Barnabas Son of encouragement - Part 1

SERMON TOPIC: Barnabas Son of encouragement - Part 1

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 30 July 2023

Topic Groups: ENCOURAGEMENT, BARNABAS, CHARACTER STUDY

Sermon synopsis: Though most today do not remember Albert McMakin – the impact of Billy Graham, who was invited by him to a meeting in 1934, is still felt today.

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BRINGING OTHERS TO JESUS

(1) ALBERT MCMAKIN

How many people today have heard of Albert McMakin?

Probably not too many.

McMakin was a 24-year-old farmer who was converted at one of evangelist Mordecai Ham’s meetings in 1934.

Thereafter, every night he filled up his beat-up old truck with people to go to Mordecai Ham’s meetings.

There was a good-looking farmer’s son whom he was especially keen to get to a meeting, but this young man was hard to persuade.

He was busy falling in and out of love with different girls and did not seem to be interested in Christianity.

Eventually, Albert McMakin managed to persuade him to come by asking him to drive his truck.

When they arrived at the meeting, Albert’s friend decided to go in and was ‘spellbound’. He went back again and again until one night he went forward and gave his life to Christ.

That young 16-year-old boy was Billy Graham, who became one of the most recognisable names in our world today and was a spiritual adviser to several US Presidents.

Since then, 3.2 million people have responded to the invitation at Billy Graham’s crusades to follow Jesus.

Graham grew one of the largest ministries ever, while avoiding the scandals of other famous televangelists.

BILLY GRAHAM

Though most today do not remember Albert McMakin – the impact of Billy Graham, who was invited by him to that meeting in 1934, is still felt today.

By 2008, Graham’s estimated lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, topped 2.2 billion. (http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Billy_Graham)

We might not all be like Billy Graham, but we can all be like Albert McMakin - we can simply bring our friends to Jesus.

Andrew was much like that. He is not mentioned much in Scripture, but of the 3 times that he is mentioned in John’s gospel – each time he is simply bringing someone to Jesus.

Phillip too is twice mentioned in connection with bringing people to Jesus.

Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. He was one of the two who was with John when Jesus passed by, and John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

John 1:37-38 (NIV) When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

1) Andrew Brings Peter

John 1:39 (NIV) “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him…

John 1:40-41 (NIV) Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).

Andrew’s ministry might not have been as dramatic as his brother’s – but it was he who brought Peter to Jesus.

John 1:42 (NIV) And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

John 1:43-44 (NIV) The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.

PHILIP BRINGS NATHANAEL

John 1:45 (NIV) Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

John 1:46 (NIV) “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

John 1:47 (NIV) When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

John 1:48 (NIV) “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

The man who is skeptical of anyone who comes from Nazareth, changes his mind as soon as he meets Jesus – and becomes one of the Twelve.

But it was Philip who brought him to Jesus.

John 1:49 (NIV) Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

Andrew Brings THE LITTLE BOY

When Jesus fed the 5000, it was Andrew who brought the little boy with the loaves and fish.

John 6:5 (NIV) When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”

John 6:7 (NIV) Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

John 6:8-9 (NIV) Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

While it took Jesus to do the miracle, it was Andrew who brought the boy to Jesus and in a small part, contributed to the feeding of the multitude.

John 12: 20-21 (NIV) Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”

Andrew & Philip Bring THE GREEKS

John 12:22 (NIV) Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

The Greeks came to Philip but rather than simply bringing them to Jesus, he goes to Andrew, as though he was hesitant. This despite the fact that earlier he had no problem bringing Nathanael to Jesus.

Maybe Philip thought, “Can I bring Gentiles to Jesus?” But Andrew has no problem bringing them to Jesus. In part of his response, Jesus indicates that - when crucified - all men (including Gentiles) would be drawn to him.

John 12:32 (NIV) “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Bringing PEOPLE TO JESUS

You may be a very ordinary person, like Andrew, but you can still bring your friends and family to Jesus.

Andrew might be as famous as his brother Peter. We have no record of any sermon that he preached, and he didn’t write any books in the Bible.

But it was he who led Peter to Jesus. Peter preached many sermons, and he wrote two books in the Bible. None of this would have happened were it not for Andrew – who simply brought people to Christ.

Part 1

BARNABAS

There have been many extremely significant events, that may never have come about were it not for the actions of some seemingly obscure person.

We have a similar scenario to the examples just cited, with the famous apostle Paul - and the more obscure apostle Barnabas. In spite of his relative obscurity, the indirect impact of Barnabas turns out to be immense.

What Albert McMakin was to Billy Graham, and Andrew was to Peter – so was Barnabas to Paul.

