BARNABAS - THE SON OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., Pastor, Grace Bible Church of Costa Mesa, California
Copyright © 1995-2014 Rev. Thomas Tyree, Jr., All Rights Reserved
THE APOSTLES IN THE PRE-CANON PERIOD OF THE CHURCH AGE
The name of Barnabas comes from a combination of the two Hebrew words, BAR which means "son" and NABAS which means "encouragement." The apostles did not understand fully God's timetable regarding the second advent of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, (Acts 3:19)
Acts 3:19 is a reference to the Second Advent of Jesus Christ. The disciples did not know whether they should think of the second advent as imminent or not. Also, very little information had been revealed to them from the Holy Spirit about the Rapture of the Church.
Instead of keeping their viewpoint focused on the imminency of the Rapture, they took this doctrine and began to apply it to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is not correct because the believers on the earth following the Rapture will have received Christ as Savior following the Rapture. The events of the Tribulation period have been prophesied in both the Old and New Testaments. Doctrinal believers living in the Tribulation period will know from the Word of God that they are in the Tribulation. They will know it is Daniel's 70th week. They will know it will be approximately seven years in duration. They will know about the different events that have to occur historically. They will know when Jesus Christ is returning at the Second Coming.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:3)
No one knows the day or the hour of the Rapture, but they will have a full knowledge of the times and the seasons from their knowledge and application of Bible truth. They will know there will be a ruler of the Restored Roman Empire called the Man of Sin. If they know the Scripture, they will stand upon it and be oriented and preserved during the Tribulation. As born again believers, they will be alive and well upon the earth when the Lord Jesus returns at the Second Coming to fulfill all of the unconditional covenants to the Jews.
The apostles and the early adherents to Christianity in the pre-Canon period of the Church Age had a tendency to apply incorrectly the imminency of Jesus Christ's return to the Second Advent rather than to the Rapture. This misapplication of Bible truth and another series of events resulted in a wholly voluntary and necessary semi-communal way of living to occur. Acts 2 identifies this as necessary under the circumstances of the Jerusalem Church in the first century A.D.
Due to misapplication of the doctrine of the imminency of the Rapture, a number of believers who had traveled to Jerusalem from other parts of the Roman world had decided to stay in Jerusalem and wait for Christ to come again. This resulted in the establishment of a voluntary, semi-communal society because they had no homes. They ended up staying in the homes of believers in the Jerusalem local church that voluntarily opened their homes to them.
One aspect of the behavior of the believers in the Jerusalem Church in the first century A.D. was very admirable. They actually believed that the Lord could come at any moment. This was something that so gripped them that they lived each day as if it could be their last. They were not rooted in the world's motivations and priorities of Satan's cosmic system of evil. They did not focus on the details of life and materialistic things as priorities in their lives. They believed that Jesus Christ could come at any moment. They thought that the Second Advent was imminent. It was not and still is not. It is the Rapture of the Church that is imminent. They thought that the Lord could come at any time. Therefore, they were willing to involve themselves in great unselfish acts of love, giving, caring and consideration for their fellow believers.
When people are Spirit-filled and applying doctrine, there is going to be Gospel outreach to unbelievers and there is going to be conversion to Christianity through faith. We should be praying that God would use us to do the same in our local church's community.
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:41-42)
This is ambassadorship because it is a sharing in the principles of God with other believers and getting the Word of God out to unbelievers. This should be a part of our life together in the unity of the Body of Christ as well as social life. What about social life and the breaking of bread? Social life among believers of a local church is called the HO AGAPE in the Greek and means the love feast. This is simply the fellowship of believers and social interaction over food. This presents one of the best opportunities for encouraging other believers.
In the early church, communion service, commemoration of the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and prayer were daily functions. These local churches met in private homes because no public assemblies were allowed by the Romans. There was a continual sense of awe and reverence among these believers. Many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. The apostles and close associates of apostles were the miracle workers.
