October 7 I Sunday
“But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.” —Acts 9:27
When Paul first came to Jerusalem after his conversion in Damascus and subsequent stay in Arabia, the apostles were reluctant to trust him or even meet with him. When they had last seen Paul, he was wreaking havoc in Jerusalem, and their relief when he left the city three years before had only been tempered by the fact that he had set off for Damascus to cause trouble to believers there. But then back in Jerusalem, they heard rumours from Damascus that said, “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy” (Galatians 1:23).
Clearly, the apostles found it difficult to attach much credibility to the story, for when Paul returned, Acts 9:26 says, “But they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.” If any credibility was to be established, someone would have to go out on a limb, and that someone was Barnabas. His real name was Joseph, but the disciples most appropriately nicknamed him “Barnabas,” meaning “son of encouragement.”
Barnabas not only befriended Paul but became his spokesman, persuading the disciples that he could be trusted. Having gained acceptance, Paul was at liberty to preach in Jerusalem, but now with an entirely different message that did not impress his former, anti-Christian colleagues. These Jews tried to have Paul killed, so it was decided he should leave Jerusalem and return to Tarsus. In the meantime, marvelous growth was taking place in the church in Judea and surrounding areas. Most significant was the conversion to Christ of both Jews and Gentiles in the city of Antioch, 400 miles north of Jerusalem.
Barnabas, needing help in Antioch, sought Paul out and brought him back from Tarsus. Acts 11:24 says of Barnabas, “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.” What higher and nobler aspiration could anyone have? Barnabas looked for opportunities to bring younger men into the work of God. He was not feathering his own nest or establishing a reputation but was caught up exclusively in the interests of Jesus Christ, and therefore, Jesus Christ’s interest in the younger Paul became Barnabas’s interest too.
How much Paul owed to the outstanding friendship of Barnabas, we can only surmise, but from every human standpoint, had there been no Barnabas, there would have been no Paul—certainly not as we know him. The point is we could all use a “Barnabas” in our work with God, and we are all called to be a “Barnabas” to other believers in our lives.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the “Barnabases” You have provided in my life, and I ask that You grant me opportunities to be a Barnabas for someone else.