«But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.
And he declared to how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how
had preached boldly al Damascus in the name of Jesus» (Acts 9:27).
IF THERE IS an extraordinary character in the book of Acts, it is Barnabas. He was a native of the island of Cyprus, and his name means «son of encouragement,» «of comfort,» or «of exhortation.» No other name is best suited to illustrate what the purpose of Barnabas’s life was.
Barnabas was a key leader in the training of Paul and John Mark. God used him to lead them to a commitment to mission. He was at their side, accompanying, motivating, and guiding them in the process of discipleship. Barnabas was a disciple who generated other disciples.
Barnabas was a bridge builder between the believers and the newly converted Saul, and risked his own reputation in favor of someone whom everyone rejected, even Christ’s own apostles. He was the one who perceived Saul’s potential; he himself recounted his conversion and introduced him to the other church leaders. Barnabas was the first to travel with Paul and form a missionary team; he was the first to donate his property and put it at the service of the church. In other words, he was a man sensitive to the needs of the brethren and to the mission.
Barnabas proved to be trustworthy. When in Antioch the gospel spread among the Gentiles, he rejoiced and supported the growth. He looked for Saul in Tarsus and took him along as an evangelist. ‘Ihe two became teachers and the church multiplied. It was there that believers were called «Christians» for the first time (Acts II :26).
Barnabas was a generous, sensitive, selfless, humble servant who was committed to the task of preaching. He was a man of faith and courage, a shaper of leaders.
Barnabas was the kind of disciple who did not attract the limelight to himself. This is reflected in a specific story, recorded in Acts 14:8-23. In those days, many believed that the gods could mingle with men. There was even a myth that Zeus (Jupiter) and Hermes (Mercury) had once appeared in human form to an elderly married couple, to whom they had given gifts. Such was the influence, that Barnabas and Paul were received as gods in Lystra. Barnabas was called Jupiter because of his bearing and Paul was named Mercury for his art of speaking in public. Of course, they both rejected such a designation.
Our behavior and our lives always exert influence.
Barnabas left no written works, but Paul, his most prominent disciple, inspired by God, wrote almost half of the New Testament. But the Barnabases—who are also daring and courageous yet work behind the scenes, shaping, encouraging, teaching, and discipling—are also necessary.
Remember that without Barnabases there are no Pauls.