THE VOLUNTARY SEMI-COMMUNAL SOCIETY OF THE EARLY CHURCH
There was also a second phenomena occurring in the pre-Canon period of the Church Age. Those who had heard the Gospel and responded with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ had been water baptized. This action was and still is a public declaration of their salvation and new relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
There were unbelieving Jews who were members of the Sanhedrin known as the Scribes and Pharisees who had become agents of the Roman Empire. They infiltrated the Jerusalem Church and found where the believers were meeting in secret. They were meeting in many different homes throughout Jerusalem. They became accepted by the congregation then turned them over to the law. Roman law allowed confiscation of all possessions. The Romans confiscated all of their clothing, money, and property. They were totally dispossessed. The Roman Empire would pay these Jews of the Sanhedrin 10 percent of everything that they had taken from the Christians. You might call this the "Devil's Tithe" because that is exactly what these unbelieving Jews were involved in.
Due to the severity of the situation, God the Holy Spirit instituted a perfect solution that glorified the Lord Jesus Christ. He led people, of their own free will, to donate what they had to the apostles. The donations were then distributed under Christian charity, not socialism, to the Christians who had been dispossessed by the Roman Empire. Through all of this, they exhibited great acts of unselfish love.
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. (Acts 2:45)
When you truly love the Lord and have an unconditional love of the brethren and there is a genuine need, you will do everything possible within your means because you are Royal Family. We are all royalty and we are all members of one body - the Body of Christ. If one member hurts, we all hurt. If one member expresses joy and has something joyous happen to them, we all express joy with them and for them. We weep for those who weep. We rejoice with those who rejoice. That is the attitude and action of unconditional love. This is compassion. This is true unconditional virtue love in action. This is the basis of great encouragement.
Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. (Acts 2:43-44)
They sold their property and possessions and were sharing them with other believers as the need arose. The key was that these were people truly in need. They were not a bunch of panhandlers out on the streets. These people had been dispossessed of everything. That was why Paul took up that offering in Macedonia. All the churches in Macedonia gave liberally to the suffering saints in Jerusalem.
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47)
These people were genuine. They had marvelous virtue in the thought pattern of their souls. People were being saved daily and were being added to the church. This was a normal Christian experience. This was a normal local church. This is what God wants to do in every local church. As we are growing spiritually, we learn the ministry of encouragement to one another. This ministry stimulates and challenges each of us to get the Gospel out and to see unbelievers come to receive the Lord Jesus Christ.
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. (Acts 4:32)
Acts 4:32 indicates that they had a semi-communal society. This society was voluntary and had no connection with the government. Government controlled and mandated communal living is socialism. Christian charity is grace giving based on Bible doctrine resident in your soul. Christian charity has always been wholly voluntary. These believers exhibited great acts of unselfish love.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STEWARDSHIP AND OWNERSHIP
The term "one heart" means one motivation, one divine viewpoint of life, and one doctrinal thought pattern. This does not mean that they were all brainwashed and regimented. They were doing their own thinking according to divine viewpoint based on divine norms and standards. The term "one heart and mind" means every facet of the soul was under the influence of Bible truth. They were stewards of the Word. We do not really own what we have here on the earth because it all belongs to God. We just utilize it and invest it to His glory. Think about that. Your wardrobe, your car, your house and everything that makes you who and what you are is not yours. It belongs to God. You are just a steward of everything that God has given you.
This is the attitude we must have. If more of us had that attitude, more people within their local churches would be involved in giving, serving, production, and utilization of spiritual gifts, talents and abilities. There are some people who do not lift a finger to do anything in their local church. No matter what you say to enlist volunteers for different types of Christian service, there are some people who selfishly think such work is for other believers. These same people often do not give significantly to the local church either.
Grace giving means that you give based on your doctrinal motivation from your soul. You give as God has prospered you. If you have very little, you give what you can. If you cannot give money, you can give of your time and abilities. Most of us, if not all of us, can give something. This is something that we need to take before the Lord in prayer. This is because everything that we have, whether large or small in amount, comes from God. We are simply His stewards.
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (Acts 4:33-35)
The believers in Acts 4:33-35 did not think their possessions belonged to themselves, but all things were common property. This is stewardship. This is meeting the needs of those who have needs. It would be great if each of us could say that about our own local church and about other believers that we know. If we know they have need, we should be going to meet their needs as we can, as God provides for us to share it with others. Nothing established by the pastor or the deacons in a local church could be that spontaneous. These believers wanted to sell what they had and wanted to give it to the church board so it could be distributed to those who really had need.
