Sunday, February 19, 2017

Block 52 Barnabas

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"And you will be my witnesses from one end of the earth to the other.” Acts 1:8
Born a Levite Jew in Cyprus, Joses (Joseph) came to Jerusalem to live with family and continue his religious studies with the rabbi, Gamaliel.  This is most likely where he first came into contact with the Jesus and the apostles and converted to Christianity.  Barnabas sold his farm and gave all of the proceeds to the apostles to aid them in their ministry.  He provided help and encouragement to the apostles.  In fact, they called him Barnabas which means “son of encouragement.”  Barnabas traveled to Galilee with Jesus, where Jesus named him as one of the 70 apostles.  He successfully converted his several of his kinsmen, and attempted to convert Saul, a fellow student of Gamaliel.  But Saul chose instead to persecute the Jews.  When Saul returned to Jerusalem after his conversion, the other apostles were distrustful and wary.  It is not surprising that Barnabas believed that Saul had truly converted and was willing to vouch for him and his sincerity. 
The Jerusalem Council sent Barnabas to Antioch to investigate reports that believing Jews and Gentiles were worshiping together.  This practice would have been unheard of at the time.  Jews would NEVER associate with uncircumcised Gentiles.  Barnabas traveled to Antioch and saw with his own eyes that the Gentiles, like himself and other Jews, believed in Jesus Christ.  Barnabas pastored the church in Antioch and told the Christians to “remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion” Acts 11:23. Soon, his responsibilities with the church became too much for one man, so he sought out Saul to assist him.  As co-pastors, the church in Antioch grew even more.  At this point, Saul realized that he had a greater mission to grow the Church, so he and Barnabas left on a missionary journey.  Along the way, Saul changed his name to Paul, and became the leader of the duo.  Barnabas was happy to assist Paul (remember his nickname, the encourager).  Their ministry included bold preaching and miraculous signs.  The established churches and assigned elders to lead the churches.  They split ways later, when Paul wanted to go back and re-visit some of the earlier churches they had established.  Barnabas, however, wanted to give another apostle, John Mark, another chance (this is a whole story in itself).  They disagreed, so each went different directions.  Barnabas and John Mark continued their ministry, first in Cypress, then in Syria, where Barnabas was drug out of a temple and stoned to death. 
In his writings, Luke praised the Barnabas’ work in Antioch, noting that this was the first time the disciples were called Christians.  Barnabas was good, faithful, generous, self-sacrificing, open-minded and full of the Holy Spirit — exactly what the church needed at the time, and still needs today.


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