Just to recap, in our previous study on Barnabas, we learned that:
- Barnabas opened a door for Saul to the apostles by defending him.
- The church trusted Barnabas to send him to check things out at Antioch.
- Barnabas was a good man. Are we good?
- He was full of the Holy Spirit. Are full of the Holy Spirit?
- He was full of faith. Are we full of faith?
- He was evangelistic—a significant number of people were brought to the Lord.
- Barnabas opened another door for Saul—to minister at the church at Antioch for a year.
Antioch, Acts 14:21-28
We learned that the term Christian came out of the church of Antioch. Paul and Barnabas had been at Antioch ministering, and made many disciples, strengthening their souls, and they completed the work they had been given by God.
The Jerusalem Council, Acts 15:1-35
A lot of church life happens here, and I think you’ll see some similarities, such as false doctrine being taught, oppositions, peer pressure, confrontations, splits, etc. Again, it’s life whether we like it or not.
Some men from Judea began to teach brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
Does that sound familiar? Unless you come to our church, get baptized in our tank, do what we think is best, you cannot be saved! I’ve had people tell me personally that because I wasn’t attending their church, I couldn’t have communion if I visited. I’ve had people tell me that their church was the only ones going to heaven, or that I needed to be dunked in their baptismal to be “really” saved. Good Lord! The pride is so nauseating sometimes! Not once did Jesus point towards a certain baptismal in a certain church. Not once.
Anyway, Paul and Barnabas had a major argument and debate with the ‘brothers.’ The church sent Paul, Barnabas, and some others to go meet with the apostles and elders in Jerusalem about this issue. So they went, and when they arrived in Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all the things God had done with them. But some from the religious party of the Pharisees who had believed stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise the Gentiles and to order them to observe the law of Moses.”
Are we continuing to see some similarities between them and our churches today when it comes to doctrine? Of course! Conflict can be ugly, but correct doctrine is important! There was ‘much’ debate. Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that some time ago God chose me to preach to the Gentiles so that they would hear the message of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, has testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as He did to us, and He made no distinction between them and us, cleansing their hearts by faith.”
Hello?! From what I can gather here, if God made no distinction between Jews and Gentiles, do you think He makes distinctions between Baptists, Methodists, and Catholics? We might, but God has cleansed the believer’s hearts by faith, not by church label!!
Peter continued, “So now why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they are.”
Paul and Barnabas then explained all the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. After they stopped speaking, James, the apostles, and elders came to an agreement. They would send Judas called Barsabbas and Silas, as well as Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch, along with the church letter which read:
“…It seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from doing these things, you will do well. Farewell.”
Paul and Barnabas Part Company, Acts 15:36-41
Paul and Barnabas were back in Antioch, and after a while, Paul told Barnabas he’d like to return and visit the brothers in every town where they had preached about Jesus and to see how they are doing. Barnabas wanted to bring John called Mark along with them too, but Paul disagreed. Mark had left them in Pamphylia, and did not accompany them on their previous work, so Paul said no. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed away, Paul chose Silas and set out…
Remember that Paul had previously been rejected, but Barnabas came to his defense. Paul would reject Mark, and Barnabas would come to his defense as well. Aren’t we a mess sometimes! Sometimes splits in relationships happen, even in the lives of godly men and women.
If you go on to read more about what happened to Paul and Barnabas during their time of separation, they both had works to do! Remember in the devotion about separation, I said that sometimes separation happens because of the plan of God, not because one or the other is necessarily bad. God had a plan for both of them, and they went different ways to fulfil those plans. Be willing to be separated from those who you’re with. God may have a different work for you to do with different people in a different location.
Letter from Paul to the Galatians, Galatians 2:11-14
Barnabas gets carried away with hypocrisy
Paul wrote a letter to the Galatians, and in it we get another glimpse of Barnabas. He wrote that when Peter came to Antioch, he opposed him to his face, because he was in the wrong. He had ate with the Gentiles, but when people came from Jacob, Peter began to withdraw and separate himself (an example of how separations shouldn’t occur) because he feared those from the circumcision. Paul stated that the rest of the Jews joined Peter in that hypocrisy, and even Barnabas. When he saw they were not walking in line with the truth of the Good News, he rebuked Peter in front of everyone!
We not only need some Barnabas’, but we need some Paul’s, too! Are we staunch defenders of the truth, of the Good News of the gospel of Christ? I think many of us might say no, we’re not very good at it.
We’ve focused heavily on Barnabas, and his contribution to the kingdom of God. Let’s do a checkup.
- At Antioch, they made many disciples. Do we?
- They strengthened the souls of the disciples. Do we?
- They completed their work at Antioch, but that hadn’t been their only work. They moved to different locations.
- Do we know what we have been called to do?
- Have we completed each job God has given us over the years?
- Do we think we were created to do just one thing?
- Are we open to hear the “other jobs” God may have for us to do?
- Are we open to hear there may be other locations He would like us to go to?
- Did you notice Barnabas understands order, or as we would say, “go through the proper channels?” When they got in the major argument and debate with the Pharisees, they went to their elders, and submitted their argument to their leadership.
- If we do have heated arguments, are we willing to submit ourselves to others above us to obtain wisdom. Proverbs says, “In the multitude of counselors, there is safety.”
- Paul and Barnabas got in a major argument and debate over doctrine, defending the truth of the gospel.
- Are we strong enough in our understanding of the word of God that we would oppose error? It’s not always fun, but I hope we would.
- We may not like arguments, but sometimes they create needed change. This argument and debate that Paul and Barnabas had with the Pharisees was so critical, that it shaped the future direction for our New Testament living.
- Paul and Barnabas got in a major argument between themselves over John Mark (Colossians 4 says he was Barnabas’ cousin), which was harsh enough that they went their separate ways.
- Was it a needed change from God’s vantage point, or was this a soulish error, human fault? Maybe both? Maybe they both wanted their way concerning John Mark, and God worked all things for the good of them who love Him, and they did. We really don’t know. But we DO know the will of God was being accomplished through their lives.
- Paul’s letter stated that ‘even Barnabas’ was led astray by the other brethren’s hypocrisy!
- Have we been led astray by false teachings that sounded holy? I bet if Barnabas was, we have been, too.
- I see Christians today trying to defend what God has not deemed holy. Sometimes we need to be more like Paul, where he saw they were not walking in line with the truth of the Good News, and he confronted Peter to his face.
This confrontation stuff is hard for so many of us, especially those who are strong in peace, who flow strongly in mercy. Actually, defending the truth helps keep peace, and it really is merciful to others down the road to keep error from spreading.
What about us mothers? I was a stay-at-home mother for many years. We can change the world through our children. Why do you think the world wants to sink their teeth into them? We may never travel location to location, but if we discipled our children, taught them the truth of God’s word, taught them to have a relationship with God, taught them to complete tasks given them, to do right, speak right, especially in the eyes of God, we have shown them many qualities Barnabas had, which is a wonderful thing!
Father, we know we’re imperfect human beings just like Barnabas was. Forgive us for our imperfections, but help us be like him where his good characteristics are concerned. And even greater than Barnabas, help us to be more like Jesus. Barnabas showed us the way of working in the Kingdom, but Jesus IS the Kingdom…the way, the truth, and the life, and we thank You for that! Help us know you, see you, and hear you more! Amen