This was not socialism. You have to understand the uniqueness of the situation. This was not some institutional, political or ecclesiastical way of living. This was not the apostles saying they must take everything they own and give it to the apostles for redistribution of the wealth according to the needs of everyone. They were motivated by unconditional love.
We should be motivated by unconditional love to help fellow believers in the local church if they are truly in need. Many of these believers may be new to Bible truth. Imagine the source of encouragement this would be! If you saw fellow believers who were really concerned about you and your church in the fellowship of the Body doing everything that they can to help you out, it would encourage you and it would stimulate your spiritual growth. That is what they did in the early church.
AN EXAMPLE OF SELFLESS LOVE
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet. (Acts 4:36-37)
Acts 4:36-37 refers to a spiritually mature Christian who sold his personal property and gave the proceeds to be distributed to the dispossessed. His name is Barnabas which means the son of encouragement. He was originally from the Isle of Cypress and had moved to Jerusalem where he owned land. Originally, his name was Joseph, but the apostles changed his name to Barnabas, even before this event. His name was changed to meet his lifestyle.
The apostles had been given enough spiritual authority by God that they could change a person's name to fit their lifestyle and their evident spiritual maturity. Barnabas was such an encouragement to Paul that, based on his lifestyle, generosity, kindness, and thoughtfulness, Paul changed his name to Barnabas - The Son of Encouragement. Barnabas had, of his own free will and based on Bible truth in his soul, sold all of his property in Jerusalem and had given it to the apostles to be distributed among the Jerusalem believers who had been dispossessed by the Romans. The apostles had a level of authority in the early church such that if they wanted to change someone's name, they would declare their new name and that was that. If your name was Mac and they wanted to call you Sam, you were Sam from then on.
Why change his name? His name was changed because it fit his lifestyle. Barnabas was an encouragement to everyone around him. He was truly the son of encouragement. The Greek word is PARAKLESIS and means encouragement, comfort, challenge, exhortation, and consolation all wrapped up in one word.
One of the greatest of our ambassadorial assets related to the Christian way of life has been provided by the Father to you. As special representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, our purpose is to help other people through encouragement, comfort, consolation, challenge. The same word also implies correction whenever necessary. It would be wonderful to be known as a person who has such unconditional love for other believers that you can actually give correction without making them react to your words. Correction given at the proper time and in the proper way can be in a spirit of meekness and humility. That is a part of the ministry of challenge. The word for encouragement also means challenge.
Maximum Grace provision and utilization is when you are motivated under unconditional love to do all that you can to help a fellow believer. This becomes such a tremendous testimony in the community that the Word of God goes forth with great power. The local church has impact by their members saying something and living it. Christianity is characterized by outward action of ambassadorship toward other people based on the believer's inward belief in the Word of God. Outward action puts your faith to the test.
THE VALUE OF LIFESTYLE EVANGELISM
He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. (Acts 11:24)
Acts 11:24 shows the secret of evangelism in action. The secret of evangelism is not just academic learning and communication of the Gospel to the unbelievers. While this is essential in witnessing and evangelism, it is only the minimum. Different approaches to conveying the Gospel must be used based on the circumstances and the type of person or people you are talking to. For example, if a person is self-righteous, you would use a different approach than you would use with a person who is very sinful, down and out, and thinks that he cannot be forgiven. You have to be flexible in witnessing.
The secret in witnessing is seen from the life of Barnabas. He was a "good man." The word for good in the original Greek is AGATHOS and means good of intrinsic value. Anything that is good of intrinsic value, as it relates to the spiritual life, has to be something from God. Barnabas was always filled with the Spirit which enabled him to always be a "good man" - a man with intrinsic value. This is divine good.
When we are controlled by God the Holy Spirit, we produce divine good which is love, joy, peace, patience, and long-suffering. Control by the Spirit results in divine production or fruit of the Spirit which is characterized in our life. This makes a believer virtuous. This provides tremendous strength of character. The more we are filled with the Spirit, live in the Spirit, and walk by the Spirit, the more "good" we become. This is not being a "little goodie two-shoes" or a "little Lord Fauntleroy." This is not wearing your self-righteousness on your sleeves or looking down your nose at everybody else. This self-righteous attitude is arrogance and a preoccupation with self that comes from pride. The Word indicates that we are to have goodness that comes from integrity.
