The result of Paul’s persecution of the Church is that the believers were scattered all over, and as a result God has gone before him to prepare him a base for which to grow into the ministry we know and read of. How wonderful it is when God goes before us, before we have come into the things of God and walk in them. God had both place and a person to connect with to bring him to the centre of what God was doing.
The transition between Jerusalem and Antioch
From the time of Paul’s conversion we read that the centre of missionary work transitioned away from Jerusalem. This is not to say that Jerusalem lost focus, and was bypassed or downgraded in any way, in fact Jerusalem was the centre of a conference concerning the requirements of the Law for Gentiles. A division was avoided in Jerusalem through the guidance of its leader James. James recognised something which is also relevant to today, he saw that a prophecy from Amos was being fulfilled in front of his eyes.
11 “In that day I will raise up
the booth of David that is fallen
and repair its breaches,
and raise up its ruins
and rebuild it as in the days of old,
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Am 9:11.
He saw prophetically that God was restoring the Tabernacle/Booth of David, and that just as the Tabernacle made no distinction between peoples, that all experience the Presence of God together without veil. I believe this prophetic insight saved the Early Church from a very important division which could have brought much discredit to the Gospel. The work with Jews had a different emphasis however what the Jews were to concentrate on was the inheritance with David through Jesus, and the Gentiles needed to focus on the way that has been made open to God’s presence. What an insight! May God send us James’ into the Church again to speak through denominational barriers that God’s presence is open to all, and we are seeing this in many places throughout the world today.
And as such the work at Antioch was growing fast amongst Gentile believers and the evidence that God had brought a wonderful inclusion into the Redemption work. It is at this time after Paul had been in Arabia, and Damascus where he escaped with his life, to Tarsus, and Barnabas went to seek Him out. He was known as the “Son of Encouragement”, and very often we overlook him. This tendency in us, causes us to miss great truth about what the Bible terms as being “Encouragement”. This ministry is needed among new converts, and when I personally was a new convert, I experienced many sons of discouragement, who throughout my spiritual trajectory opposed everything God did in me. And as we see there are aspects we need to see:
- He sought out: He sought out Paul, who had many enemies, including leaders. It was Barnabas who put aside suspicion and prejudice concerning the past of Paul.
- Presented Paul to the Apostles: Barnabus recognised the work of Grace upon Paul and endorsed God’s work.
- Declared to the Apostles the Work of God: he declares with authority as a Levite and Apostle of the Lord, the work God was doing.
- By his hands in ministry with Paul took to Jerusalem aid.
- Sent out with apostolic commission with Paul, i.e Barnabus and Paul
- They go to Cyprus: i.e Paul and Barnabus, complete transition in the ministry team.
If it were not for Barnabus we would have never received Paul, nor his writings, nor the Churches he planted. God desires to raise these “sons of encouragement,” who partner with the newly converted and see them grow in ministry faster than they do, until they are content with playing 2nd in command. What a ministry is encouragement!!!
The Transition: Barnabas and Paul, Paul and Barnabus
There is no doubt that Luke makes a deliberate description of the partnership in the Gospel in Barnabas and Paul in the early years, and then in the latter part from their sending out in Antioch it became Paul and Barnabas. It then became 3 when John Mark joined them. Even in the end when they disagreed so hotly that they parted company that Barnabas saw it not possible to continue with Paul, and took John Mark with him. Who was right? It was obviously Barnabas, because he believed that John Mark could right the wrongs of abandoning the work. Yet later on when Paul was with Silas, he asks Barnabas to send John Mark. So Barnabas trusts in the work of Grace in those God calls. I really believe we need to pray that this ministry is restored to the Body, that we have “Sons of Encouragement” within our midst, because they recognise the work of Grace, they present new ministry, work with new ministry, and even submit to a lower place with that same ministry. Wow! I am marvelled at this key person in Paul’s life, and in the life of the Church at Antioch!
I believe what God desires to transmit is the need for the ministry of encouragement to be fully understood and embraced. It will prosper the flow of vocations in our midst. It will bring forth mighty converted ministry into our midst. In the context of the new revivals that are already making their mark we need the discipleship of “Barnabas” ministry to prosper the work, which needs to transition from “visitation” to “habitation”. I believe this message to be so crucial that the revivals that are spreading cannot just languish in worship and staying in God’s presence, but begin to disciple the new believers, and bring forth ministry, which I am sure these leaders who are coordinating such difficult environments where meetings go on hours and weeks in duration. The harvest is coming, we need to prepare. May Barnabas be found among us.
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!