The Story of Saint Barnabas
As I study the Bible, I was drawn into the life of a silent hero of faith in the name of Barnabas. I was touched by how he took care and introduced Apostle Paul to the rest of the disciples who thought that Paul was just an infiltrator pretending to be Christ’s follower. It is interesting to note that prior to Paul’s conversion, he was one of the fiercest enemies of the faith, having witnessed and consented to the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7.
But the Lord had a plan for Paul. He was to be the apostle to the gentiles. Acts chapter 8 relates how the Lord Jesus Christ personally appeared to him and called him to become an apostle while he was on his way to Damascus in an effort to persecute the believers. After that encounter, Paul was never the same man again. He was a changed man whose goal is to proclaim the Gospel of His Lord that he once persecuted. Gaining the acceptance of the apostles was not an easy task and it was understandable. Paul was their former enemy and the apostles didn’t want to accept him. But Barnabas whose name literally means ‘son of consolation’ encouraged Paul. He defended him before the distrusting apostles and took Paul with him to be his companion in the ministry.
Together, they were to turn the cities of Antioch, Lystra and many other gentile towns upside down for Christ. Let us take a deeper look at the life of this man named Barnabas and discover his character that has made him to be one of the most revered saints in all of the Scriptures.
Saint Barnabas and Apostle Paul in Lystra
A Man of Encouragement
A son of Levite parents, Barnabas has every right to serve the Lord on a special capacity. It was the Levites who were given responsibility by God beginning in the Old Testament to be the workers in the temple. Barnabas lived up to his name. He was a man of encouragement. He did not hesitate to believe Paul’s testimony and defend his calling as an apostle. He was willing to intercede as Paul’s surety and sponsor and secured Paul’s admission to the fellowship of the apostles. When some of the believers shared the Gospel to the Greeks at Antioch, the apostles sent him from Jerusalem to Antioch to provide the New Greek believers direction and encouragement.
A Man of Great Compassion
When I first learned of him in Acts 4, Barnabas sold a field and donated all its proceeds for the benefit of the poor members of the church. He was aptly described by the early believers as a man ‘full of the Holy Spirit and a good man, a man of faith.’ He gained his leadership and influence not by eloquence but by showing compassion for the believers and for the lost. Thus he was known to be the “brother whose praise is known through all the churches”.
A Man of impeccable humility
During their fist missionary journey together, the Book Acts introduced the two as “Barnabas and Paul” but later on, when Paul gained the recognition of the Gentiles, the introduction of Acts for the duo is no longer “Barnabas and Paul” but “Paul and Barnabas”. But this doesn’t matter to Barnabas. He was willing to be Paul’s assistant for the best interest of the Gospel of Christ. He realized that Paul was more eloquent and more effective than himself and he was willing to give way. The primacy that was once ascribed to Barnabas was given to Paul. In Lystra, the people started to call Paul as Mercurius for his fervid oratorical skills while Barnabas was called Jupiter for his reserved strength and quiet dignity. Barnabas’ attitude is the same with that of John the Baptist who said to his own disciples referring to Christ “I must decrease and He must increase’.
The life of Barnabas, this silent hero of faith has made a deep impression in my soul. A man of great compassion and impeccable humility!