Commentary by Walter Albritton


February 2


Barnabas: His Example Inspires the Ministry of Encouragement

Read Acts 4:32-37; 9:26, 27; 11:19-30; 15:36-41

Key Verse: Acts 11:23, 24


            Barnabas! What a beautiful name! A name this disciple of Jesus was given because of the way he lived. His proper name was actually Joses, but the disciples gave him a new name, Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.”

            Many times as a pastor, I chose this key verse as the text for funeral eulogies. I used it only when it was appropriate to say of a deceased brother, “Like Barnabas, he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.”

            Such men may be rare, but they do live among us, and it is a joyous privilege to work with them in the ministry of Christ. They are the men who always show up to lend a helping hand no matter what needs to be done.

            People are different. They often acquire nicknames that are born out of their attitudes and behavior. Most of us have known a “Grumpy,” who complained about everything; or a “Skinflint,” who was as tight as the bark on a tree when it came to giving.

            Barnabas became the encourager because he encouraged fellow Christians to love each other as they did the work of Christ.

            When the young fellowship in Antioch needed help, Barnabas was sent by the church in Jerusalem to encourage them. I love the way Doctor Luke says Barnabas began his ministry.

            First, he observed the way the grace of God was working among the people. Then he was simply “glad.” He encouraged the people by being glad!

            He did not come into town breathing prophetic fire and pronouncing judgment upon the people. He did not chastise them for their sins. Instead, he celebrated the grace of God at work and “served the Lord with gladness”!

            No wonder many people were “added unto the Lord,” for a joyful spirit is contagious. The winsome personality of Barnabas attracted people to the fellowship, and to the Christ he loved.

            Barnabas, however, was much more than a “happy” fellow to have around for a few days.  He had an understanding of the faith, and he knew the value of living with the people long enough to build solid relationships. He brought in Paul and together they taught their fellow believers for “a whole year.”

            The Bible, thank God, shows us the flaws of people as well as their strengths. Conflict develops between Barnabas and Paul, and they part company.

            We know very little about the incident except that the two men disagreed about taking John Mark on their missionary journey. We have no need to judge which man was right. Indeed, both may have been wrong by having a contentious spirit.

            What is important is to see that conflict need not disqualify us from serving the Lord. We will have disagreements with fellow Christians. When conflicts occur, we can seek the grace to resolve them, mend our relationships wherever possible, and resume serving the Lord.

            At the end of our lives, it will not matter much how many times we have been “right” in our arguments with fellow believers. Indeed some of us may need to realize and admit that we are not always right! Sometimes we can be right in our opinion but wrong in allowing a self-righteous attitude to weaken our witness.

            What will matter finally is whether we did what we could to encourage others in the faith. People are tired, lonely, angry, and hurting all around us. Every fellowship needs more than one Barnabas. The need is great.

            If we are willing, God is able to enable us to serve others with gladness, living before others as good men and women who are full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.

            We can refuse to let conflict win the day, and find loving ways to renew friendships when disagreements occur. We can be the first to say, “I was wrong; let us resolve to settle our differences and work to together to honor Christ.”

            Grace, sufficient grace, is available to help us live in our time as sons of encouragement. We can become members of the Order of Barnabas and be known as encouragers of the brethren! We can, we should, and we must! + + +