Acts 4:34-36 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

We first read of Barnabas in the book of Acts with events surrounding the early first church in Jerusalem.

Acts 4:37 … Barnabas … sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

GENEROSITY

Barnabas is generous - he gives all the proceeds from the sale of his land to the church. He doesn’t do this in response to a specific need and there does not seem to be any appeal from the apostles for assistance, as we find in other cases. It is an unsolicited and spontaneous gift, given with no strings attached.

Barnabas had truly given all, without any hidden agenda, and seems to receive instant recognition in the church.

Contrast this with Ananias and Sapphira who immediately afterwards give money from the proceeds of a property sale, but they connive and deceitfully pretend to have given all, when they have only given a portion.

Our motivation for giving should never be the desire for honour or recognition by men.

Matt 5:1-3 (NIV) “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

It was their prerogative to give only a portion (Acts 5:4), but the timing seems to indicate that they were wanting to get similar recognition to that which Barnabas had received.

Matt 5:2-4 (NIV) “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

SON OF ENCOURAGEMENT

Barnabas was not only generous; he had a ministry of encouragement – hence the nickname given to him by the apostles, meaning “Son of Encouragement”.

Acts 4:36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement)…

ENCOURAGEMENT

In the NT Greek, the word ‘encouragement’ (paraklesis) is closely related to the word used for the Holy Spirit (parakletos). Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the ‘parakletos’ which means the counsellor, comforter, helper or advocate. One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to encourage us and give us hope in times of trouble.

Rom 15:13 … so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

ENCOURAGEMENT

We serve a God of comfort and encouragement, who expects us to do the same to others:

2 Cor 1:3-5 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

Let’s look at the book of Acts and further see how Barnabas is instrumental in encouraging the apostle Paul in his earlier years and in assisting in the development of his ministry.

Saul of Tarsus (later called Paul) had gone to Damascus with the intention of arresting Christians there.

On the road there, he encounters Jesus and is converted.

But after preaching in Damascus, this converted former persecutor of Christians made some enemies there.

Acts 9:23-24 (NIV) After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him.

Acts 9:25 (NIV) But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

Acts 9:26 (NIV) When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.

Undoubtedly most of Paul’s former Pharisee friends would have shunned him by now, but even the believers are avoiding him, not convinced that he was a true convert.

Acts 9:27 (NIV) 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.

Enter Barnabas, the “Son of Encouragement”.

Acts 9:28 (NIV) So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.

ENCOURAGEMENT

Barnabas encourages Paul when he needs it most.

After Paul’s conversion, he was experiencing difficulty when trying to join the disciples in Jerusalem. This is not surprising as many suspected him of being a spy. He had approved and was present at the execution of the first martyr Stephen, and had left Jerusalem as a persecutor of Christians, with the intention of persecuting believers living in Damascus. Many Christians may have had friends or relatives who had suffered at the hands of Paul.

MEDIATOR

Barnabas acts as an impartial mediator between Paul and the Jerusalem church.

Not only does he consider Paul to be a genuine convert, he states Paul’s case to the apostles. Barnabas was held in high regard by the Jerusalem church, so his endorsement of the man was the major factor in Paul being accepted by both the apostles and the church. Barnabas has taken the time to hear Paul out and doesn’t just criticize at a distance.

Rather than simply ostracizing them like many do, Barnabas seems to deliberately encounter them, hear them out and then befriend them if he is satisfied with what he sees.

There are sometimes people or groups who may, for whatever reason, run against the grain of mainstream Christian thought.

RISK TAKER

Barnabas displays courage, as he risks his life when he reaches out to Paul.

What if Paul really was a spy as others suspected? It was a risk Barnabas was prepared to take. But Barnabas had observed Paul, tested what he’d heard and seen, and made a judgement based on the fruit he’d observed in Paul’s life and words.

RISKING REPUTATION

Barnabas also risks his reputation.

He is held in high regard in the Jerusalem church and with the apostles. What if they shunned him because he was not only hanging around with, but was actively promoting a dubious character?

The church in Antioch in Syria was planted by ‘refugee’ believers fleeing the persecution in Jerusalem which had been triggered by Stephen’s death (Acts 11:19)

Acts 11:22 (NIV) News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.

Barnabas was then sent by the Jerusalem church, probably both to investigate and to assist at Antioch.

IMPARTIALITY

Barnabas sees what is happening among the Gentile believers in Antioch and affirms the authenticity of their conversion.

Acts 11:23 (NIV) When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God…

We have already seen his impartiality in the way he handles Paul earlier. Luke says of Barnabas, “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith” (Acts 11:24). And typical of a man of good character, Barnabas impartially looks at the facts: these people in Antioch – many of them uncircumcised Gentiles – are really true converts. He takes this as evidence of the grace of God.

