First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, August 22, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Barnabas the Encourager!”
Acts 4:36-37; 11:22-26
In our Scripture lessons this morning, we are introduced to a great man named Joseph. Joseph is better known by the name “Barnabas” which was given to him by the apostles in Acts 4:36. The name “Barnabas,” means “son of encouragement” or “son of exhortation.” We are told in Acts 4 that Joseph or Barnabas was a Levite from Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, about 80 miles off the coast of Israel. Barnabas was so encouraging to others that the apostles gave him a new name to fit that.
The name “Barnabas” is very special because the word for “encouragement”, “exhortation”, or consolation” comes from the same root that is translated “Comforter”, which refers to the Holy Spirit several times in the gospel of John. It refers to one who comes alongside of another to offer help, support, and encouragement. Apparently, Barnabas had earned the reputation among the Church in Jerusalem, as one who was a helper and encourager of others.
This morning, I would like to take some time to examine the life of Barnabas and see why he earned the name, “the son of encouragement.” As we do so, I want us to examine ourselves and see whether or not we too might be classified as encouragers. Two things to consider today:
First: Every Christian Needs Encouragement
Every Christian has a desperate need for active encouragement from other Christians. Barnabas was the man behind the scenes who encouraged great people to be all they could be. Let me give you two examples really quick.
The first man Barnabas greatly encouraged was the apostle Paul. When Paul was first converted, Christians were afraid of him. He had been a brutal enemy of the Christian faith. He had arrested many and had even aided in their deaths. Christians in Jerusalem were fearful when he showed up after meeting Christ. Acts 9:26 says, “When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.” This was a very strange situation for Paul. He wanted to be their friend, but they were suspicious. The next verse provided the solution. Acts 9:27 says, “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the Apostles.” Barnabas took Paul right to the apostles and made it clear that Paul was truly converted and was a great messenger of the gospel.
Barnabas went on to play a major role in Paul’s life. In Acts 11, the church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch where many were coming to Christ. He led a great ministry in Antioch. He could have had all the glory of this great work, but Acts 11:25 says that he went to Tarsus to look for Paul. He brought him back to Antioch, and for a year they taught the faith to great numbers of people. Barnabas was the great encourager of Paul. Paul was back in his hometown of Tarsus when Barnabas came to him. Who knows what was going on in Paul’s mind at that time? Was he fading out of the picture? Was he going to settle down in his hometown and become a professor? We don’t know what his plans were. All we know is that Barnabas went and got him and took him into active ministry that changed his life and the rest of history. Barnabas never wrote one word of the New Testament, but he was the encourager of the man who wrote nearly half of the New Testament. I truly believe that Paul was Paul because of Barnabas.
Let me give you another example. At the end of their year together in Antioch, Barnabas and Paul “returned to Jerusalem, taking with them John, who was also called Mark.” The young Mark later joined Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. Luke describes him as their “helper.” This was no trip for the fainthearted. Barnabas and Paul trekked 1400 miles planting churches across Asia Minor. They experienced opposition and persecution all along the way. In Lystra, for example, Paul was stoned, dragged out of the city, supposing he was dead.
Early in this grueling journey, Mark dropped out and returned to Jerusalem. We don’t know why but we do know that Mark the “helper” wasn’t very helpful. In Paul’s eyes, Mark was a quitter. He was unreliable, and so he threw him under the bus. When Paul proposed to Barnabas a second missionary journey, they argued about what to do with Mark. Paul refused to take him because “he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.”
But Barnabas, on the other hand, insisted on taking Mark with them. Paul and Barnabas “had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, while Paul chose Silas and left.” Once again, Barnabas the encourager had lived up to his name. Later on, Paul admits that Barnabas was right, and he had been wrong. In Philemon 1:24, Paul refers to Mark as his “fellow prisoner,” which means that Mark had later rejoined Paul’s team.
Second: The Barnabas Challenge
We are living in times when people desperately need encouragement. As followers of Christ, we are challenged to always encourage each other. It is our Christian duty to encourage each other. Encouragement means to come alongside to help, to make strong, to cheer on, to urge forward toward our Christian goal.
I think every one of us can be an encourager like Barnabas. Today I am proposing to this church family what I called “The Barnabas Challenge!” You have to intentionally encourage people in a significant way and don’t let a week go by without being an encouragement to someone; write a note, send a card, make a phone call, give a gift, buy a meal, perform an act of kindness, give a second chance, forgive a debt, reach out to a hurting person.
Friends, Barnabas made people feel big when they were feeling small, and he made them feel hopeful when they had failed. He kept people going who otherwise might have given up. To be an encourager is a great ministry in God’s eyes. I Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore, encourage one another and build up one another, just as you are doing.” Many of us would have quit long ago if someone hadn’t encouraged us to keep on going. One good word can go a long way. Be Barnabas to someone. May God help us all to be more like this encourager. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
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