opportunity to be an encouragement to John Mark, but will not. Arrogance from the old sin nature was genetically very strong in Paul and that led him to be impulsive. He remembered that John Mark had failed and returned to Jerusalem. He did not want to take another chance on him.
Barnabas had taken many chances with Paul and had even laid his reputation on the line for Paul. The congregation in Jerusalem had not wanted to accept Saul of Tarsus. He was a member of the Sanhedrin and chief persecutor of the Church. Following salvation, intake and application of the Word of God takes time to transform a believer from the inside out. It took some time even with Paul. Saul, the great one became Paul the little one because of the influence of Bible doctrine and the encouragement of Barnabas in his life.
Paul had a chance to encourage someone and refused. Barnabas wanted to give John Mark another chance. If Barnabas had not given John Mark another chance, who knows what might have happened to this young man? He might have become so discouraged that he would have given up on Christianity entirely. If you have the opportunity to encourage someone, it might be the exact right time for you to make the difference in someone's life. Barnabas was right there on the scene to give encouragement to John Mark. Paul and Barnabas are mature believers and both want the will of the Lord to be accomplished.
God overruled the situation and caused all things to work together for good so that in the second missionary journey Paul will take Silas and be a source of great encouragement to Silas. Barnabas will take John Mark and go back and retrace steps through Cypress and other churches from the first missionary journey and be that continued source of much needed encouragement to John Mark. Paul is right and Barnabas is right. Paul becomes an encouragement to Silas. This encouragement was so much so that when they were imprisoned, they were sharing the happiness of God, singing hymns, rejoicing, and praising the Lord in the dungeon in chains. These led to the conversion of the Philippian jailor and his entire family. Paul encouraged Silas. Barnabas encouraged John Mark.
Who are you encouraging right now? Or, do you have an attitude that is so prevalent among some believers today? Do you feel you are part of the grace minority? Do you feel you are grace-oriented and, as such, the doctrinal elite? Do you feel your intake of doctrine, your special vocabulary and theological terminology (which no one can understand) makes you the only one who is right? Does that sound like an attitude of unconditional love? Is that attitude encouraging to other believers? There is no elite in the Royal Family of God! As you grow spiritually and develop that unconditional love of the brethren, you will be right in the place where God can use you - possibly at the crossroads in someone else's life.
People are at crossroads in their lives at many points. When they apply Bible truth to that major decision and stand back and wait for God's perfect grace timing, they have prepared themselves for the correct response to it. As a result, they accept God's decision based on Bible truth communicated in their local church. This is a critical time for encouragement from other believers. This encouragement helps them through the tough times. This is the type of emphasis in local churches that will turn this nation around. It will not be because of people who are just sitting back and taking in doctrine and never doing anything for anyone else. It will not be because of people avoiding helping other believers and never supporting evangelistic outreach efforts. It will not be because of people never witnessing to others such as the immigrants from Latin, Oriental or Arab nations that may live near them.
We can have such a prejudice against people from other nations. Many times, it is wrong how they have come into this nation. Many have the attitude that they do not love America, but America's money. They send it to their home countries instead of contributing to America. They should understand the heritage of the United States of America. They must become Americans first. They must become patriotic. I cannot think of a better way for a foreigner to become patriotic than for someone to lead him to Christ and expose him to divine truth. That is what will make the difference. So many of us have the attitude that we want our priesthood, but not our ambassadorship. You cannot have one without the other. When you function correctly under your priesthood, you will fulfill your ambassadorship. Part of your ambassadorship is helping other believers and unbelievers.
There have always been people considered undesirable by other people. This includes the so-called "homeless people." Most of these people can be turned around and made into contributing and responsible citizens of the United States of America through their exposure to the Gospel, the Laws of Divine Establishment and Bible doctrine. This change will come from their soul's growth and edification after they receive Christ as Savior.
