When the names of bible greats are mentioned, hardly does Barnabas get a look-in; but he was much in every way, a remarkable hero, who made notable contributions to the growth of the church in her early years.
After the Pentecost, as the apostles began to welcome converts in great numbers, they decided that brotherly sharing of resources was the way to go 1. It is striking that Barnabas was the first, (or only person – barring the infamous couple, Ananias and Sapphira) of all the generous givers, whose name was mentioned 2. This suggests many things: he was either the first to sell a (landed) property, or the first to bring such huge donation, or the first to bring all the returns from a property sale, or the first to bring any donation at all, or there was some other thing commendable about his generosity. Whichever way, it is clear he was a selfless, not-greedy, kind-hearted fellow, whose actions much likely would have influenced other believers.
In an act of compelling trust and brotherliness, when no other disciple would, he it was, who received Saul of Tarsus, when he came to Jerusalem after his conversion 3. Barnabas believed Saul’s testimony at once; extended a hand of fellowship and took him to the apostles. By personally introducing him to the apostles, Barnabas staked his life’s integrity and Christian testimony on Saul’s conversion, making it easier for the church to accept Saul. One can only imagine what might have been had Barnabas not done these.
Interestingly, when some kingdom advancement was being made in certain regions, Barnabas was the man called upon to go and strengthen the work 4. This is instructive. It reveals how exemplary, knowledgeable, matured and productive he was; for up to that time, when there was a need to go advance a foundational work somewhere, the apostles would send only from among the twelve!
At some point, in accomplishing this task, he would seek for Saul, ‘influence’ him and take him along for ministry 5; and a major fruit of their partnership is that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch 6.
The Holy Spirit will later confirm the synergy between these two by commissioning them for work among the gentiles 7 and this would further reveal the amazing personality of Barnabas. Right up to the commissioning, it was always ‘Barnabas and Saul’ 8, but soon afterwards, it became ‘Paul and Barnabas’. In other words, Paul became spokesperson 9 and ‘leader’. How thought provoking it is, that Barnabas who essentially ‘discipled’ Paul would now ‘submit’ to him. Barnabas must be greatly applauded for choosing to recognize God’s grace in Paul’s life and align himself accordingly rather than lord himself over him. There is no gainsaying how much this helped the kingdom work and how costly the reverse may have proved.
Barnabas was neither one of the twelve nor one of the seven (deacons), nevertheless, he was, from the outset, adamantly committed to encouraging God’s assignment and His people. No wonder, the Apostles changed his name from Joses to ‘Son of encouragement’ (Barnabas) 10, just after he had spent only a little time with them.
Above all, Barnabas is the one to whom most theologians have attributed the authorship of the epistle to the Hebrews, which is an exceptionally revealing resource for believers of all ages.
Generally, every believer who loves God and is committed to His agenda is a hero of some sort. However, we learn from Barnabas how to be one, even silently – without famous acclaim.
- Acts 2: 40-47; Acts 4:32-35
- Acts 4: 34-37
- Acts 9: 22-27
- Acts 11:20-30
- Acts 11:25-30; Acts 12:25
- Acts 11:25-26
- Acts 13:1-3
- Acts 12:25; Acts 13:2; Acts 13:7
- Acts 14:12
- Acts 4:36
Ogaga Eruteya is passionate about serving God and humanity. He believes people ought to be the best God wants them to be. He writes from Oyo, Nigeria.