Integrity is loyalty to and obedience to God's truth, which produces virtue or strength of character. This strength of character results in morality and ethics, both inwardly and overtly, and in every area of your life. The word good in Acts 11:24 is goodness produced by God. When the believer is in fellowship and functioning according to the Plan of God, he is a good man. He is a believer producing divine good. This is not ANTHROPOS, which is the Greek word for all mankind whether believer or unbeliever.
The word "man" in Acts 11:24 from the original Greek is ANER and it means the nobleman. This is the individual whether male or female who is advancing spiritually, especially a mature believer like Barnabas. As you advance spiritually, your life is characterized by divine good. The divine good in this passage refers to the Greek word PLEROMA which means to be filled and running over or maximum fullness. It also means to be under full influence and full control. This was a man filled with the Spirit a maximum amount of the time.
When God the Holy Spirit has full influence and control over the believer's life a maximum amount of the time, this is called spiritual maturity. The Greek word for "holy" in the phrase Holy Spirit is HAGIOS. The adjective means "set apart." God the Holy Spirit is the member of the Godhead who is set apart within the Plan of God to be the revealer of that plan. The Holy Spirit is the revealer of Bible truth when we are filled with the Holy Spirit and learning Bible truth.
The system by which we all learn divine truth is a well defined and unchanging procedure. This exact procedure is put into operation by our positive volition toward Bible truth. When we are motivated by God's grace to learn the Word of God, we must become filled with the Holy Spirit through confession of known sins in our life. We then must seek a qualified pastor-teacher who communicates the Word to us. This spiritual information is communicated to our human spirit only because we are taking the time to listen to the pastor-teacher and the Holy Spirit is making the information clear to us. Our human spirit then sends the doctrine, or spiritual phenomena, to the left or perceptive lobe of our soul where it is called GNOSIS in the Greek. This GNOSIS or knowledge resides there as academic doctrine only. If it remains here, it is not usable spiritually. If there is no acceptance, you would be a "hearer of the Word" only because there has been no positive faith belief. No spiritual growth ever occurs without positive faith believing in the doctrine communicated.
If the believer exercises faith in what has been communicated, the Holy Spirit takes that positive volition response and converts the academic doctrine (GNOSIS) into spiritually usable doctrine or EPIGNOSIS doctrine. EPIGNOSIS in the Greek means full knowledge. This operation is analogous to eating food which results in metabolization of that food for your body's energy requirements. Therefore, this faith believing is called "spiritual metabolism." The Holy Spirit transfers the academic doctrine to the right lobe of the soul where it becomes ready for application to the believer's life. The faith believing or metabolism of doctrine to the right lobe is the same faith needed to apply the doctrine to the believer's life. If you say, "Yes, I believe that, but I don't want to live or apply it or obey it," this is NOT faith response. In this case, the doctrine remains in the left lobe as academic doctrine and is still unusable due to lack of positive faith belief.
When you really believe Bible doctrine, you are saying to yourself that you are going to make it the basis for living your life. You are saying that it will become part of your modus vivendi and modus operandi. Then, you will be a hearer and a doer of the Word of God. A part of that is encouragement to others.
A person who is very selfish, self-centered and content to just take in the Word of God with no significant relationship with others is not living the Word of God. If a believer does not want to have any relationship with others nor to help other believers, he is not functioning under his priesthood. Function of the believer's priesthood will always result in the action of ambassadorship which is application of and obedience to the Word of God. God the Holy Spirit is set apart for all of this to become a reality within our soul.
for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (1 Peter 1:16)
Believers can never achieve moral perfection as God is. However, you can have an honorable and Christ-glorifying life when you are controlled by God the Holy Spirit. You can be like Barnabas, the son of encouragement.
