In the New Testament there are many people that are well known. Most people know about Jesus, Peter, John, and Paul. There are also some lesser known people in the Bible that deserve our attention as well. There is a man named Barnabas that, although his story is not imperative to the gospel, he played important role in the book of Acts. His name literally means “son of encouragement” and his life fit that description very well. Let’s briefly examine a few passages that detail what an important role he played in the early church.
He is introduced to us in Acts 4:36-37, “And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” He is a Levite, and therefore from the heritage of the Jews. Also he is known to be generous in his financial giving, even to the point of being renamed by the apostles.
We next see Barnabas putting his neck out for the new Apostle Paul. Acts 9:26, “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.” If Barnabas had not been there to help, who knows what the work of Paul would have been like.
In Acts 11:22-24 we read of him being sent to encourage other Christians and make converts. “Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.”
There is a large section in the book of Acts in which we find him traveling with Paul in his work from the Lord. See Acts 13:43-50 and Acts 14:8-20 for more information about this time period. Finally we read of there being a contention between Paul and Barnabas about traveling with a disciple named Mark (Acts 15:36-39). They could not come to terms over this matter of opinion so they went in different directions still working for the Lord.
The details of this man are largely not revealed to us, but looking at what works he did in the early church clearly show us his character. I am confident that we would be blessed if we all acted a little more like Barnabas.