September 2nd 2010

Good Ol’ Barnabas! (part 5)

The fifth of an occasional series

“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. … Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.”
Acts 11:22, 25 (NKJV)

Barnabas had a long memory, and could match names and faces with particular events. When He reached Antioch, he found a situation that he recognised. Here were converts made during their festival-trip to Jerusalem who had now travelled home to Antioch. They needed a particular kind of minister to help them, one who knew their particular strengths and weaknesses.

Barnabas, good old Barnabas, remembered Stephen and the circumstances surrounding his death. Stephen had been preaching in a particular synagogue in Jerusalem, one used by Freedmen (Acts 6:9), who were Jews and proselytes who were also Roman citizens—hardly welcomed in the traditional synagogues at Jerusalem. One of those who had worshipped here was a freed-man by birth, by the name of Saul; better known to us of course as Paul, the future apostle.

He was one of those incensed enough by what he heard said, materially to assist with the stoning of Stephen, the church’s first martyr (Acts 8). Now converted, Paul was the ideal minister for these people because he had been one of them! Who better to help them develop in their new walk with their Saviour? To be able to take them along by “meeting them where they were” and moving them on over time to where they needed to be?

But how humble of Barnabas, who could have claimed that he alone was the one who had been given by the apostles the office and responsibility to minister to these people. He was humble enough to recognise that he was not the best person to fulfil their needs.

Barnabas worked with Paul. Together they preached for a whole year, teaching a great many people (Acts 11:26). Barnabas was humble enough to know that, allied with Paul; a great work could be done here—better than he could have done on his own.

Christianity needs Barnabases as much as it needs figures like Paul. Men and women humble enough to recognise the strengths of others and be willing to allow those strengths to be used for the good of their congregations and mission. People who can learn to work with and not resent or scheme against, someone else.

Most merciful Father, thank you for Barnabas. A man humble enough to be able to recognise the ability and gifts in another, for the better service of your people. Such men and women have a wideness of heart, a broadness of vision and a deepness of soul. Help us to be in measure like Barnabas, Father. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by John Stettaford

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