He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. (Acts 11:24)
The Greek word for spirit in Acts 11:24 is PNEUMA. It is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word NEFHESH. NEFHESH refers to life or the breath of life. It refers to God the Holy Spirit as the life giver. He gives us eternal life. At the moment of salvation, we are born again by God the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit creates a human spirit to which the Father imputes everlasting life. God the Holy Spirit has a key role in the reception of the gift of eternal life and He is the life giver from the standpoint of a dynamic and growing spiritual life. This growing spiritual life can only be done under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit which includes the filling of the Spirit and the intake of doctrine.
BARNABAS: THE ENCOURAGER AND EXAMPLE OF THE FAITH-REST LIFE
The phrase "he was a good man" in Acts 11:24 means a divine good nobleman under the full influence of the Holy Spirit and faith. The Greek word for faith is PISTIS which refers to Bible doctrine or Bible truth as the basis for faith. There can be no perpetuation of the faith-rest life if you are ignorant of the Word of God. You have to know, from the Word, what it means for your faith to claim promises which eliminates the fear-panic ploy. You have to know, from the Word of God, what the mechanics of your faith are and how to apply the faith-rest rationales. You must believe that they will work. These four rationales are listed below.
1. The Sustaining Grace Rationale. This is belief that God will provide all of your needs.
2. The Confession of Sin Rationale. This is belief that, on the basis of confession of sin, you have forgiveness and cleansing and are filled with the Holy Spirit.
3. The Plan of God Rationale. This is the realization that you carry around in your soul the very righteousness of God and that becomes the target of all blessing in time as you grow spiritually.
4. The Essence of God Rationale. This is knowing who and what the triune God is and applying that to any situation of adversity.
Claiming these faith-rest rationales in your life results in coming to doctrinal conclusions. Here, faith in God's plan and provision for your life results in reaching doctrinal conclusions that give you control of any situation.
Some Christians say they love the principle of faith and the faith-rest life. They say it really works. They say they pray about their problems to the Father and they entrust them to the Lord. If the problem is removed and they go from a bad circumstance to a good circumstance, they say, "See, faith-rest works." What if they "faith-rested" the current circumstance and it didn't change at all? Faith-rest still works. Faith-rest does NOT mean the circumstances will improve or change at all! Faith-rest is there to change you! Faith-rest allows you to have peace, power and dynamics in your spiritual life, regardless of any circumstance in life.
God's problem solving devices are not designed to change circumstances. They are designed to change you from the inside out. God's problem solving devices enable us to live within any circumstance while sharing His very own happiness. That is the kind of person Barnabas was. His attitude made him a tremendous source of encouragement in his local church. During the beginning of the Church Age in the Jerusalem Church, it is very likely that no one had a greater impact or was as dynamic in the ministry of encouragement and refreshment as was Barnabas. Even the apostles saw that Barnabas had an ability to encourage even more than they did.
No apostle took the title Barnabas, son of encouragement. They gave it to Joseph and changed his name to Barnabas. If it were not for Barnabas, Saul the great and arrogant one would never have become Paul the little one, the grace oriented one, the humble one, the one who would utilized the grace of God more than any believer who has ever lived. Barnabas had a key role in encouraging the Apostle Paul.
God the Holy Spirit wanted Barnabas to be a role model for us for function under the control of the Holy Spirit and Bible doctrine. He is a tremendous example of encouragement for each one of us. The first major reference concerning Barnabas was this action on his part to sell his property as we saw in Acts 4:37. Several questions should come to mind regarding what happened concerning Barnabas and his role in the early church.
First of all, why would the Holy Spirit be so specific about Barnabas? Why does the Scripture present Barnabas for this example and not Peter, James, or one of the apostles? All of the apostles were examples of divine good noblemen under the full control of the Holy Spirit and under the full influence of Bible doctrine. The reason is that Barnabas was the best example of encouragement and exhibited this action of ambassadorship more than any other believer during this time. However, Barnabas exhibited this encouragement apart from any spiritual gift. Encouragement is not a spiritual gift. It is learned through Bible truth.
Encouragement is something that each of you will develop as you continue to grow spiritually. The greatest happiness in life is to be so genuinely concerned for another believer that you would encourage, help, comfort, and console them. This manifestation of your love for the Lord Jesus Christ becomes a challenge to others. This may even enable you to gently rebuke other believers under unconditional love in such a way that they do not take offense. That is what Barnabas was able to do. That is why God the Holy Spirit was specific in singling him out as the son of encouragement.