The issue is not whether they have homes. Homes have been built for them, but most do not want to live in them. They want to live in the park where everyone can see their poor pitiful plight. They are loaded with self-pity. These people are losers. That is the attitude of a bum. Thank God for people like Barnabas. Always ready and able to give a person another chance. If he had not done that with John Mark, who knows what may have happened to this young man?!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Although both Paul and Barnabas were right from divine viewpoint, Paul did not acknowledge that John Mark deserved another chance until much later. It is fantastic to see how the Word of God transformed Paul who later acknowledged to Timothy the contribution made by John Mark.
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
Paul knew that he was under dying grace. He was passing the colors or the light on to Timothy. We are to be light bearers. It's like someone at the Olympics carrying the flame and passing on the torch to someone else. Paul was passing on the light to each one of us just as he passed it on to Timothy.
2 Timothy 4:6-8 indicates that Paul had reached and retained spiritual maturity. The term "that day" refers to the Day of Christ or the Rapture of the Church. If you love the Rapture of the Church, it means that you love the Lord Jesus Christ because you know you are going to see Him face to face. You will then begin to enjoy forever that perfect resurrection body which He will give you at that time. He will impute all the wonderful blessings and rewards to that eternal, perfect, indestructible and sinless resurrection body!
Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. (2 Timothy 4:11)
John Mark indeed contributed to the work of the Lord. In the Gospel of Mark, everything is related to Peter's account of the incarnation of our Lord. Peter related his account to John Mark who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote down everything that God wanted us to know in that gospel. The Gospel of Mark is the gospel of action and the shortest of the gospels. It is the gospel that emphasizes action, service, and production. That is what John Mark was to Barnabas and Paul. John Mark was one who served. He was loyal and faithful and was a great source of encouragement to the very man who rejected him after his first failure. John Mark became a wonderfully mature believer. He knew what it meant to forgive and had completely forgiven Paul. Because of this grace attitude, they could have wonderful fellowship with each other where John Mark ministered to Paul when Paul was under dying grace.
PERSONAL APPLICATIONS INVOLVING TRUST OF OTHERS
Our reluctance to trust others and to defend them may be because we have often dealt with untrustworthy people.
Saul of Tarsus was a member of the Sanhedrin which was composed of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Saul was a chief member because he was a supreme court justice in the Sanhedrin. He believed he was doing God a great favor and service by killing Christians. Those who he could not martyr, he had hauled off to prison. He had a very bad reputation from the Christians' point of view. This made it very hard for members of the Jerusalem Church to accept him.
Barnabas was there to point out the fact of Saul's conversion. He also conveyed to members of the Jerusalem Church everything that followed Saul's conversion on the road to Damascus. Barnabas maintained that Saul deserved an opportunity as a believer to minister to the unsaved. We must remember that many times we are reluctant to defend people and come to their defense because we have been "burned" in the past by other people whom we had erroneously trusted. We should avoid depending on untrustworthy people until we see significant evidence of change of attitude and action. We, like Barnabas, must not let experiences keep us from trusting others.
Many Christians are trustworthy. In fact, many people's actions correspond directly to the amount of trust we place in them. This should cause us to understand that many of the difficulties we have in trusting people focuses on us, not on others. We might have a very cynical and suspicious nature and punish people who are deserving of our trust because of our bad experiences. People suffer because other people have hurt us. We need to be very careful about this.
We have difficulty trusting people because we are unwilling to spend time getting involved in their lives.
We fail to have the heart of a servant. The New Testament heart of a servant is willing to get involved in the lives of other people and to be a source of encouragement and blessing to them. It is so much simpler and safer to confine our activities to our own little world. We cannot become like Barnabas with this attitude. We must remember that people do change for the better, like John Mark changed for the better. Our responsibility as believers is to find out what is true.
