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Son of Encouragement (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
May 11, 2024 4:00 am

Son of Encouragement (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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May 11, 2024 4:00 am

On Truth For Life, Alistair Begg is beginning a series that explores how God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. He begins by considering Barnabas: his appearances in Scripture are brief, yet he made a lasting impact on others’ lives.


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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!


Welcome to Truth for Life weekend, where today we are beginning a series called Jars of Clay, we're going to be learning how God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. The Lord has brought him to Antioch. News of this reached the ears of the Church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he 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. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and, through the Spirit, predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world.

This happened during the reign of Claudius. The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. Amen. Let's pause in prayer for a moment. Once again, our God and Father, we humble our hearts before you, because we know that by our very nature we do not receive the things of the Spirit, their foolishness to us. It is only as a result of your grace, redeeming us as we have pondered in song already tonight, that the eyes of our understanding would be opened to the truth of your word. And yet we recognize how dense we often are, how slow to believe what was spoken of old, how lethargic in having your word applied to our lives. We pray that tonight, in these moments of study, that you will stir our hearts, fuel our minds, and channel our wills into the pathway of obedience. For we pray in Jesus' name and for his sake. Amen.

Can I ask you to do one other thing? Turn forward in your Bibles to Romans 16. I just want to show something to you here for a moment and introduce our study tonight. If you look at Romans 16, virtually the whole of the chapter deals with greetings that were given to people who were colleagues and fellow workers and individuals who were known to Paul in his ministry. And if you just dip into the list at any place at all, you'll be introduced to people, many of whom we have no other record of in the whole of the Bible. For example, Epinetus in verse 5, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.

I couldn't have answered that. If somebody had asked me tonight, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia, I would have said, Who knows? And the answer is, The Lord knows, and Paul knew, and he wrote it down here in Romans.

How about this character in verse 8, Amplitus, or Urbanus, or Stacchus, and so on, all through this list? Most of them we know nothing about, and yet already they share their reward and their voices mingle with the praises of those who have gone before us into heaven. If I could get one thing across tonight, I think it would be this truth beyond any other.

It's not a new truth. It's just a word of reminder. And it is this, that the Church, not only in the first century but in every subsequent century, has been sustained and blessed and enriched not by those who were prominent, not by those who were apparently heroic, but largely, predominantly, by those who were unsung heroes, by individuals whose names were never printed up in lights, by people who were known perhaps only to a few in their immediate circle, by some who were perhaps tempted to believe that as they made their pilgrimage through life and as they ended their days and went on into eternity, they had really died insignificantly. And what we discover when we read the Bible is that there is no one who is insignificant in the purposes of God. None of us lives to ourselves nor dies to ourselves.

And so, whether we live or whether we die, we do so as unto the Lord. One of the characters who has more prominence than some who have been mentioned here in Romans 16 and yet was not the most significant even in his day or amongst his circle is the individual whom we've come to refer to as a result of the biblical record as the Son of Encouragement or the Encourager. We're referring here to Barnabas. We could almost call him Barney. I think he would have been called Barney if he'd been around. Don't feel that it's sacrilegious.

I don't think it is. He was just a man like us, and I can't imagine that he would have liked to have a title. I can't imagine that he would like to have been distanced from people in any way at all. I think children, as well as elderly people throughout the whole spectrum of life, would all have had something to say concerning this character Barnabas. We're introduced to him in the biblical record for the first time in Acts chapter 4. Acts chapter 4 tells us that things had been going quite incredibly well for the believers. They were united in prayer, and they were united in purpose. They were enjoying a precious unity of heart and mind, as verse 32 tells us towards the end of the chapter. All the believers were one in heart and mind. Boy, there's a description for your average church meeting, is there not? How would you like that to be the designation that went over your annual general meeting?

Someone says, Well, it was just tremendous. All the believers were of one heart and one mind. That ought not to be a surprise to us nor a forlorn hope, because the Spirit of God is the one who creates that unity. And then it goes on to tell us of the characteristics, marks of a church that was effective in its day, and it tells of the fact that these individuals touched by the Spirit of God were manifesting the change in their lives not simply in their worship, not even in their prayers, but also in their conduct, in the way they treated one another, and also in the very practical realm of their possessions and their attitude towards their possessions. I was telling some people the other day of an individual whom I know who is now in Washington, D.C. He worked for a time in a church on the west coast, and involved in the pastoral team. He would be the recipient of a number of calls, people seeking to sit and be counseled by him.

And he was a very busy man and wasn't necessarily given much to counseling, but was prepared to counsel. And so he would tell people when they called that wanted to speak to him, said, Yes, I'm very happy to talk with you. And when you come, bring your checkbook. And there would always be a pause at the other end of the phone, and the people would say, Bring our checkbooks. And he would say, Yes, that's correct. And they would then say, Why have you started to charge for the counseling? And he said, No, I'm not charging for the counseling.

I just want you to bring your checkbook, because if you bring your checkbook, then I will see where your heart is. And if we could have looked into the checkbook of Barnabas on that day, we would have discovered where his heart was. Indeed, we're told in verse 36 of Acts 4 that he had sold a field which he owned, and he had brought the money, and he put it at the apostles' feet.

What about a little thumbnail sketch of this individual, his religious status? Well, notice he was a Levite. His roots went right back into the purposes of God to the tribe of Levi, which had been set apart by God.

