26 And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. 28 So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. (Acts 9:26–28, NKJV)
Joseph was named “Barnabas” (son of encouragement) by the apostles for a reason (Acts 4:36). With entreaties and exhortations, he gave solace, comfort, and consolation to fellow Christians. We see this son of encouragement in action in today’s passage. The persecutor Saul was now a Christian, but the Jerusalem disciples only knew of the havoc he had made of the church three years earlier (Acts 8:3; 9:13-16). So, they were fearful when Saul “tried to join the disciples” (v. 26). With complete information in hand, Barnabas vouched for Saul, telling of his encounter with the Lord on the road that led to his conversion and bold gospel preaching in Damascus (Acts 9:17-22; 22:17-21). There are several worthy lessons in our text, but today let us focus on Barnabas. His fearless defense of Saul assured the apostles, comforted the frightened church, and (no doubt) consoled Saul as it led to the brethren receiving him in the Lord (vv. 27-28). Barnabas seized opportunities to stand for the truth, encourage his brethren, and strengthen souls (Acts 4:36-37; 11:22-24). Can you imagine what could have happened if Barnabas had not spoken up for the truth on Saul’s behalf? Be a Barnabas. Seize your opportunities to console, comfort, and encourage the truth, trust, and triumph over fear and doubt.
36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:36–37, NKJV)
What a wonderful man this Joses (Joseph) was! He had such a way of comforting, consoling, exhorting, and encouraging fellow Christians that the apostles named him Barnabas (son of encouragement). We want to encourage others, but sometimes we don’t know how to do it. Let’s learn from Barnabas. He encouraged others through generously serving others. He generously gave of his possessions to relieve needy saints. He was generous with his reputation, putting it on the line to vouch for Saul’s conversion when others were afraid (Acts 9:26-28). He was generous with his time and energy to travel to Antioch to teach and strengthen new Christians (Acts 11:21-24). He was generous in giving his life to preaching the gospel in many places with Paul and others (Acts 11:25-26; 13:2; et al.). To encourage others, we must come out of our own little world and serve others with genuine care, concern, and contact. Barnabas did that as an expression of his faith in the Lord. We can be encouragers, too. The Lord calls on us to “exhort one another daily” (Heb. 3:13). So, let’s join hands with Barnabas and build up one another in the most holy faith (Jude 20).
And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words. (Hebrews 13:22, NKJV)
This inspired writer was concerned about how his readers would receive his words. Although brief, his letter had been written as a message of exhortation to give comfort, to console and to entreat his fellow Christians to be vigilant in their faith. The writer wanted them to agree with his word of exhortation and be compelled by it (not merely tolerate it). When we exhort others, we must do so from the word of God, with a clear goal in mind. Our aim ought to be instruction and persuasion intended to bring about righteous, holy conduct. Perhaps the exhortation we wish to give another is a warning against some spiritual danger. In that case, our goal is to rescue and save the lost (Jas. 5:19-20). When we find ourselves on the receiving end of exhortations, let us receive them and conform ourselves to the truth they contain. Exhortation s given in truth and love encourage us to do better, to be better. We all need that. So, be an exhorter. And, be ready and eager to accept the word of exhortation when it is given to you.
1 Then Job answered and said: 2 “I have heard many such things; Miserable comforters are you all! 3 Shall words of wind have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer? 4 I also could speak as you do, if your soul were in my soul’s place. I could heap up words against you, and shake my head at you; 5 But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief.” (Job 16:1–5, NKJV)
Job’s friends not only gave him terrible counsel about the cause of his suffering, they spoke without comfort or compassion. Most of us long for the reassurance of comforting words when faced with the loss of a loved one, the pain of a disease or the uncertainties of life. Let us develop an ability to be sympathetic toward others, or even empathetic, when we have faced trials we see in others. Like us, others need a word of comfort and encouragement to strengthen them in moments of weakness (Matt. 7:12). We can increase our compassion toward others by living outside of ourselves, by actually pausing from our own hectic lives to see and respond to the needs of others. We will all face trials in life. Too bad all will not respond to those trials with words of consolation and actions that soothe the aching soul.
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14, NKJV)
The gospel message is the same for us all. Yet, how to most effectively convey the spiritual blessings of its message to others often depends on their specific spiritual needs. For example, the unruly Christian ought to be sternly warned of the spiritual danger that comes from being insubordinate to the will of Christ. Discouraged Christians, whose faith is undergoing particular stress, need the comfort that comes from the redemptive hope we have in Christ. Weak Christians need to be strengthened in their faith with good doses of God’s word coupled with mutual burden-sharing (Gal. 6:2). All need patience to grow and mature in Christ. Becomes aware of the spiritual needs of your brethren. Then, use the gospel to meet their needs and to advance their spiritual growth in Christ.