A Good Man Encourages Others
Please read Acts 11:19-30 in your Bible. I used the NLT to prepare these remarks.
In a sermon on Barnabas, Pastor Glenn Pease told the story of Victor Sirebianca to illustrate the power of words. One of Victor’s teachers said to him, "You are a dummy. You will never graduate. You will always be a dummy. Go get a vocation and stop wasting your time and everybody else's." On that bad advice he spent 16 years bumming around, working at different jobs.
Finally, a friend said, "You should go and get tested to see just what your potential is." With this encouragement Victor got tested and found that he had an IQ of 160. He was a genius and decided to act like a genius. He invented things and got patents on them. Then he wrote a best seller book. He became the International Chairman of the Mensa Society. You must have an IQ of 140 to be a member of that group!
Somebody encouraged Victor and he became the genius he always was. We need to stop believing what toxic people tell us about ourselves. Instead, we must believe the encourager, the person who tells us God’s truth about ourselves. we will have a positive self-image.
In the Bible, Barnabas is the example of an encourager. Though you may have never heard his name before today, he is one of the most influential men in the New Testament, Paul’s partner in ministry. First known as Saul, Paul had been an enemy of the faith. When he claimed a conversion experience, they were suspicious. The next verse provided the solution. Barnabas believed Paul was truly converted and sponsored him in the Church. After that Paul was supported by the believers, allowing him to speak boldly about Jesus.
More good is done by encouragement.
The name “Barnabas” means “son of encouragement.” His first appearance in Acts was in 4:36, where we find his real name was Joseph, but he was given the nickname “Barnabas.”
1. Barnabas was a good Christian man. (19-26)
Acts chapters 8-15 detail the Church’s transition from a Jewish sect to a faith that stood on its own by accepting Gentiles (non-Jewish people) as equal-status believers. Barnabas was one of the earliest people to convert Gentiles to Christianity and one of the leaders of the movement to expand the Church.
Verses 19-21 relate two developments that lead to this expansion of the Church: persecution and power. Regarding persecution, we note in 8:4 and here that the authorities in Jerusalem were so thoroughly persecuting the Church that many believers fled the city. To their credit, wherever they went, they PREACHED THE WORD OF GOD. (19) At first, they limited their witness to their fellow Jews, but believers from Antioch on Cyprus began telling Gentiles ABOUT JESUS. (20)
Regarding power, the POWER OF THE LORD WAS WITH THEM. (21) That this POWER came from God was indicated by its fruitfulness: A LARGE NUMBER OF THESE GENTILES BELIEVED. They TURNED TO THE LORD. We tend to focus on the passages that offer miracles as signs of God’s approval, but in Acts, a growing congregation is the most frequent sign of true faith.
Acts chapter 11 is in the middle of the transition process we referred to earlier. At this point in history, the First Church in Jerusalem was still investigating the new phenomenon of Gentile converts. (22-24) When they got wind of what was going on, they chose Barnabas to go investigate. (22) Its significant they did not send any of the apostles. I believe it implies the Church wanted a positive outcome, so they sent their best encourager.
Because Barnabas was a godly man, he immediately saw this development as the work of the Holy Spirit. (23) He was FILLED WITH JOY; it delighted Barnabas to acknowledge the work of the Spirit among the Gentiles of Antioch. He ENCOURAGED THE Gentile BELIEVERS TO STAY TRUE TO THE LORD but did not put any further requirement upon them. One aspect of the transition from a Jewish Church to a mixed congregation was how much of the Law of Moses the Gentiles would be required to observe. The most reactionary people in the Church (Paul called them “Judaizers,” not as a compliment) demanded the Gentiles essentially convert to Judaism first, then they could be saved and join the church. Barnabas was the first to see it the opposite way: no accommodation to the Jewish faith needed to be imposed on Gentiles prior to their welcome to the Church.
Barnabas’ encouragement brought about more fruit in the faith: MANY PEOPLE WERE BROUGHT TO THE LORD. His spiritual maturity is described in three ways in verse 24.
- He was A GOOD MAN – that is – he did good works.
- He was FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Barnabas certainly had the Spiritual Gift of Encouragement.
- He was STRONG IN THE FAITH. Barnabas had both the knowledge and the wisdom to react appropriately to whatever he found in Antioch. His reaction was one of approval, so we know they were doing right by God.
God lead Barnabas to create one of the greatest team-ups in Scripture: Barnabas and Saul/Paul. (25-26) Barnabas had learned of Saul’s conversion to Christianity (ch. 9) and sought him out, (the Greek term implies a diligent search) bringing him along to help with the work in Antioch. They worked together there, TEACHING LARGE CROWDS OF PEOPLE.
