Scriptures

8. Barnabas, Quite A Character

Introduction

By Bernie Keys

I’d Like to Be a Barnabas 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 NIV)

Questions for discussion

‘All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. 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 4:32-37

1. What do we learn about Barnabas when he is introduced in Acts 4:32-37?

Why do you think he received a name change from the apostles?

‘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 in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 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 Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.’ Acts 9:26-31

2. What dangerous thing (in terms of religious and social relationship) did Barnabas do for Paul?

‘Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. 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 true to the Lord with all their hearts. 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, 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. During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.’ Acts 11:19-30

3. How did Barnabas live up to his new name in Acts 11:19-30?

What was his role in the opening of Christianity to the Gentiles?

‘When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.’ Galatians 2:11-13

4. What struggle did Barnabas initially have (along with Peter and James) when it came to the Gentiles?

(This was reconciled at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 where Barnabas helped Paul debate with men who were teaching:

‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.’ Barnabas’ good reputation was a key factor in winning the argument.)

‘When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.’ Acts 12:25

‘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

‘Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the believers 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 believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.’ Acts 15:36-41

5. Why do you think Barnabas argued so strongly that Mark go on the second missionary journey with them in spite of Paul’s concerns?

Was Barnabas’ alternative choice of taking Mark and going on his own missionary journey a wise one?

How was it ultimately good for Mark? …for Paul? …for the future of Christianity?

(If time allows see 2 Timothy 4:11 / Mark 14:51 / 1 Peter 5:13)

6. James gives some practical Christian advice in James 2:14-18 and James 3:13.

How well did Barnabas live up to this advice?

7. Who has played the role of a ‘Barnabas’ for you?

What difference has that person’s encouragement made in your life?

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

Philippians 4:6

MENU