You might ask why didn't Dr. Luke, the author of the Book of Acts under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, just record that Barnabas was a generous man? The Holy Spirit wanted Barnabas' life to be a personal challenge to encouragement for all Church Age believers. Through your contact with other people, you can be a tremendous testimony of encouragement, help, and challenge in their spiritual life. This is what it was like with Barnabas.
CORRECT MOTIVATION FOR GIVING
Giving is a private matter between you and the Lord. This is the doctrine of privacy in giving. In the early church, good news traveled fast regarding Barnabas' giving. When a believer becomes spiritually mature, God the Holy Spirit will establish his or her reputation as an encourager through their actions. The good news of Barnabas' giving to the local church was something that could not be kept a secret. Some, controlled by their sin nature, became envious. A few became devious and jealous, like Ananias and Sapphira. They tried to make it look like they were giving with the same motivation as did Barnabas, but they were not. They died the Sin Unto Death because of it.
In some cases, God makes sure that this type of grace giving attitude is known by others. This grace giving by Barnabas involved him selling all of his property and giving all of the proceeds to the apostles. People knew that he gave the property to the apostles as unto the Lord - as a grace gift. This action shows what a wonderful sense of trust he had in his fellow believers.
What if this type of tremendous sacrificial action of giving from one believer results in a feeling of inadequacy in other believers? This feeling of inadequacy is only one manifestation of mental attitude sins of self pity, which are based on arrogance. This inadequacy is a result of a lack of unconditional love toward other believers more motivated from the Bible doctrine in their souls than you. These negative emotional responses merely tell you that you need to confess sin and take in more Bible truth as metabolized doctrine instead of academic doctrine.
When you have unconditional love, you will rejoice with those who rejoice as well as weeping with those who weep. Those with spiritual maturity were excited that Barnabas had this kind of testimony. They saw Barnabas as a great example and role model to other believers by his great unselfish act of selling his property and giving all of the proceeds to the church.
The apostles knew that a few believers in the Jerusalem Church would feel inadequate if they called Barnabas the son of encouragement. Two of these people were Ananias and Sapphira. They were negative in their response when they heard of Barnabas' gift to the church. You have to realize that the Lord has certain plans, principles and policies that He has established. He has said, through His Word, that this is the way it is going to be. He has presented His plan. If people misunderstand it, misinterpret it, or get jealous over the recognition that other believers receive under God's grace, then that is their problem. They need to align their lives to God's plan, not the other way around.
The Bible makes it very clear in the Book of Acts that there was a need for administration in the Jerusalem Church. God the Holy Spirit led the apostles to tell the congregation to choose certain men to be deacons. The congregation chose the deacons and the apostles approved them. Some did not approve of those chosen. This became a problem for those in the congregation who had not yet developed a sense of unconditional love and trust of their church leaders.
The apostles' decision to recognize Barnabas' giving may have caused other Christians to give with improper motives. This misapplication of correct principles because of wrong motives is the problem of the believer. We all have free will. We can do things in a wrong way or in a right way and for the right reasons or the wrong reasons. We can do a wrong thing in a wrong way. We can do a wrong thing in a right way. We can do a right thing in a wrong way. We can also do a right thing in a right way as God has ordained. Barnabas did the right thing in the right way under the filling of the Holy Spirit. Ananias and Sapphira did a right thing in giving, but in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons. They gave money from sale of some of their property to the church, but said they gave all of the proceeds as had Barnabas.
Peter made it very clear to the congregation that no one had to give anything if they were not motivated by the Lord to do so. He told them that they could give part if they were motivated. They were told they could give all if they were motivated. The devious and evil motivation of Ananias and Sapphira was their approbation, power, and ego lust that desired the praise and recognition that Barnabas had received under the grace of God. They wanted the same for themselves. They were under power lust and were not filled with the Spirit. They were not filled with Bible truth. They were controlled and influenced by the flesh, by the old sin nature. They gave to the church on that basis and died the Sin Unto Death right on the spot for their actions.
