32Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. – Acts 4:32-37
- We meet Barnabas when Luke singles out Barnabas for his generous gift.
- Barnabas was a Jew born on the Island of Cyprus. As a Levite, he had no inherited land in Israel.
- To own land on Cypress would be like owning a city block in Manhattan.
26And when he [Paul] had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27But 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. 28So he (Paul) went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. – Acts 9:26-27
- Barnabas alone opened his home and his heart to the friendless Saul/Paul.
- There is a sense in which there would be no Paul without Barnabas.
- Paul’s ministry in Jerusalem is short-lived as he creates too much trouble so he returns to Tarsus (Acts 9:28-31).
19Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. – Acts 11:19-26
- When the Gentiles start coming to faith in large numbers in Antioch, the leaders in Jerusalem send Barnabas to evaluate the situation.
- Presumably Barnabas had passed away when Luke wrote this tribute in Acts 11:24.
- Barnabas decides the growing church needs help and he tracks down Paul and brings him to Antioch.
- Barnabas once more set aside his own ambition to encourage another in the use of his gifts.
- When famine strikes, the christian in Antioch send a contribution to the Christians in Judea in care of Barnabas & Paul (Acts 11:27-30).
- When Barnabas and Paul return to Antioch, they bring John Mark with them (Acts 12:25).
- Barnabas and Paul set on their first missionary journey bringing John Mark with them (Acts 13:1-5).
13Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, 14but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. – Acts 13:13-14
- For the first time, Paul’s name appears first and will remain first for the remainder of Acts.
- Barnabas recognized Paul’s gift and stepped aside to let Paul flourish.
Paul & Barnabas finished their journey and return home to find some men from Judea trying to yoke these new converts to the Law (Acts 15:1-2). They want all these new Gentile converts to become Jews. It was probably during this time that the incident in Galatians occurred.
11But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” – Galatians 2:11-14
- When these “law-abiding” citizens came to Antioch to visit the church, Peter is afraid and joins in their hypocrisy and even Barnabas is carried away. Notice that he says “even Barnabas”.
- The issue of Gentile believers keeping the law was debated in Jerusalem, but in time was resolved in favor of grace.
- After a brief respite, Paul proposes a second journey, but this time Barnabas stays behind.
35But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. 36And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. – Acts 15:35-41
Barnabas insisted that Mark get another chance, just as he had insisted that Paul himself get a chance in Jerusalem and in Antioch.
- Paul argued vigorously against bringing John Mark. The disagreement turned into an impasse that only separation could resolve.
- Paul chose a new associate, Silas, and went back to the Asia Minor and on to Europe.
- Barnabas took Mark under his wing and sailed off to Cyprus and passes from the story.
- Barnabas gave up his chance for fame to help others become great. Silas went down in history as Paul’s companion.
- However, Paul later changes his mind about John Mark (2 Timothy 4:11).
- John Mark later came to Rome as Paul’s associate. After Paul’s martyrdom he became Peter’s colleague, co-authored with Peter the Gospel that bears Mark’s name.
- After the separation from Paul the biblical references to Barnabas cease, but tradition says he continued in his quiet way to encourage others until some years later when he was martyred in his home town of Salamis.
People come and go and most of their achievements are forgotten. But the good that Barnabas did went on forever — he nurtured the ministries of both the Apostle Paul and John Mark. We have Barnabas — someone who looked for good and not glory — to thank for giving us Paul & Mark.
Please listen to the podcast for more detail and explanation.
Series: Understanding God’s Will
Podcast season 10, episode 13.