How God Uses Willing Believers

BARNABAS, SON OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Barnabas was an exceptional character. He was a Levite from Cyprus whose name was Joseph until he was called Barnabas by the Apostles. Barnabas means Son of Encouragement or Son of Prophecy. This means he had a servant heart to encourage others in an exceptional way. But it means more than that. There is no record of prophecies given by him but he had exceptional supernatural wisdom and discernment through the Charismatic gifting of the Holy Spirit.
The early church remained community of Messianic Jews until persecution drove the believers out of Jerusalem and even then they preached only to Jews as they went.
Acts 11:19-21 (NKJV)
19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.
20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.
21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.

This was a radical revolution, even though it was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and commanded by Jesus.
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NKJV)
But it was revolutionary because it was a spontaneous initiative of so called lay Christians, apparently not directed or authorised by the Apostles in Jerusalem or anyone with executive authority in the church.
This should teach us a lesson which many have not been willing or able to receive.
God often directs His church through preachers in official leadership positions but the Holy Spirit also bypasses the official chain of command on occasions and leads Christians who appear to be virtual nobodies to take significant pioneering initiatives, sometimes initiatives of strategic importance. Without this kind of initiative, the mighty Chinese church of today would not exist.


The Apostolic leadership in Jerusalem was wise. They did not reject or criticise this movement because it did not come from them. But they needed to check up to see if it was a true work of God. They needed leaders with exceptional wisdom and discernment to do this job. They chose Barnabas for the work, a Levite with outstanding Christian character and spiritual discernment.
Acts 11:22-24 (NKJV)
22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.
23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.
24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.

It appears in this brief text that Barnabas was also a gifted preacher and leader with the ability to encourage and empower believers and also to evangelise.
Some preachers in this situation would grasp the opportunity to take over this wonderful church and set themselves up as apostolic leaders. If Barnabas had done this, we might have seen the Gentile church in Antioch converted into “Joseph Barnabas Ministries: Reaching the Nations for Christ.”
But Barnabas did a remarkable thing. He trusted the new church to keep going with the pioneer leaders who had planted it and he set off to find another man of God prepared for this ministry, Saul of Tarsus.

Barnabas was not only a kind, generous and encouraging man but he was also a man who did not put himself first in any way. He sacrificed wealth when he donated his property in Cyprus to the church in Jerusalem and he sacrificed his opportunity to be a superstar church leader when he left Antioch to find and empower another man of God,  Saul (later Paul) who was destined to outshine him.

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