Be a Barnabas
by Jefferson David Tant
We are familiar with Paul’s companion in some of his travels. He is first mentioned in Acts 4:36: “Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement).” What a great description of Paul’s brother and companion.
He is next mentioned in Acts 9:26-27. After Paul’s conversion, he sought to meet with the Jerusalem Christians. They had heard about his persecutions and feared this was some trick. But Barnabas came to the rescue. “… and they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.”
Another instance deals with his defense of John Mark, who had abandoned the missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas but wanted to accompany them on their next trip. Paul was against this, but Barnabas disagreed. This resulted in a parting of the ways. Whatever Mark’s shortcoming was, Barnabas took him under his wing and encouraged him by taking him on a preaching trip. (Acts 15:38-39) Paul later changed his mind and asked for Mark.
Thus Barnabas was an encourager, a helper, and a preacher, as well. Shouldn’t these words be descriptive of all preachers? Unfortunately, these words don’t describe all preachers I know.
I have known preachers who seem to think they have been called to browbeat, demean and discourage those in their audience. Seldom does an encouraging word fall from their lips. This causes Christians to be discouraged, some to move to other congregations (when they can), and has caused some to abandon their faith. Of course, they must realize that on judgment day they cannot hide behind those who have driven them away, saying “It’s their fault.” We come together to worship God, not man. Even in the case of Diotrephes John did not tell the members of the church to leave, but encouraged them to just do good.
“I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, neither does he himself receive the brethren, and he forbids those who desire [o do so,]and puts them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God” (III John 9-11).
Yes, preachers have to deal with sin and shortcomings from time to time. Paul had to do this in some of his epistles, but he tried to encourage along with his exhortations. There were many problems in the church at Corinth, but Paul begins his letter with “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus” (I Corinthians 1:3-4). Then he closes the letter with “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus” (I Corinthians 16:24). In spite of the problems they had, they knew Paul loved them.
Time and time again, Paul encourages encouragement. “And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men” (I Thessalonians 5:14). Part of being patient is to be an encourager. See also Acts 11:23; Colossians 4:8; I Thessalonians 3:2; 5:11; Titus 2:4; Hebrews 3:13. It is evident that Paul took his own advice. (Maybe he learned from Barnabas😊)
Preacher, you will do more to build up the church and save souls by being a Barnabas (an encourager) than by being a Diotrephes (a complainer).