Barnabas, a Friend

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15

The Gospel message began to spread out of Jerusalem after Stephen’s death. This event let to the church being persecuted. One of the great persecutors of the church, Saul, met Jesus and was saved on the road to Damascus. There was a drastic change in Saul when he met Jesus – for even his name was later changed to Paul. However, it took time for the Believers in the church to recognize and understand this fact.

God gave a couple of men that helped during that time. One was Ananias, whom God sent to speak with Saul first. This was important. Remember that Ananias had a message from God that Saul was chosen by God to “bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Keep in mind that Saul had been one of the religious leaders, a Pharisee, having been trained and taught in the Old Testament Scriptures. Saul later declared before the council, “… Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee …” (Acts 23:6). He was a Pharisee, taught in the ways of the Pharisees in the “Jews’ religion.” Although he knew the Old Testament Scriptures, he needed to understand them anew after having believed Jesus was a fulfillment of those Scriptures. It would take time and much study to prepare for the task Jesus had for Paul’s life – to be the Apostle sent to the Gentile people. As we can read in Galatians, when he left Damascus, there was a three-year period that Saul was taught by Jesus, enabling him to preach the Gospel (see Galatians 1:10-19). Those three years were very important. He had to know and understand the Gospel message before he would be able to share it with others.

After those three years of learning from Jesus, Saul returned to Jerusalem. “And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26). Saul was an unusual case – for he had been a viable threat to Believers, also called disciples of Jesus. Remember: he had been on a mission to arrest and kill them. Because of this, most Believers were afraid of Saul. Understand that they did not believe that he had become a disciple. “But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:27). Nevertheless, see that God gave Saul an ally, a friend, in Barnabas. Do you remember Barnabas? He was one of the many Believers who sold their possessions, lands and houses and brought the money to the apostles (see Acts 4:36-37). The early Believers helped one another. This is yet another opportunity that Jesus was able to use Barnabas: he was a vocal friend of Saul’s.

Although the new Believers were going out from Jerusalem into the surrounding areas, they still only told Jewish people about Jesus. There was a report that was sent back from Antioch to Jerusalem declaring many believed and turned to the Lord. When the report was received, they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch. Recognize how Barnabas is described here: “23. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. 24. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord” (Acts 11:23-24). He faithfully taught the people, and many more believed in Jesus.

Read what happened next: “25. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: 26. And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:25-26). Barnabas went and found Saul. They worked together, teaching the people about Jesus. It was at this time in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.

Shortly thereafter, we understand that God had a special job for Barnabas and Saul. “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2). And the people sent them – just as God wanted. When Saul begins his ministry to the Gentiles, he is no longer known as Saul, but Paul. “Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost …” (Acts 13:9). This began the First Missionary Journey of Paul and Barnabas.

It is very important for each person who becomes a Christian, to learn the truths found in God’s Word – so they will be able to share those truths with others (“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” 2 Timothy 2:15). This takes time, and much reading of the Bible. A good Christian friend helps tremendously! Just as Barnabas helped Saul (Paul).

Are you one who has shown yourself approved unto God, a workman, and even a friend, who will share the Gospel of Jesus?

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