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet. Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?" "Yes," she said, "that is the price." Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also." At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. (Acts 5:1-10)
We must have the proper motivation and attitude in giving anything. It must always be as unto the Lord. The Holy Spirit desired Barnabas to be a role model and a specific model to us all. How about you? Are you a specific role model to other believers concerning the ministry of encouragement? Are you really looking for circumstances and opportunities to give to others and to be an encouragement to them? This should be a part of your ambassadorial action. You should help other believers and be a blessing to them.
Christians who share their material possessions with others to meet human needs and to perform the work of the Lord have a special ministry of encouragement. There are people today who have this type of ministry. Whenever someone comes into their area or if they hear about someone in special need, they do what they can based on what God has provided to them under grace. These people become a tremendous source of encouragement to many people. This outreach to others results in some people becoming believers and seeking Bible truth for their lives. You might have that opportunity of encouragement to someone in your local church. They might need a place to live temporarily and, if you can help out, you should help out. This is something that is a great blessing to fellow believers. Giving to others as unto the Lord may be one of your most encouraging actions of ambassadorship. By sharing your material possessions as you are able, you share an important part of yourself.
There are believers who do not have much financially or in possessions to give to others in need. There are believers who may not have much spare time available to help others in need because of work and family obligations. Some believers, with the correct mental attitude based on how God has prospered them, can give both. Those believers that have neither available can, at the very least, pray for other believers in need. Remember, the prayers of believers for fellow believers, based on their correct grace mental attitude of gratitude, is the most powerful and encouraging form of help to other believers.
When we share our material possessions as we are able, we are sharing an important part of ourselves. In many respects, this is the true test of our love for the Lord Jesus Christ and His work on earth. In his book, Balancing the Christian Life, Dr. Charles Ryrie states, "To be sure a vital spiritual life is related to fellowship with the Lord in His Word and prayer and to service for the Lord in his work, our love for God may be proved by something that is a major part of everyone's life and that is our use of money. How we use our money demonstrates the reality of our love for God. In some ways, it proves our love more consciously than depth of doctrinal knowledge, length of prayers, or prominence of service. Those things can be feigned, but the use of our possessions shows us up for what we actually are." Even if it means sacrifice for you to give of yourself or your material possessions to help someone and to be an encouragement to them, you are following in the footsteps of the great role model of encouragement - Barnabas, the son of encouragement.
Mature or maturing believers, like Barnabas, encourage others based on a faith-rest life. Basing their way of living on the Word of God, they have basic trust in leaders in the local church. Barnabas demonstrated his faith in the local church to the point of trusting the leaders of the congregation with his money. The order in which Dr. Luke recorded this incident in Acts 5:1-10 demonstrates the contrast between the trusting attitude of Barnabas and the selfish and devious mistrust of Ananias and Sapphira. Barnabas, in the early church, presented both his financial resources and himself for service to the Lord Jesus Christ within his local church.
It is easy to criticize the church because churches, like people, are imperfect. The reason is that churches are made up of people who have feet of clay. Some can be self-righteous at times. This attitude is far worse than the moral failures of some ministers and tele-evangelists today. This does not excuse their failures because they can wreak a lot of havoc in the church! However, there are quite a few people who condemn those who fail and yet are the most self-righteous and self-centered people around! They are not a source of encouragement to fellow believers!
FOUR APPLICATIONS FROM THE LIFE OF BARNABAS
Is your motivation toward others one of unselfishness?
We see that Christians who share their material possessions are encouragers in a special way. They not only make others feel happy and blessed, but their acts of love encourage others to do the same. Their actions must be based on true motivation from within the Fellowship Sphere For Time. This correct spiritual motivation only comes from the filling of the Spirit. This results in your trust in the Lord and doing things as unto the Lord and perpetuating the faith-rest life. Your motivation must come from humility and not arrogance. Your motivation has to be rooted from your intake and metabolization of Bible truth. This provides the motivational virtue of personal love for the Lord and biblical self-respect. This in turn enables you to have the operational virtue of unconditional love for all believers and the correct motivation for giving to others.