It is always easy and natural (due to the Old Sin Nature) to say negative things about people. We have difficulty trusting people because we are unwilling to spend time getting involved in their lives. We are too busy shining our halos. We are too busy polishing our breastplate of righteousness and spending most of our time at the top of our ivory tower and looking down our nose at everyone else. There is no encouragement in that. That is a source of disappointment and discouragement to other Christians.
We do not convey our trust in people because we fear the majority who do not agree with us.
The woods are full of so-called grace-oriented doctrinal believers. Some feel all they need to do is take in the Word of God to the exclusion of interaction with anyone else. Whether they learn from face-to-face teaching or from tapes, they do not have a heart of a servant. They do not see the need for involvement of ambassadorship as a result of functioning under their priesthood. They will never become a blessing to others and they will never become an encouragement to others. Without any interaction with other people, they will live out their entire life without giving the Gospel to one unbeliever.
What an encouragement it would be to share the glorious Gospel of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with someone else. Some believers want to get involved in true Christian service. However, other believers near them advise that it is best just to take in the Word and let God work everything out in other's lives. This erroneous advice assumes you have no ability or responsibility under your ambassadorship to take the Word of God and His truth to others. It is not possible to grow to spiritual maturity without living, obeying, and applying Bible truth in your relationships with other people. This means encouragement to other believers. This means giving consolation, comfort, challenge, and even points of correction and rebuke at the proper moment, if done in a spirit of unconditional love.
Remember, we are to speak the Truth in unconditional love. That is always the key. We will always find people who will disagree with us and want to stay in isolation from the unbeliever. There will always be those who do not want us to be concerned with outreach to others. They think that just taking in doctrine will result in everything else happening automatically. There will always be those who feel as if a believer is just some type of spiritual robot where taking in Bible doctrine means that Christian service and outreach to others becomes automatic and takes no effort. This is not the case! The doctrine you metabolize is the same doctrine that you obey! Obedience to the Word of God means involvement in the lives of others.
We are to follow in the steps of Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement. He was a great encouragement to Paul and John Mark. It should not matter to you that many fellow grace-oriented believers do not agree with you. This action of ambassadorship, based on your priesthood function of the intake of the Word of God, is a part of Bible truth and is a part of your privileges, opportunities, and responsibilities as a Christian.
We fail to stand up for others and communicate our trust because we fear rejection from key people whom we love and trust.
It is a tremendous encouragement to have someone stand up for you when you are in the right. It is even greater when you are supported as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, as a member of the Royal Family of God even if you are wrong. A believer can be greatly encouraged by another believer's support in front of others. When a fellow believer expresses a wrong attitude or doctrinal position in the presence of others, he is not to be berated or verbally abused for his error. The matter should be politely discussed in private where correction and encouragement can be accomplished carefully with an attitude of unconditional love. You are not here to hammer other believers down because they get out of line. You are here to help and correct them and to lead them on to the path of righteousness for their continued spiritual growth. You must do this, however, after having first removed the category of sin or error from your own life.
How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. (Luke 6:42)
We fear rejection from key people we love and trust, so we may fail to stand up for others and communicate our trust. These key people may be friends and loved ones or leaders within a congregation. People who we love and trust may not agree with us and, therefore, we may not be willing to get involved in the ministry of encouragement. Your verbal and behavioral expression of flexibility about non-essential Bible truths can be very persuasive and encouraging to other believers. Mild correction and discussion about essential Bible truths can be accomplished even with others present, if done with poise and a mature attitude. In all cases, your motivation should be from God based on metabolized Bible doctrine in your soul. If this is true, you will not fear rejection. You will, with manners and courtesy, confidently declare your trust and doctrinal position.
We may not trust people because we are unwilling to take a risk.
