His Hellenistic Jewish parents called him Joseph.
Joseph was a Levite, a native of Cyrpus, where he owned land. He sold his land, giving the proceeds to the church in Jerusalem; Acts 4:36,37. The apostles gave him the name Barnabas… “Son of Encouragement”.
If people in your church gave you a nickname, what would it be?
When Paul returned to Jerusalem after his conversion, Barnabas took him to the apostles and introduced him to them; Acts 9:27. It is supposed they had been fellow students in the school of Rabbi Gamaliel.
Barnabas stood up for – and with – Paul, when others were not so sure about him. Imagine what might have happened – or not happened – concerning the mission activity of the early church had Barnabas not given this support and encouragement.
Who could you stand with today? You might never know the difference it would make…
The prosperity of the church at Antioch led the apostles and the church at Jerusalem to send Barnabas to check it out. He found the work so extensive and weighty, he went to Tarsus in search of Paul, “an admirable colleague”, to assist him. Paul returned with him to Antioch and labored with him for a whole year there; Acts 11:25,26.
A good mentor helps build a good disciple.
Barnabas & Paul were sent back to Jerusalem from Antioch, with the contributions Antioch had collected for the poorer members of the Jerusalem church.
Shortly after they retuned, bringing John Mark (Barnabas’ cousin) with them, they were appointed as missionaries to Asia Minor, and, on this “first missionary journey of Paul”, they visited Cyprus and some of the principal cities of Pamphylia, Pisidia, & Lycaonia; Acts 13:14.
Paul began to grow more popular than Barnabas; he begin to be more known for his Roman name (Paul) than his Jewish name (Saul), and, instead of “Barnabas & Saul” we now read of “Paul & Barnabas”; Acts 13:9,16; 14:8,9,19,20.
What humility… to be willing to take a backseat, to step out of the stoplight, to play second fiddle. But, Paul would never have been who he was without Barnabas!
Returning from this first missionary journey, Paul & Barnabas were again sent up to Jerusalem to consult with the church there regarding the relation of Gentiles to the church (the Jerusalem Council); Acts 15:2; Gal. 2:1.
According to Gal. 2:9,10, Barnabas was included with Paul in the agreement, on the one hand, and James, Peter & John, on the other, that the 2 former should, in the future, preach to the pagans, not forgetting the poor at Jerusalem. This matter having been settled, they returned again to Antioch, bringing the agreement of the council that Gentiles were to be admitted into the church.
After Paul & Barnabas had returned to Antioch from the Jerusalem Council, and after spending some time there (Acts 15:35), Paul asked Barnabas to go with him on a second missionary journey; Acts 15:36. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark along again, but Paul did not… because John Mark had left them on their first missionary journey; Acts 15:37,38. The dispute ended with Paul & Barnabas splitting up, taking separate routes of ministry. Paul took Silas as his companion, and journeyed through Syria & Cilicia; while Barnabas took John Mark to visit Cyprus; Acts 15:36-41.
Barnabas is not mentioned again by Luke in the book of Acts. But, in Gal. 2:13, a little more is learned of him; he followed Peter’s example of not eating with the Gentiles… and, in 1Cor. 9:6, that he continued his work as a missionary.
It is believed his argument – and relationship – with Paul was resolved.
Imagine failing at the source of your greatest strength…. Even the most faithful aren’t perfect… and they admit it!
Church tradition describes the martyrdom of many believers… including Barnabas. Evidently, certain Jews went to Syria & Salamis, where Barnabas was then preaching the gospel. They grew exasperated at his success. They confronted him in the synagogue, drug him out, and, after a series of inhumane tortures, they stoned him to death.
His kinsman, John Mark, who was witness to this death, privately interred his body.
You can read the story of Barnabas throughout the early church accounts, but he is mentioned specifically in Acts 4:36,37; 9:27; 11:25,26; 13:14,16; 14:8,9,19,20; 15:2; Galatians 2:1,9,10; Acts 15:36-41; Galatians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 9:6.