BARNABAS - AN EXAMPLE OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., Pastor, Grace Bible Church of Costa Mesa, California
Copyright © 1995-2014 Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., All Rights Reserved
Barnabas was a positive example for everyone around him. He did not sit around and contemplate infinity. He did not try to get into an altered mental state. He did not possibilitize positive events or any other apostasy or heresy which is sweeping our nation today. He did not get involved in any of these New Age concepts. Barnabas did not drive around with crystals hanging from his rear-view mirror. He did not look at crystal power, but looked at the omnipotence of God to empower him through the Holy Spirit.
Satan really enjoys getting believers involved in these apostasies and evil pseudo-spiritual concepts. These are the things being accepted today within the New Age movement. They are sorcery and mind-over-matter techniques to manipulate or change reality. They are evil concepts and contrary to the Word of God.
BARNABAS' RESPONSE TO THE SPIRITUAL PROGRESS OF FELLOW BELIEVERS
Barnabas was the kind of man who was positive to Bible truth and, as a mature believer, got excited when other Christians made spiritual progress. We should be excited when people become motivated by spiritual advance to want to evangelize. We should be excited about reaching out to unbelievers in our area. We should want to see souls come to know the Lord Jesus Christ. We should get involved in ways to get the Gospel out. It is exciting to see believers talk to their pastor-teacher and to evangelists to see what techniques are best in conducting personal and mass evangelism.
These people are positive and growing spiritually and want to get a job done for the Lord. They do not sit around for years talking about what should or could be done. They get excited about it and they do something about it. This indicates that these people are growing spiritually. It is not the primary responsibility of the pastor-teacher to evangelize. His primary responsibility is to equip spiritually the believers in his local church.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. (Ephesians 4:11-14)
Whatever your spiritual gift, you become equipped to identify it and use it through your local church as you grow spiritually. The positive believer begins to understand how to effectively wield the sword of the Spirit. He begins to understand the enabling power of the Holy Spirit and what the Holy Spirit can do through him. The positive and maturing believer becomes motivated by metabolized Bible doctrine in his soul and becomes willing to reach out to others around him. That is very encouraging to other believers. This was what Barnabas was doing when others around him progressed spiritually. It is great to see people getting excited when Christians are making spiritual progress and are really entering into their ambassadorship.
THE BELIEVER'S ENCOURAGEMENT OF OTHERS BY THEIR CHRIST-LIKE LIFESTYLES
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
We must never depend upon other people as a primary source for security and confidence. We must realize that the Lord uses our consistent Christian lifestyle to encourage other people. A consistent Christian lifestyle reflects the character of the incarnate Christ. We should be pleased with the good things that happen in the lives of other believers. We need to let them know how we feel about their progress and encourage them. We are not only to weep with those who weep, but we are to rejoice with those who rejoice.
It is easy to encourage someone who is undergoing some type of disaster testing. This is because we may have been there ourselves and we can show some empathy and compassion. Now, let's look at the other side of the coin. What if someone you know gets a huge raise and seems to be prospering and being promoted? Do we rejoice with them as they rejoice, or do we immediately reflect on our own paltry raises and no promotion and become envious of them? If you do this, you are arrogant, jealous, covetous, and envious! After confessing these sins, you should instead rejoice because that person has been prospered by God.
Christians should encourage others with their own Christ-like lifestyles. We cannot encourage effectively our children, friends, and other believers to remain true to the Lord unless we are true to God ourselves. Like Barnabas, we must exemplify the fruit of the Spirit in our relationships with others.
ENCOURAGEMENT VERSUS BIGOTRY AND PREJUDICE
Barnabas did not exhibit prejudice toward others. Christians should never be prejudiced or bigoted. Bigotry or prejudice is having formed an opinion of judgment before the facts are known. More specifically, it means to be suspicious and intolerant of people who are different. Do you consider yourself to be a "doctrinal believer" or a "grace-oriented believer?" If you do, do you contend that all other people, who call themselves Christians, are wrong? Do you consider that you alone have the Truth and no one else does? You are arrogant, if you feel this way. Remember, pride and prejudice must be removed through spiritual growth and application of Bible doctrine to our lives if we are going to be true encouragers of others.