Barnabas was always willing to take a risk. He took a big risk with Saul of Tarsus. Look what it did for Saul. Later, Saul was not willing to take a risk with John Mark. Why? Because of his tendency toward arrogance. However, God overruled the whole situation and turned this decision into good for John Mark and the people to whom he brought the Gospel. Saul was a mature believer and ended up with Silas on his missionary journey. Barnabas and John Mark formed a second missionary team and continued evangelizing. The sovereignty and providence of God had complete control of the situation. People, no matter how sincere, will fail and occasionally let us down. Though our own public image may be somewhat tarnished and somewhat involved in all of this, it is far better to become known as a trusting person than one who is always skeptical and suspicious of others.
People are normally skeptical of new people and may even be suspicious of them. They may not want to take a chance on being hurt by someone they have not learned to trust. They may want to help and encourage them, but their fear of rejection prevents them from reaching out to others. Having others let you down is just part of life. Failure is an inevitable aspect of human nature and, if we learn from our failures, it strengthens our souls. One of the great areas of undeserved suffering is where people who we love let us down. We let others down and others let us down. This is something we have to handle with unconditional love and keep on advancing spiritually. No one wants to be hurt. Some do not learn from past failures. Some never overcome the events in their past that caused hurt feelings and become cynical, skeptical, and suspicious to the point that they vow never to trust others again.
Spiritually advancing believers must have stability of mentality and exercise the wisdom and discernment that Bible doctrine gives them. This does not mean it is acceptable to be so cynical, skeptical, sarcastic, critical and suspicious that you cannot reach out to others. The Word of God does not tell us to trust others naively. You are to trust and encourage others based upon facts. However, all the facts in the world still call for an element of trust.
We may not trust others because we have been hurt and rejected in the past.
We have all had personal friends do something to us that has hurt us. This is another inevitable result of living among members of the human race. If we refuse to trust others because we have been hurt and rejected by others in the past, we punish the innocent new acquaintances because of our bad experiences. We must remember that an encourager like Barnabas is a person of faith and trust. Barnabas demonstrated his trust in the local church to the point of trusting the leaders of the church with his money. His giving was unto the Lord, but Barnabas had great trust in the leaders of the Jerusalem Church. Barnabas also showed a trust in people. The trust that people had in Barnabas was greater than their mistrust of Saul of Tarsus. This was a clear display of an attitude apparently prevalent in the Jerusalem Church. Any friend of Barnabas is a friend of ours. Barnabas was known as a man who trusted people, therefore, he was trusted.
Leaders in the local church must remember that integrity, loyalty and obedience to divine truth produces strength of character. This strength of character was a strategic component of Christian leadership then and now. We have such a breakdown in integrity and strength of character on the political scene, in business, on the professional scene, and in the ministerial and the evangelistic scene that some people look at this and see nothing but failure. All they see are the feet of clay of leaders and they become disillusioned and wrongly conclude that if church leaders do something wrong, then it is all right for them to do it.
The newspapers today tell us that many people in this country believe that it is all right, in one way or another, to cheat on your income taxes. Many people feel it is all right to cheat in school, on a test or entrance exam, on a resume, or on a job application. They feel it is acceptable to lie. Lying is on the rise because of our nation's collective moral depravity, lack of integrity, and lack of strength of character. We, as citizens, use the failure of our leaders as justification for our own hypocritical lifestyle of lying and duplicity. It is a tragic example that we set for our children and our young people. If a father is dishonest and cheats and lies in his business, then he should not be surprised if his son lies and cheats in school. The examples that many parents set for their children are often characteristics they have learned from their own parents. However, having parents that are poor examples or role models does not mean you are free to duplicate the poor or wrong practice. We are all fully responsible for our own decisions in life. We, as believer-priests are accountable to God - directly!
David had parents that were a terrible example to him, yet he still became "a man after God's own heart." He became a man who fulfilled the entire will of God in spite of his failures. David was the type of person who could be an encouragement. Just think of the encouragement we get when we read the Psalms of David. We should be a source of encouragement to other believers by our lifestyle of integrity and virtue. People should be able to look at us and know that we are honorable Christians. They should want to pattern their lives after ours.
