A Character Analysis of Barnabas


Just who is Barnabas?


               Barnabas was an open and willing vessel to be used by the Lord.  Acts 4:36-37 says this about Barnabas in his earlier years, "Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet."  First, Barnabas was sent to Antioch when the apostles heard that the Lord was with the disciples there (they were having much success while preaching to the Greeks).  "When He [Barnabas] arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.  He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord" (Acts 11:23-24).  He was a bold person and was used of the Lord in getting hold of the newly converted Saul and in introducing him to the apostles.  Then, he brought Saul back to Antioch with him.  Before Barnabas had done this, many believers were staying away from Saul because they were afraid of him.  And together Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught considerable numbers for about a year.  Next, because of a famine in Judea, Barnabas and Paul delivered a contribution of money to the elders in Jerusalem sent from the believers in Antioch.  When they had completed this task, they returned to Antioch where they were teachers.  These were the other teachers and prophets with them in Antioch: Simeon, Lucius, and Manaen.  "While they [all the teachers and prophets] were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'  So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off" (Acts 13:2-3).  Then, Barnabas and Saul went about proclaiming the word of God.


               Barnabas was also a man who worked with others.  Although Barnabas knew the apostles first, may have known the Lord first, and had labored on Saul's behalf, he had the humility to step down "so-to-speak" to Saul.  I say this because Saul was the chief speaker (Acts 14:12), but Barnabas did not have a problem with that.  Together, he and Paul served the Lord in many ways.  They were appointed by the church in Antioch to go to Jerusalem: once to bring a gift (a money contribution because of a famine) and another time to inquire about circumcision.  For quite a long time, Barnabas and Paul taught and preached the word of the Lord.  They did this in Antioch and also throughout many other cities across the countryside.  However, Barnabas and Paul separated because they could not agree on who would accompany them on their second journey. Barnabas was not finished with his duties though.  He took John, also called Mark, and sailed for Cyprus (his home country).  Little else is said about Barnabas' activities after the time that he and Paul split up.


               Later, in the book of Galatians, the Bible gives some insight on where Barnabas was led astray.  The "circumcision group" had stirred up quite a bit of disagreement saying that a man is not justified by God without being physically circumcised.  Peter and Barnabas (who were Jews, living like Gentiles, and wanting Gentiles to live like Jews) were caught up in the hypocrisy of the "circumcision group".  Therefore, Paul openly rebuked Peter and proclaimed that a man is not saved by observing the law but by faith in Jesus Christ.  From Peter's writings, it seems that he took heed to Paul's rebuke.  Hopefully Barnabas, a Levite, saw his error and changed also, to the glory of God.  Barnabas had made an unrighteous judgment in following Peter's hypocrisy and could have prevented it by taking heed to the instruction of the council in Jerusalem.  This is where the matter first arose concerning circumcision, and Barnabas and Paul had even taken the message of the elders back to the church in Antioch.  Their message was, "to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.  For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath" (Acts 15:20-21).  Barnabas did not remember the principles of this meeting, but he put his eyes on men instead--on Peter in particular.  Because of this, Barnabas was led into hypocrisy by following Peter's bad example.


So how can I avoid being led astray by man?


               I must fear God, fix my eyes upon Jesus (the author and perfecter of my faith), set my heart and my mind on things above, and study to show myself approved unto God, being a workman who does not need to be ashamed but who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).  "And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him [the hope that we shall be like Him when He appears] purifies himself just as He is pure" (1 John 3:3 NAS).  The ways could go on; however, if I am seeking God in spirit and truth, I will not be led astray by man.  God will protect me from the snares of the evil one.