BARNABAS' SPIRITUAL SELF-CONFIDENCE AND THE HEART OF A SERVANT
While Barnabas was ministering at Antioch, he also demonstrated that he had faith in himself and had self-confidence. He knew his talents, abilities, and especially, his limitations. When you have courage toward other people and circumstances of life because of unconditional love and the faith-rest-life, then you can believe in yourself. Barnabas was positive. He did an unusual thing. He went to Tarsus to seek Saul.
He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, (Acts 11:24-25)
Barnabas was a good man, a divine good nobleman under the full control of the Holy Spirit. His use of Bible doctrine caused a great number of people to be brought to the Lord. Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul. When he found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a full year, Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught many people. The disciples were called Christians for the first time at Antioch.
Barnabas' spiritual self-confidence came from his intake and application of Bible truth. However, Barnabas also recognized the limitations of his abilities. He had genuine humility, so when it came to leadership, Barnabas had the heart of a servant. He had the New Testament servant's mentality. He realized that one of the most important things in life for the Christian is serving the Lord. It is not an addendum to your life. It is not a little thing that you do whenever you feel you ought to do it out of a sense of obligation. It is a definite, continual part of your Christian lifestyle. You, like Barnabas, should have the heart of a servant.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TOTAL FORGIVENESS
What is so encouraging about Barnabas' mental attitude was his total forgiveness of Paul. Paul did not want to take John Mark on another missionary journey because John Mark wanted to go back to Jerusalem. Even though Barnabas did not agree with Paul, he did not exhibit an emotional attitude of anger. Barnabas quietly disagreed and did take John Mark on their own missionary journey. Paul took Silas and went on his missionary journey.
The result of this disagreement was two mission teams instead of one. The overruling will of God caused everything to work together for good. Barnabas had total forgiveness even in the face of an unforgiving attitude of Paul. An arrogant mental attitude can lead to rejection of those that could help you by encouragement. Paul exhibited such an arrogant attitude in his rejection of Barnabas' desire to take John Mark with them on the rest of the missionary journey. Paul had rejected John Mark for not living up to Paul's standards for a missionary. Paul's attitude would not allow him to be an encouragement to John Mark as Barnabas had been to him. Paul had a lot to learn about encouragement. He learned to be an encouragement just as we do - through spiritual growth.
THE DISPERSION BECAUSE OF PERSECUTION AT JERUSALEM
Antioch was destined to become the first missionary church and this is because of what is called in Theology the "DIASPORA". This is where we get the word "dispersion". All of the Jerusalem Christians were dispersed because of persecution. Persecution is always the seed of the church. Under persecution, they were forced out of Jerusalem and they began to fulfill the great commission. The challenge that the Lord gave them.
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
They thought Christ was going to come at any time to establish the Kingdom. They failed to see correctly from the Word of God that the Church Age believer is to believe in the imminency of the Rapture, not the imminency of the Second Advent. In order for the Lord to get the Jews to grow, he sent persecution. As a result, they began to witness in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and, eventually, to other regions of the world. It took persecution to get them to begin reaching out to others with the Gospel. A part of that outreach was the establishment of the church in Antioch.
I wonder if it is going to take persecution in America to get Christians to evangelize for the Lord Jesus Christ? We are to live as if the Lord could come at any moment. We are to conduct our ambassadorship as if he might not come for another generation.
ANTIOCH AS THE FIRST MISSIONARY CHURCH
Under the leadership of Barnabas and Saul, later to become Paul, the church at Antioch continued to grow and expand its influence. The principle is where there is spiritual growth in the life of the Christian, there is numerical growth in the Church. This is the normal Christian church.
Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)
When Paul said, "the days are evil", he meant the days always keep on being evil. Any generation has its own areas of evil and its own problems with evil. Every generation has its own influence from Satan's cosmic system. No age is any different than any other age as far as the pervasiveness of evil in the nation. We explain it away by thinking our local churches are small and not seeing growth because it's the last days of apostasy before the Rapture. That is a cop-out! That is not the principle for the Church Age. The Lord gives growth to churches that are serving him and are involved in evangelism. The Lord gives growth to churches who are reaching out and have a heart for missions. These are churches that are not just myopic, provincial and suffering from tunnel vision.
It is encouraging to me, as a pastor, to see people in our congregation who have a real heart for missions and for evangelism. It is encouraging to see them reaching out and winning souls for the Lord Jesus Christ. Spiritual growth in the life of the Christian results in numerical growth in the life of the local church.
