The life of Barnabas
As a basketball fan, I have always admired point guards (the players who have the ball in their hands most often) who are more concerned about their teammates scoring and less concerned about themselves scoring. They do this because they care about the team’s success more than their personal success. I admire them because selfishly I care more about my success than my teammates. When reading through the book of Acts I realized that the character of Barnabas reflected that of a selfless point guard. In this Bible study we will look at the life of Barnabas and how we all should aim to be more like him.
- A selfless son of encouragement
- A people lover and disciple maker
- Willingness to take a back seat
A selfless son of encouragement
Barnabas is introduced to us in Acts 4:36 where he sells some land he owns and gives it all to the ministry of the Apostles. This shows his willingness to give everything he has for the sake of the gospel. Barnabas’ real name is Joseph but he was nicknamed Barnabas because it means “the son of encouragement.” We can only imagine how much Barnabas exemplified this description, but it does make me think of one of my pastors that I play basketball with. Whenever he is scored on he will immediately throw up his hands let out a loud, “WOW, great shot!” While most people get upset when scored on, my pastor encourages. I like to imagine that Barnabas was a lot like this.
A people lover and disciple maker
Barnabas was also a disciple maker that genuinely seemed to love people and see the best in them. In two separate occasions, we see this being demonstrated. First, in Acts 9:27 we see Barnabas bringing Paul to the rest of the Apostles in Jerusalem. But this was not as if good old Barnabas was picking up his friend Paul at the airport and taking him to the rest of the gang. Paul had just become a Christian. Before that, he was imprisoning and killing Christians. The Apostles were scared of Paul, and for good reason. Barnabas was the one to see God’s hand on Paul. This not only was loving but courageous to trust a man who had killed his close friends.
We also see in Acts 15:36-39 that Barnabas saw the good in a young man named John Mark. Mark had previously left Barnabas and Paul in Acts 13:13 probably because he was scared of persecution. Paul did not take kindly to this in Acts 15 when Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them on the next missionary journey. But again we see Barnabas’ love for people by seeing God’s hand still at work in this young man. It takes a certain selfless wherewithal to be able to see past people’s faults and take them under your wing and disciple them. Barnabas was simply showing us how Jesus himself made disciples. We would be wise to take note and follow in His footsteps.
Willingness to take a back seat
The last thing that stood out to me about Barnabas was his willingness not to be the center of attention if that meant more people heard the gospel. Remember it was Barnabas who took Paul under his wing. It was Barnabas who saw the good in Mark. Yet Paul is the poster child of the New Testament and Mark was the writer of the first Gospel while Barnabas is almost an afterthought in most Christian Bible studies.
I believe Barnabas would have been okay being an afterthought. While he was a follower of Christ before Paul, Barnabas saw God’s hand working in Paul in a special way. For the sake of the gospel, I believe Barnabas stepped to the side to allow God to work greatly through Paul. In the same way, a team doesn’t score without a point guard so the world will not be reached without selfless men like Barnabas. Barnabas represents men and women who desire to be used of God and have a wherewithal about them to see the younger generation being used by God. Instead of stifling them, they help them. Instead of desiring their own glory they see God’s glory as far more important.
While Barnabas was not perfect (Galatians 2:13) he is a great example of a selfless lover of the lost. An encourager who loved the ones most people don’t give the time of day. A disciple-maker who was willing to take a back seat and let those he had taught outshine himself for the sake of God’s glory. This is by no means an easy character to model one’s life after. But Barnabas was a wonderful picture of Jesus and how we ought to deal with people. Today, let’s begin to be more like Jesus by being more like Barnabas. As Paul says, “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1).