15:37 Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark.
Paul and Barnabas, who were representatives from the main church in Jerusalem,
had decided to go check on and encourage all the churches that had been
established. As we read the verse above we see that Barnabas (nicknamed Son of Encouragement) decided that he wanted to take along John Mark, his cousin to which Paul would object.
Let me give you some history about Barnabas. A noticeable trait of Barnabas, a prominent early church leader fondly nicknamed Son of Encouragement
(Acts 4:37), is that he seeks out and assists others. The Biblical text highlights
this twice with Saul/Paul (9:26-28; 11:25-26), once concerning the vibrant
church in Antioch, Syria (11:19-30) and once in connection with his younger
kinsman, John Mark (15:36-41). Often these other individuals and groups are
believers in Jesus who, for whatever reason, run a bit against the grain of
mainstream thought and action. Instead of ostracizing them, Barnabas not only
deliberately encounters them, but also listens to them and welcomes them
First, Barnabas befriends Saul. Acts introduces Saul as a persecutor of believers in
what was then known as the Way (Acts 7:58; 8:1-3; 9:2). Saul then gets
transformed on road to Damascus. Saul’s sudden change of character and bold
preaching lead the Jews to conspire to kill him. Saul travels to Jerusalem after
being lowered from the walls of Damascus in a basket to escape the city by night
(Acts 9:21-26). The disciples in Jerusalem fearfully avoid him, not believing he
really is a believer (Acts 9:26). Luke writes: “But Barnabas took him, brought
him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the
Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the
name of Jesus” (Acts 9:27).
Sometime later, the Jerusalem Council sends Barnabas to Antioch, Syria, to investigate
something new: believing Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) worship Jesus together!
Believing Jews had been scattered as a result of persecution, with some settling
in their new exiled homes (Acts 11:19-30). These scattered believers evidently
talked to their neighbors, many of them Greeks, telling them news of the risen
Lord Jesus (Acts 11:20). Luke writes that “the hand of the Lord was with them,
and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21). Notice
how persecution actually caused growth in the
Luke portrays Barnabas’s mission as fact-finding rather than as hostile. When Barnabas arrives in Antioch, he displays the same characteristics he exhibited in earlier
stories: he acts openly, listens and makes ethical decisions. The text says that
when he “saw the grace of God, he rejoiced” (Acts 11:23). Typical of a man of
honorable character, Barnabas’s mind looks at the facts: these people – some of
them uncircumcised Gentiles! – Really are new converts! Barnabas sees that they,
like him and other Jewish converts, believed in this radical new faith; he sees
this as evidence of the work and grace of God. He tells the Antioch believers
“to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion” (Acts 11:23).
Barnabas pastors the church but its demands are too many for one. So he seeks out Saul –
yet again – and journeys to Tarsus to find him (Acts 11:25-26). Barnabas’s action shows his humility and discernment. The text indicates that Barnabas’s overriding concerns were the needs of the people and the furtherance of the gospel. Yet he must have realized that Saul’s skill in debate and Saul’s incredible mind might overshadow his own qualities. Luke, however, gives no indication of jealousy on Barnabas’s part, only an indication of his desire to promote the name of the Lord Jesus.
Barnabas offers the younger man a job: co-pastoring the dynamic Antioch believers. Saul
accepts. The young church grows even more under their joint leadership (Acts 11:26). It must have been a glorious and fruitful time for both congregation and teachers. Most likely, this time shaped much of Saul/Paul’s theology. When the Antioch church fasts and prays, the Holy Spirit tells the church to “set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). This becomes what scholars term Paul’s first missionary journey. We talked about this last week.
I’m taking the time to give you history so when we read next week’s devotion, you can
understand that Paul and Barnabas have a lot of history in ministry together. Even with that being said, conflict would soon arise that would separate their ministries but Father God still had a plan.
Prayer Points: Father help me to realize that conflicts will arise in our lives, even at times with our brothers and sisters in Christ but help me remember You always have a plan