36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts 4:36,37

In the Book of Acts, we meet a man by the name of Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus. The Bible records that the Apostles gave him the name Barnabas, which means “the son of encouragement[1]“. This name was probably given to him because of his willingness to serve others. Acts 11:24 declares that ”
he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith[2] “.

Believes In Real Change

The Book of Acts introduces Saul as a persecutor of believers[2][3][4]. In chapter 9 he obtained letters from the high priest in Jerusalem to the officials in Damascus synagogues. These letters authorized him to find new believers and bring them to Jerusalem. Luke records that on the road to Damascus, Paul encountered the Lord Jesus and was converted[5]. While in Damascus, Paul preached the gospel instead of fulfilling the assignment with which he initially went[6]. When the Jews discovered this, they began plotting to kill to him. But he was able to escape and found his way to Jerusalem[7].

When Paul got to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. Unfortunately, “they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple[8]“. Luke records that “Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus”[9]. It was because of Barnabas backing Paul up that the Christians in Jerusalem were able to accept Paul. He believed that Paul had actually changed and was willing to put his name on the line for it.

Believes In Second Chances

Paul was not the only one that Barnabas believed in. In chapter 13, Barnabas and Paul are released for missions John Mark went with them as their assistant[10]. In verse 13 we learn that John Mark left them and did not complete the journey with them[11]. We are not told why John Mark went back to Jerusalem, all that we know is that he left. Barnabas and Paul continued on with their mission trip.

In chapter 15 Paul makes plans to go back on the mission field with Barnabas. Barnabas decides to take John Mark with them, but Paul refuses citing John Mark’s previous desertion of them. This created a rift between the two men and they parted ways. Barnabas took with him John Mark, while Paul took with him Silas. The story of John Mark doesn’t end with him sailing off with his cousin Barnabas. Barnabas lived up to his name and spent time discipling John Mark. Years later, he finds himself working with Paul. Paul, when writing to Philemon, calls him a “fellow worker”[12].

Unlikely Companions

The journey that Barnabas and John Mark undertook proved to be fruitful. Years after they had parted with Paul, he specifically asked for John Mark to join as his assistant[13]. Both these men walked with the son of encouragement. Paul had a negative reputation with the Christians because of his his persecution of the church. John Mark had a negative wrap with Paul because he deserted them in the middle of a mission trip. John, who was called by the disciples as Barnabas, stood up for both these men. He believed that Paul had truly been converted when others were not so easily convinced. He also believed in the Character of his cousin when Paul did not see anything good coming out of him.

John Mark recorded the Gospel according to Mark, and became an assistant to both Peter and Paul. According to Coptic tradition, John Mark is the founder of the Coptic Church in Egypt. The Gospel according to Mark is the earliest account of the life Jesus. John Mark could have been told the events recorded in this Gospel to him by Peter. It is widely accepted that Mark’s Gospel was also a source for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Paul is attributed with writing 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament. Half of the Book of Acts deals with his life and he became an influential leader within the early church. And even though they set off on a wrong turn, they ended up as companions.

Be A Son of Encouragement

Just as Barnabas, Christians called to be encouragers to those around us. This is especially true for those who are weak or are struggling in the faith. The Bible says that “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose”[14]. The son of encouragement is an example of how a Christian’s life should be. Not only was he quick to encourage others, but with the same zeal, he was quick to serve others and sacrificially offer to the Lord.


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20 Responses

  1. Witness says:

    This is greatly expounded. You need many Barnabas in out live. I believe Barnabas had a gift of exhortation ( encouragement or strengthing). Keep on writing expecting a book soon.

    • Ayanda says:

      Lol I’m not sure about the. Indeed. We need people who are given to exhortation and encouragement of others.

  2. Nero says:

    Thanks for the post. This is all new material to my eyes.

  3. I’m not one for bible study but this is an interesting story.

  4. Bible has been close to my heart since my early school days but have never got down to reading. Nice informative post.

  5. Snehal says:

    Such a beautiful story! Would love to read more such stories from the bible. 😊

  6. I’ve never been religious but this seems to be applicable to normal life.

  7. jerry godinho says:

    thanks for making the Bible a living testament to our daily lives and tell us this exciting story
    jerry godinho

  8. Lyosha says:

    It is very interesting even for non Christian person like I am. It is so surprising you can learn everywhere
    Lyosha recently posted…MBFWRussia, day 3My Profile

  9. I have the bible but to tell you the truth I don’t always read it. Your post is so detailed that I will start reading the bible again.

  10. Regardless of one’s religious affiliation, we can all lead an impactful life by encouraging other’s to be their best selves.

  11. Lene says:

    Supporting and encouraging others is such an important way of lighting the way for those who are having a rough time. Thanks for this analysis.

  12. Despite Pain says:

    It’s always good to encourage other people from all walks of life.

  13. Kippi says:

    Thank you for sharing this encouragement with me. God knew we would need encouragement too.
    Happy Spring,

  14. What a great encouragement! Thank you for the insight

  15. Rachael says:

    Your knowledge of the Bible stories presented here is very impressive

  16. Swagata says:

    I love the name ‘son of encouragement’. I read bible in School, as I studied in a Catholic School. I used to like to re-read parts of it, the stories were so interesting.

  17. Nina N says:

    If only we can emulate the example from the Bible, the world would probably be a better place. The story of Joseph is one of my favorites.

  18. Everyone needs an encourager in her or her life. We should lift others up, not drag them down. Thank you for the reminder.

  19. Love this! A lot of times we are so worried about ourselves that we forget to be encouraging and recognize the need of others

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