Your life will then be characterized by the lyrics of a wonderful old hymn that goes like this: "Lord, let me live from day to day in such a self-forgetful way, that even when I kneel to pray, my prayer will be for others. Help me in all the service that I do to ever be genuine and true and know that all that's done for you must needs be done for others. When my work on earth is done and my new work in heaven begun, may I forget the crown I've won while thinking still of others. Others, Lord, yes others let this my motto be. Empower me to live for others that I might live like thee." When we have that attitude in life, the application is true unselfishness.
Be honest with yourself. Are you motivated more by unselfishness or are you motivated more by selfishness and self-centeredness? Unselfish believers are automatically encouraging to others. They go out of their way to meet other's needs. They are sensitive to human problems and needs. They look for opportunities to encourage rather than being so wrapped up in themselves that they cannot see beyond their own needs. You must first deal with your motivation and your goals before you begin to give of yourself and your possessions to others.
To what extent do you encourage your leaders?
Do the leaders in your local church do everything? Why is it that only about 10 percent of those in local churches are motivated to serve in the local church? These people not only handle the total administration of the church, but they also teach prep school and staff the nursery. To what extent do you encourage your leaders? The pastor, deacons, prep school teachers, and nursery workers need encouragement. They need your encouragement. It can be a tough job to handle the responsibilities of running a local church properly. They could probably use some encouragement by telling them that you appreciate what they're doing. There are too few motivated to serve in this way.
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), (Acts 4:36)
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)
Dr. Luke was motivated by the ministry of the Holy Spirit to write that it was the apostles that changed Joseph's name to Barnabas. This is obviously because they had been encouraged by him.
Acts 4:36 and Hebrews 13:17 provide good illustrations of Barnabas. A believer becomes an encouragement to other people when they see a lifestyle not wrapped up in the details of life. They see a lifestyle that truly demonstrates spiritual growth and resultant concern for other people. They see a willingness to become involved in others' lives and to be a source of encouragement to them.
Do you seek first the Kingdom? What about your motivation?
Do you seek first the Kingdom of God? The Lord Jesus Christ spoke directly about what our perspective should be regarding our material possessions.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)
Are your motives proper?
Your motivation must be tied to the plan of God. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God always keeps on looking on the heart or the thought pattern of the soul. Ananias and Sapphira conspired together to make a good impression from ego lust, approbation lust and, especially, power lust.
Some people are motivated by power lust in their desire to control other people. This is destructive in all aspects of life, especially in the local church. Do you want to serve in the local church to gain the control over others? Remember what the Word of God says about Christian service.
The greatest among you will be your servant. (Matthew 23:11)
But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. (Luke 22:26)
It takes dedication and sacrifice to serve up spiritual food. That is what the ministry is all about. Like Ananias and Sapphira, we need to be very careful about our motivation and remember what happened to them. They were both struck dead under the Sin Unto Death. You may wonder why God singled them out. If God did that to every believer, there would not be many believers remaining to represent Him. The Lord did it with Ananias and Sapphira at the beginning of the Church Age. They are both in heaven right now because they were believers. Remember, you cannot lose your salvation for any reason or act! The Lord wanted to establish a specific negative model, as well as a specific positive model. The specific positive model was Barnabas. The specific negative models were Ananias and Sapphira.
The Lord wants clear motivation and honesty. Everything we do should be done from motivation within the Fellowship Sphere For Time. Barnabas was publicly honored by the apostles because of what he did and his pure motivation for doing it. Remember, we are to serve from a true heart.
let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22)
We are to come before the Lord with a genuine or a true heart. Our motivation and priorities must be properly related to Bible doctrine. An encourager understands the difference between stewardship and ownership. Remember, we do not own what we own. That is stewardship. God owns all that we have in this life. We are merely utilizing and investing what is really His.
If you are truly living the faith-rest life by trusting and relying on the Lord, then you will trust people in leadership positions. You will trust them even when other people have failed you and have been a great source of disappointment to you. You do not become discouraged and disillusioned. You are to maintain your trust in God. This trust is not a naive trust, but an informed confidence in God. If you have confidence in the Lord through spiritual growth, you will trust the leadership in your local church. This trust will make you willing to be involved in helping and encouraging others. Humility is a part of the motivation for helping other people. Your intake and metabolization of Bible truth gives you the capacity to love the Lord and, in turn, love others with unconditional love. All of these things are necessary as the bona fide motivation under the ministry of encouragement.