The number of Christians grew in Jerusalem. This growth allowed them to start a church in Antioch. The number of Christians grew in Antioch in Syria, so they started a church in Antioch up in Pisidia which is north of Syria in the area of south-eastern Turkey of today. Persecution of one church allowed them to learn what the real values of life were all about. Under persecution they really began to evangelize. They started thinking about other people. Isn't that interesting? Human viewpoint would say that persecution, heartache, suffering, and disaster would lead to self-pity and disillusionment. divine viewpoint says this was the thing that really motivated them to think about others.
They realized that the Lord had told them to evangelize in Judea and Sumaria and other regions of the world. They disobeyed. Therefore, God in his matchless love, wisdom and grace gave them some suffering and persecution to kick them out of the nest. The Jerusalem alumni graduated from provincialism. They graduated from tunnel vision. They graduated from being myopic and self-centered and reached out and won people to Christ in their own nation and in the regions beyond. That is encouragement. It started with the influence of the Son of Encouragement, Barnabas. He got the whole ball rolling!
BARNABAS' ENCOURAGEMENT OF PAUL
There came a point where this specific ministry in Antioch was completed for Paul and Barnabas. A year before this happened, Barnabas invited Paul to join him in Antioch to assist him in the ministry. Barnabas really loved John Mark. John Mark was his cousin and they were very close. Barnabas was like a spiritual father and mentor to this young man. Barnabas could have really been upset when Paul said he did not want to take John Mark with him on his missionary journey.
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. 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 13:1-3)
The placing of hands or laying on of hands was a ritual of identification. Here, the church had identified with Barnabas and Paul and were, therefore, identified with their ministries. They stood behind them, prayed for them, and supported them.
Barnabas could have become angry with Paul and, in an emotional moment, said he was not going to have anything to do with Paul again. This was not the case. The Son of Encouragement knew how to forgive and to forget. He knew not to hold anything over Paul's head. He knew not to have the attitude that Paul had toward John Mark. Barnabas knew it would be damaging to John Mark's spiritual growth to reject him for his lack of spiritual maturity.
Paul and Barnabas left Antioch in the area of Syria and journeyed to Antioch in Pasidia and started a church there. Here, Paul began to emerge as the leader of the missionary team. From this point in Acts 13 onward, the order of their names is reversed. Because of Paul's growth, Paul is mentioned first in the historical record. Up until this time, it was Barnabas and Saul. From here on out, it will be Paul and Barnabas.
As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. (Acts 13:42-43)
These converted Jews were very hungry for the Word and wanted more and more of God's Truth. Here in Antioch, Barnabas sensed that there was something in Paul much greater than in him. He had the humility to stand aside and let all of Paul's fantastic apostolic calling and gifts of apostleship, pastor-teacher, evangelist, administrator, and organizer take over. God the Holy Spirit graced Paul out with all of these spiritual gifts because God the Holy Spirit knew that he would exploit the grace plan of living for the Christian life more than any other believer. That is why he entrusted Paul with a magnificent number of spiritual gifts at the moment of salvation. Once Barnabas realized this, his grace attitude allowed him to be willing to stand aside. He realized that Paul had more leadership, talents, gifts, and abilities that he did and let him take over.
Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. (Acts 13:46)
Acts 13:46 indicates that the Church would be primarily a Gentile bride of Christ. God the Father sent the Holy Spirit in 30 A.D. to form the Church Age. Even before the completion of the pre-Canon period of the Church Age (30 - 96 A.D.), the messages given by the disciples were primarily to the Jews. The majority of the unbelieving Jews did not accept the Gospel, so Paul began to direct more of his messages to the Gentiles who were positive to the Gospel. This trend continued such that, in the Book of Acts, you find Paul in Rome ministering primarily to the Gentiles. He becomes the great missionary to the Gentiles. Peter remains the Apostle to the Jews.
The Gospel should always be directed to the Jew first. This is the principle throughout the entire Church Age. There should always be a prominent place in any outreach effort for Jewish evangelism. This is the case even though only a small minority of Jews receive Christ as their personal Savior. The Jews have been exposed to the Gospel continuously through the Old Testament from the time of Abraham through the incarnation of Christ. They have repeatedly and consistently rejected Bible truth. They have rejected the very thing they were the custodian of. The Jews completely disregarded the Word of God and were brought under divine discipline for their negative volition.
Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. (Judges 3:12)
It is always exciting to see a Jew receive Christ as their Savior and become positive to the intake and obedience to the Word of God. Having been taught the Old Testament prior to belief in Christ, they usually have an excellent academic knowledge of the Word. The Jew almost always accepts the pre-Millennial scheme of theology. They correctly believe that the Rapture occurs first, followed by the seven-year Tribulation, the Second Advent, the 1000-year Millennium, and then the Eternal State. This is called pre-Millennial theology.
We are dealing with the principle of evangelism. We have two Jews - Barnabas and Paul. Paul is now becoming the leader of the two because of his tremendous spiritual growth and his spiritual gifts. This is emphasized by the reversed order of their names.
But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. (Acts 13:50)
This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.
The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. (Acts 15:12)
There is just one reversal of the word order to remind us that it was Barnabas that got Paul started on the road of grace and was such an encouragement to him. Back to the early part of their ministry when they first started at Antioch in Syria, Barnabas was the leader. When the work in Antioch of Pisidia really began to develop, Paul emerged as the leader.
Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers. (Acts 15:22)
But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord. (Acts 15:35)
Acts 15:22 and 15:35 speak of the virtue of the Son of Encouragement, Barnabas. He recognized even greater abilities than in himself in his great friend the Apostle Paul. He immediately acknowledged God's apostolic calling in Paul's life. Without any hesitation, he encouraged Paul to take the primary leadership role. Here in Antioch of Pisidia, we see Barnabas listening to his dear friend Paul deliver a profound and exciting message of encouragement. A message Barnabas probably had, in essence, given many times.
Is this how you behave when fellow believers around you progress beyond you in the spiritual life - even those you have helped along in the spiritual life? Do you feel fantastic? You will if you are oriented to the grace plan of God. Barnabas had been waiting for the day that Paul would pass him up. He had recognized the tremendous capability and greater leadership ability of Paul. He felt it absolutely exciting to step aside and let Paul take the primary role. Many people are so arrogant in their own little world of what they think they ought to have authority over all they are involved in. They will not let someone who has superior ability take over and do what they have been doing. It is important to recognize when another person would do a much better job because God has graced that person out with greater leadership capacities than you have.
It takes great humility to be an encouragement to other believers. You will never be an encouragement to anyone if you help them in such a way that they can never catch up with you or approach you in spiritual growth. It is arrogance if you fear their talents and gifts may become greater than your own through their spiritual growth. It is arrogance to fear that others will become more spiritually mature than you because of your encouragement. This is not the genuine humility that the Word of God teaches. It requires humility to be a source of encouragement to other people.
Barnabas was this great encouragement to Paul. Paul was a mature believer with these great spiritual gifts coming to the fore. There was a humble man, the Son of Encouragement who stepped aside and encouraged Paul to take over the lead. Barnabas expressed what genuine humility can really produce.
BARNABAS' IMPACT ON THE LIFE OF PAUL
It is quite evident that Barnabas had a significant impact on the life of Paul. This once harsh, insensitive and highly impatient man who had killed Christians because of their faith, became a very compassionate and sensitive believer who was willing to lay down his life for others. Paul developed the unique ability to encourage individuals. When compared to Barnabas who had a distinct people orientation, Paul seemed to have more of a doctrinal orientation, but still a great source of encouragement. The most encouraging lesson to be seen in the study of this great apostle's life is that he, like all of us today, was in the process of growth. Paul was in a process of learning more and more to reflect the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. We see this concerning the founding of the Thessalonican church in Acts 17:1-7.
When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ," he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women. But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: "These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus." (Acts 17:1-7)
They were not acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar. They were very clear in declaring that it was the kingdom of the regenerate. Jesus declared this in John 18:36.
Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." (John 18:36)
They would have taken up arms to defend Jesus Christ's kingdom, if it was a literal kingdom on this earth. That was not the purpose of the First Advent of Jesus Christ. That will be the purpose of His Second Advent. That is when He will establish the Millennial Kingdom here on earth. He came the first time to go to the cross to make the way available for people to become a part of the kingdom of the regenerate which is a spiritual kingdom. It was and is not a physical kingdom. Therefore, they were not in competition with Caesar in any way.
When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go. (Acts 17:8-9)
Acts 17:8-9 indicates this was persecution. This great church in Thessalonica was born in persecution. We need that type of suffering and pressure so we might realize what is important in life. We must keep our priorities and our values squared away. That is why God permits undeserved suffering. Undeserved suffering was the basis for the founding of the Thessalonican church.