Acts 11:23 (NIV) … he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.

The first thing the “Son of Encouragement” does is to start encouraging these new Gentile believers.

But the demands of this fast-growing church are too much for one person, so he decides to recruit Paul to assist him:

Acts 11:25 (NIV) Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch.

Barnabas not only continually encourages Paul; he sees potential in him and gives him an opportunity to perform ministry.

Barnabas shares his ‘pulpit’ with the younger man and the resultant outcome is positive. The church in Antioch grows more rapidly.

Acts 11:26 (NIV) … So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people ...

Needless to say, this opportunity provided invaluable experience for Paul.

DELEGATE

Barnabas knew how to get other people involved. One of the characteristics of a good leader is the ability to delegate.

Don’t do the work of ten men. Rather put ten men to work.

At no time does Barnabas appear to be envious of the success of the others he had initially involved. He focuses rather on using the gift that God had given him – that of encouraging and mentoring others.

Rom 12:6-8 (NIV) We have different gifts, according to the grace given us… if it is encouraging, let him encourage…

He was fully aware of Paul’s powerful ministry as it was he himself who made the apostles aware of this.

Acts 9:27 (NIV) But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul … in Damascus … had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

Barnabas’ action in recognizing his own limitations, shows his humility. His main concern is the needs of God’s people.

He must have realised that Paul might overshadow his own qualities. But there is no indication of jealousy on Barnabas’s part. His main concern is the furtherance of the gospel, and not protecting his own ministry platform.

He was aware of Paul’s knowledge and oratory skills when he had debated boldly with Grecian Jews in Jerusalem (Acts 9:28-29).

Acts 11:27-28 (NIV) During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world…

Acts 11:29-30 (NIV) The disciples… decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

When the Judean church is battling because of the famine, Barnabas and Paul alleviate their suffering and encourage them by taking a practical gift from the Antioch church.

At this stage Barnabas is always mentioned first when speaking of him and Paul (Acts 11:30; 12:25; 13:2,7). When the leaders at Antioch are first mentioned, Barnabas is listed first and Saul (aka Paul) last.

Acts 13:1 (NIV) In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen … and Saul.

Acts 13:2 (NIV) While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

When the church at Antioch send the first mission group (Barnabas, Paul and John Mark) out, it is clearly Barnabas who initially leads the party.

BARNABAS THE LEADER

They go at first to Cyprus, which is the home country of Barnabas and are summoned to the proconsul:

Act 13:7 (NIV) … Sergius Paulus… an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God.

Acts 13:8-12 (NIV) But Elymas … opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then … Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas…

But at this point Paul takes the lead as the spokesperson who opposes Elymas the sorcerer.

Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.

When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.

Subsequently Paul is almost always mentioned first when referring to him and Barnabas (Acts13:42, 43, 46, 50; 14:1, 3, 14, 19, 20, 23; 15:2, 22, 25, 35).

* The exceptions are (15:12 & 15:25) when the two apostles go to Jerusalem, where Barnabas is initially still mentioned first. But afterwards this again changes back to “Paul and Barnabas” (15:22).

From now on Paul seems to be accepted as the leader, with the group being termed “Paul and his companions” (13:13). *

At Lystra, Paul is referred to as “the chief speaker”.

Acts 14:12 (NIV) Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker.

And when the apostles protest at being revered as pagan gods, it is Paul they decide to stone (14:19).

THE MOST INFLUENTIAL APOSTLE

Paul is undoubtedly the most influential of the apostles. He became the apostle to the Gentiles and besides preaching in Asia Minor, took the gospel to Europe (preaching in Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Malta and possibly Spain).

Approximately half of the book of Acts deals with the life and ministry of Paul. His profound Epistles that constitute half of the NT (14 of the 27 books in the NT have traditionally been attributed to him) still impact the world today.

ENCOURAGEMENT

But it was Barnabas who initially encouraged Paul, when no-one else would accept him, and Barnabas who offered him his first ministry position in Antioch which ultimately led to his mission trips to Asia Minor and Europe.

It was the support and encouragement of Barnabas that was instrumental in establishing Paul in his ministry.

Barnabas is one of the best examples of supporting ministry. He didn’t need to be in the spotlight - he was content to work behind the scenes.

SUPPORT MINISTRY

We don’t have a single recorded word of Barnabas. He was satisfied to work in the shadow of Paul and to allow him to be the spokesperson.

Yet his impact was immense through his influence and encouragement of both Paul and John Mark in their early ministry years.




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