by John Thomas Lowe
Barnabas—(Friend and Companion of Paul)
Scripture tells us that Barnabas "was filled with joy," "was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith," and was an influential evangelist. It also says he "encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord" (Acts 11:23-24).
Claims to fame: Barnabas sells property and gives 100% to the apostles. He finds Paul and invites him to join him in the ministry. He serves as an elder of the city church in Syrian Antioch.
Barnabas obeys the Holy Spirit's call to active missionary service. He reaches many northeast Mediterranean cities with Saul. He participates in and reports at the First Jerusalem Council.
Barnabas reaches other cities later on with his relative, John Mark, and reconciles with Saul/Paul, who then reconciles with Mark.
Worst betrayals: Barnabas briefly lapses into hypocrisy with Peter in Syrian Antioch. He parts ways with Paul after arguing about Mark's usefulness.
Background on Barnabas
Mention to your Christian friends a guy named Joseph — the Levite from Cyprus and a cousin of John Mark. Most likely, few will know whom you are talking about. Instead, they may recognize his nickname, Barnabas, "Son of Encouragement" (Acts 4:36).
So, who is this encouraging guy?
Bible Verses about Barnabas
You can read all about Barnabas in minutes: Acts 11:19-30, Acts 13:1-14:28 and Acts 15:36-41. True, that last brief passage says Barnabas and Paul have a sharp disagreement — over John Mark.
In the end, however, all three men hold each other in high esteem for many years (1 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 2:1-10; Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 1:24).
Ministry of Barnabas
In Jerusalem: After his conversion, Saul travels sometime later to Jerusalem. Luke says,
He tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing he was a disciple. However, 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 in Damascus, he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:26-27).
In Syrian Antioch: Due to growing persecution, Christians flee from Jerusalem to other eastern Mediterranean cities, including Syrian Antioch. Their evangelistic efforts proved extraordinarily successful. Luke says,
News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with all their hearts (Acts 11:22-23).
Realizing he needed help, "Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year, Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch" (Acts 11:25-26).
In Jerusalem: Sometime later, the church in Syrian Antioch sent a generous financial gift, "by Barnabas and Saul," to the poor Judean Christians facing a terrible famine (Acts 11:27-30).
Later, "When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark" (Acts 12:25).
Barnabas' First Missionary Journey
In Scripture's very next paragraph, the Holy Spirit calls two of the five prophets and teachers of Syrian Antioch to leave on a mission (Acts 13:1-3). Barnabas takes the lead, Saul works shoulder to shoulder with him, and John Mark is invited as their assistant.
Their first stop is the island of Cyprus, where Barnabas grew up (Acts 13:4-5). Later, right after they leave the island, John Mark unexpectedly hightails it back home to Jerusalem. Moreover, this before the men faced any physical persecution.
When they reach out to Gentile leaders in Cyprus, Saul starts going by Paul's Greek name (Acts 13:9). From this point on, Paul shares equal footing with Barnabas. Luke changes from "Barnabas and Paul" to "Paul and Barnabas" for quite a while and then changes back and forth.
Necessary: Barnabas does not lose an inch of his standing. Instead, Paul finally steps up to the destiny the Lord foretold at his conversion back in Acts 9:15-16. Bottom line: It takes years of apprenticeship under Barnabas before Saul finally becomes Paul.
After planting churches in many northeastern Mediterranean cities, Paul and Barnabas appoint elders in each church (Acts 14:23), and return to Syrian Antioch, where they give an extensive report to the church (Acts 14:26-27), and serve there again for "a long time" (Acts 14:28).
First Jerusalem Council: After false teachers infiltrate the church in Syrian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas have a "sharp dispute and debate with them" (Acts 15:2) and are commissioned to take up this matter with the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.
These esteemed leaders welcome Barnabas and Paul with open arms and invite them to report their first missionary journey and vibrant ministries in Syrian Antioch. Then Peter and James invite them to report all this in what is now known as the First Jerusalem Council.
After reaching a clear-cut decision against the false teachers, Jerusalem's apostles and elders ask Barnabas and Paul to travel with two of their men.
Their assignment: to return right away to Syrian Antioch, read the formal letter about their decision, root out the false teaching, and encourage the believers. Sure enough, they are greatly encouraged!