This was the way it was with Barnabas. We see in Acts 11:22-23 that it is Barnabas who is sent up to Antioch. The apostles had a tremendous sense of responsibility as mature believers. They knew it was necessary to send someone to Antioch, a newly formed Gentile church, who could help and nurture the new Gentile Christians.
News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 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. (Acts 11:22-23)
Barnabas ministered in a special way to these new Gentile believers, and he did it as "a Jew of Jews." Remaining true and faithful to the Lord comes from the thought pattern of the soul. You have to be motivated. You have to have the proper priorities and value systems that keeps you true to the Lord. It all comes from the thought pattern of the soul, not from your emotions. When you are true in how you think and how you are motivated, then the emotions are going to follow suit and there will be wonderful emotional response to all of it.
It was evident that Barnabas had developed a reputation in the Christian world as an encourager. He was a mature believer who was deeply concerned for people and who could get excited about spiritual progress in the lives of other Christians. Some people have tunnel vision and are concerned only with themselves and their own spiritual life. Some just want the intake of the Word so they can wind up with some kind of "money tree" in their self-centeredness and materialistic viewpoint of life. Some just want to take in the Word for the temporal blessings that can be conveyed based on spiritual growth. The idea that they can reach out and encourage and help some fellow believer never even occurs to them. This is not the path to spiritual maturity.
We can be very much encouraged when we hear about other believers' prayer support for the needs or difficulties of those in their local church. Prayer support for others in other local churches in need also can be an encouragement. Imagine an entire church praying for you and your current testing and your family! This is not only praying during established church prayer meeting time, but concern and a burden when there are genuine needs in other believers' lives. It is encouraging to know there are still some Barnabas's out there.
There are times that we undergo tremendous testing and only discuss it with a select few. Our select friends have unconditional love for us, so they pray for our continued divine viewpoint and application of God's problem solving devices to the situation. What a source of encouragement it is to find you have such friends! We are the family of God. We should be upholding each other in prayer. It is a great encouragement.
It is also encouraging to see believers willing to respond to financial and assistance needs within a local church. It is encouraging to the person who is the recipient of the funds or assistance because it encourages their spiritual growth to see how fellow believers love one another. Remember, that was always the watchword of the early Christians.
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35)
Loving one another is unconditional love of the brethren. When you learn what this is, from the consistent intake and application of the Word of God, you can be compassionate and a source of encouragement, comfort and consolation to a believer in need. This is what we have from the great example of Barnabas. No person is more encouraging than one who can get excited about what is happening in the lives of others, especially what is happening in their spiritual life.
The Jerusalem Church sent Barnabas to Antioch because of his spiritual qualifications as a mature believer. Barnabas was the type of believer who was living what he believed. He was living what he taught. The church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch because he may have been more free from prejudice than others. He had maximum unconditional love. Barnabas may have found it easier to accept people as people, not because of their heritage. He was a Jew steeped in Jewish heritage. This was not because of their cultural background, but because they too were made in the image of God.
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
The Hebrew word ASAH in Genesis 1:26-27 means "to make" or to "manufacture out of our own essence." It means "Let us manufacture who and what man is in his soul" because the term "in the image of God" is not a literal image as we think of the physical image. The Hebrew word TSELEM for "likeness" means a "shadow image." It means that the essence of God is the pattern for the creation of the different characteristics of the soul of man. We are talking about the human soul.
The human soul is patterned after the very essence of God! You must remember that every individual is a soul for whom Christ died. That is why we should be ready and able to give encouragement when the Lord provides the opportunity. These are souls for whom Christ died. You should have no background prejudice. You should not feel you are above them nor beneath them. You should not be intimidated by them or their status in this life. Realize that if you are growing spiritually under the power of the Spirit and the power of God's Word, God can use you to be an encouragement to other people. You must be free of bigotry. You must be free of prejudice to be an encouragement to others.