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Barnabas’ Ministry in the Early Church
Barnabas is first referenced in Acts 4:36-37. Luke interpreted the name Barnabas as meaning “son of consolation,” or “son of exhortation” (Acts 11:23). The Scriptures do not state how he became a Christian. Notwithstanding, it does mention that he was a Levite (Acts 4:36). This meant that he may have taken part in the service of the Temple and may have heard the Lord or the apostles preaching there. He is also listed as one of the Seventy sent forth by Jesus (Luke 10:1; Acts 9:27).
Barnabas performed a generous deed when he sold his land and laid the proceeds at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:36-37). He may have held this land by marriage, as Levites did not own lands and lived on the tithe of Israel. Afterwards, he seemed to work for his livelihood, as Paul also did (1 Corinthians 9:6). It is possible that he was chosen as an example of liberality to the early Christian church. The nature and spirit of his giving was that of the Christian church at Pentecost (Acts 2:44, 4:32).
The Lord called him to go with Paul on a missionary journey. His cousin, John Mark, served as his and Paul’s assistant (Acts 13:5). However, John Mark left and no longer continued with them (Acts 13:13). But Barnabas continued with Paul and reached out to the Gentiles (Acts 13:42-52). There was an incident where Paul rebuked certain Jews including Barnabas who were influenced by Peter to shun some Gentiles at a dinner (Galatians 2:13).
This faithful man was also noted to share that circumcision was no longer necessary for God’s people (Acts 15:1-2). He performed miracles with Paul as they spread the gospel to the Gentiles (verse 12). Both Paul and Barnabas did missionary work that put their very lives at risk (verse 26).
After that first trip, Paul and Barnabas planned their next journey. This faithful servant desired to take his cousin, however, Paul refused. A disagreement took place between them that caused them to separate (Acts 15:36-41). Barnabas took John Mark and instructed him as they went on their missionary journey to Cyprus (verse 39). This discipleship was so successful that, years later, Paul asked for John Mark to work with him in his ministry (2 Timothy 4:11).
The False Epistle of Barnabas
There exists an epistle with the name of Barnabas, which the 3rd-century Christian writers Clement of Alexandria and Origen believed was written by this apostle. However, the contents of this epistle reveal it to be a false epistle. This is due to the anti-Judaistic and allegorical interpretations of Old Testament narratives. For this reason, it is assumed that is was written by an unknown person in about the middle of the 2nd century A.D. There is no Scripture to support that Barnabas was a writer or gave any written instruction to the early church.
Barnabas was a man who desired to follow God after hearing the good news of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. There are several lessons in the ministry of Barnabas that God’s people today can learn from. One is that although he did many wonderful deeds for Christ, such as give generously, he also was human and made mistakes such as when he followed Peter’s poor example.
Although, he made a mistake, he learned from it and later stayed true to his convictions. The fact that he disagreed with Paul and separated from him may have seemed like the end of his ministry, however, it allowed for the gospel to go further as two separate teams went out to spread the gospel. The story of this man shows that God uses people in many ways and that the end of one opportunity may be the beginning of another.
In His service,