Luke notes this was the time when followers of Jesus started being called “Christians” instead of “the Way.” The NLT has this sentence in parenthesis which is unfortunate as this is not Luke making a side comment, but offering a proof about the transition of the Church. The title “Christ” is the Latin version of the title of Jesus (“Messiah”) attaching the ending “ianos,” which means “belonging to.”
This nickname was given the church by outsiders. The Greek is a term used for official designations in official documents. Though the name wasn’t always intended as a compliment, we can be proud to acknowledge that we belong to Christ. Luke mentions it here because it is a measure of how much the church had changed; there were so many Gentile believers that they had to give the Church a new name. It had become so distinctive from the Jewish faith that they needed to rename it to make the distinction obvious!
2. Believers do good deeds.
In the practices of the First Church, PROPHETS was a title for traveling preachers. (27-28) It was also used to designate people who had received the Spiritual Gift of Prophecy. Prophecy is a Gift used mainly for forthtelling (preaching) but also for foretelling (predicting). Word of the good things going on in Antioch spread and some of the PROPHETS in the church in Jerusalem took an interest.
One of these gifted individuals was Agabus. He decided to see for himself. While worshiping with the believers in Antioch, he shared his Spiritual Gift of Prophecy with them, predicting a GREAT FAMINE that would affect the ENTIRE ROMAN WORLD.
History verifies there were frequent famines from AD 41-54 (the duration of the reign of Claudius), any of which could serve as the fulfillment of this prophecy. As usual, people in the lower classes suffered most keenly from the crop failures and shortages. The early church was made up of slaves and women, people at the bottom of the ancient food chain. The need for support would have been grave.
One mark of the character of the believers in Antioch is the compassion they showed for the believers in Judea, immediately raising funds for their support. (29-30) Everyone gave AS MUCH AS THEY COULD indicates this was discretionary income. They weren’t going out and selling their homes as had happened in Jerusalem in Acts 2-5. It’s possible that method of church finances did not work well in the long term. Belief in a soon return of Jesus may have prompted the kind of giving described in Acts 2, but as time went on, the believers may’ve realized a long-term strategy was needed.
However we explain it, we should recognize what a revolutionary thing it was for this mixed-ethnicity church in Antioch to support the exclusively Jewish church in Jerusalem. It demonstrates unity based on the belief that the Church was greater than the sum of any one congregation. This was a daughter church coming to the aid of the mother church.
With whom did they trust their GIFTS? None other than Barnabas and Saul! Notice that all parts of this section are really about Barnabas, who was at the center of this demonstration of support for the Mother Church. Later on, Paul would engage in a similar fund-raising effort among the Gentile churches of Asia Minor and return to Jerusalem with another show of support for the believers there.
More good is done by encouragement.
For an example of the power of encouragement, let me turn to history, a story I found on familytimes.net. “In 1896, Henry Ford attended a company event where Thomas Edison (the great inventor) was the guest of honor. His friend introduced him to Edison as ‘the man trying to make a car that runs on gasoline.’
“Edison asked young Henry Ford a host of questions and when the talk was over, Edison banged his fist down on the table and said, ‘Young man, that’s the thing! You have it! Your car is self-contained and carries its own power plant.’
“Years later, Ford, reflecting on their first meeting, said in a newspaper interview, ‘That bang on the table was worth worlds to me. No man up to then had given me any encouragement. I had hoped that I was headed right. Sometimes I knew that I was, sometimes I only wondered, but here, all at once and out of a clear sky, the greatest inventive genius in the world had given me complete approval. The man who knew most about electricity in the world had said that for the purpose, my gas motor was better than any electric motor could be.’"
Let that sink in for a moment. Ford’s gas motor was better than any electric motor. Now we’re at a time when they’re charging gas prices to force us out of our gas-powered cars!
You may consider a bang on a table to be an odd kind of encouragement. I got Ford’s attention, however, and jump-started his technical innovation that made motorized transport available to the majority of Americans, not just to the wealthy.
Imagine the good you can do for people with whom you come in contact if you abandon your tendency to criticize, get angry, and negativity and instead seek to encourage good things in them. Table-banging is optional.
https://sermons.faithlife.com/sermons/125103-barnabas-the-encourager retrieved on 9 june 22.
The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 12, Acts, William J. Larkin.
https://www.family-times.net/illustration/Encouragement/202563/ retrieved on 10 june 22.