The Bible does not say when Joses became a believer in Jesus, but he was well known by the apostles, for they nick-named him Barnabas, which means Son of Encouragement, (Acts 4:36). In Acts 4:37 we see that he was a generous man, for he sold some of his land and gave to the apostles, to further the cause of Christ. How encouraging it must have been to the apostles when they received this gift.
In my opinion, if Barnabas had not followed God’s call, much of Europe and Asia might not have heard the Gospel. He was instrumental in identifying, encouraging, and introducing perhaps the world’s greatest evangelist to the apostles: Paul.
Paul had had a tough time. Before Paul’s conversion, Paul had been a persecutor of the followers of Jesus. After Paul’s conversion, he preached in Damascus, to inform the Jews about Jesus being the Christ, but they wanted to kill him for saying such things. Paul escaped in the middle of the night with little more than the clothes on his back (Acts 9:23-25) and fled to Jerusalem.
Paul tried to join with the rest of the believers in Jerusalem, but they were all afraid of him and thought the whole story of his conversion was a lie (Acts 9:26). It was then, in Jerusalem, that Paul ran into Barnabas, the “Son of Encouragement,” who grabbed Paul by the arm and took him to meet Peter, James and the other apostles, where Barnabas encouraged the apostles to let Paul into their group (Acts 9:27).
Paul may have quit if it wasn’t for this chance meeting. The Jews wanted to kill him. The young Christian community didn’t believe him – except for Barnabas. Not only was Barnabas an encourager, but he also had courage to take Paul in, when no one else would.
How many of us have done the opposite of what Barnabas did? We hear of the miraculous conversion of a person whose soul we wrote off as lost long ago, and we scoff in disbelief. All we can think of is the old person and can’t focus on the possibilities that God can create for every new believer. As the Bible shows, through the example of Barnabas, it is better to err on the side of belief, than to let a new believer get lost in discouragement.
The Lord began doing great things in a place called Antioch in Syria. There was a group of Jewish believers in Jesus and a group of Greek believers. The apostles sent Barnabas to Antioch alone, without Paul, to encourage them in the Lord (Acts 11:23). If you look closely at the specific encouragement he gave, it was “with purpose of heart” to remain true to the Lord. I think he was telling the believers that their faith needed to be “on purpose” and not by happenstance. He could also have been thinking that discouraging people and circumstances would come one day, and if their faith was not in a place of priority in their hearts and minds, it could easily be toppled if it was not on a secure foundation.
Because Barnabas was “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith,” “a great many people were added to the Lord.” – Acts 11:24.
Paul had been debating with the Greeks in Jerusalem so heatedly, that they tried to kill him there, too. Luckily the believers rescued him and sent him back to his home town of Tarsus where he would be safe. Paul was sent home because his preaching style was too disruptive. How discouraging! But here’s the beautiful thing: Barnabas went out of his way, 250 miles round trip, to pull Paul back into the ministry, in Antioch.
It seems that this second round of encouragement from Barnabas is what Paul needed. The two of them taught and preached together for a full year. In this place, where the evangelist and the encourager worked side by side, the followers of Jesus were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).
Barnabas was generous, full of “on purpose” faith, went out of his way to encourage, was a team player, and never gave up on people. Today’s followers of Christ will have a tough time living up to the same name he was given – Christian.
Who will you encourage today?
Pastor Jay Merritt