From this tribe would come those who would render service in the temple courts. And when this individual called Barnabas, his real name was Joseph, when he traced his roots back, he traced them to the tribe of Levi. Concerning his origin, he was a foreigner. He came from the largest island in the Mediterranean, Cyprus, and he was not immediately one of the group there from North Africa.

He was from overseas, albeit only a wee bit overseas, but nevertheless he came from somewhere else. But the thing that is most significant about him is not his religious background nor his country of origin, but is the fact that he was given a nickname. Now, some of us have nicknames that we're not prepared to let anybody know about. They were given to us at school, and when they were given to us, we disproved the little statement that when sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you. The fact is names are a lot more tarnishing than sticks or stones will ever be.

And we're not going to have a display this evening of nicknames, but it may provide interesting conversation over a cup of coffee later on. Every so often somebody will be given a nickname which is just so good that it replaces their name. And in this case that was true. He was called Barnabas, given the name because the name means son of encouragement. And it was this factor about Barnabas which made him the influential character that he was in his day.

He was able to console and to exhort those who were in his company, and everywhere he went, this was his point of departure. That's what we're told in Acts chapter 4. When you turn on to Acts chapter 9, you find that this is borne out.

The next time you read of Barnabas in the Acts of the Apostles is five chapters later in Acts chapter 9. In verse 23 we read of the fact that the Jews had conspired to kill Saul, who was now called Paul. And day and night, verse 24 tells us, they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. The reason was that Saul had now begun to appear in the synagogues, and he was actually proclaiming the fact that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the one who had died for sin, the one who had become his friend and his Savior. And the Jews didn't like that. They liked it far better when he was trying to shut down the Christians. They didn't like him as a Christian. In verse 25 we're told that the followers of Paul took him by night and lured him in a basket through an opening in the wall. It's a great story.

I mean, it's just quite tremendous. You can imagine the situation of how he was under siege, and all the time he was being watched, and people would say to him, there's no way in the world you're going to get out of here, because if you go out, they'll see you, and when they see you, you're a dead man. And then somebody, we don't know who it was, maybe Paul, but who knows?

Probably somebody else's name we don't know. And when we get to heaven, this guy's going to be going around saying, hey, you know that thing in Acts 9 about the basket? That was my idea. I came up with that, you know. Did you? Man, that was good. We spoke about that one evening at Boca Raton.

It was an interesting point. His followers took him by night, lured him in a basket through an opening in the wall, and the next thing you know is he's arriving in Jerusalem. But look at this in verse 26.

How easy is it to join your church? When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the church, join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him not believing that he really was a disciple. Now, we can sympathize with them. After all, this was a radical change in his life, was it not? He had certainly not been very prone towards the things of Christ up until this point.

Nevertheless, their fearfulness and their unbelief does not commend us to them as a group. What did it mean for Paul? I don't know what this meant, nor do you, in the immediacy of these events. How did he try and join the disciples? Presumably, he found out where they were, and he went to somebody's home, and he said, I'm Saul of Tarsus, and I love the Lord Jesus, and I've just made an escape in a basket, and I came to introduce myself to you, and the door closed in his face. And then off he would go down the street to the location of some other buddy, and he would go through the same thing again and again. The door would close in his face. How he must have said to himself, is this what Christianity is all about?

Is this the way it's supposed to be? Aren't the Christians supposed to be people of faith? Aren't the Christians the ones who are supposed to believe all things and hope all things? Words that he was later to write when he wrote to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 13? Do you ever think about when he penned those words, love is this, and love is that, and love is the next thing? He understood what it was not to be loved by those who profess to be loved by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear ones, as an aside, let's say this tonight. It is a dreadful tragedy in the Church of Jesus Christ in our day to discover how many people get the door closed on their face, and how much harm we cause young and tender Christians, because they have come from a background that we actually never expected anybody to get saved out of. Oh no, we just believe that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we can ask or even imagine, but he can't save people like that, or he doesn't want to. And if he does, I sure hope he doesn't send them to our church. I told you last night about me trying to ride dirt bikes up in Michigan. That same year in Michigan I went to a Baptist church in, I'll just say, Detroit. That covers a multitude of sins. But I went to a Baptist church.

Remember I told you my hair was a little longer than it was supposed to be, swinging at the back and swinging in a few places, actually. And the youth pastor determined that it would be okay for me to give a word of testimony. And I remember it was a building about this size, and he called me up. And I remember it was a long walk all the way up to here, and I stood and shared my faith and testimony in Christ. And as I was walking back down the steps, back to my seat, he stood up and he said to the congregation, There you are, folks. Even somebody who looks like that can be a Christian.

It's a real nice sort of encouraging feeling on the back of your neck. I remember one lovely story along similar lines of a church out on the West Coast again in the sixties during the hippie days. And how it was a very fine church and everybody came properly dressed and the right kind of style and the right kind of haircut and the whole business. And suddenly hippies were starting to get converted. And some of the people were really disgusted at this.

And they weren't pleased to have them coming. And there was one evening when a guy appeared off the coast there in San Francisco and arrived in this church. His hair was all down on either side of his face. He had a beard and he had beads. And he had no shoes on, and he had bell-bottomed jeans, and they were all frayed at the ends. And when he walked in, none of the ushers greeted him. And so he continued to walk. And there were no seats.

The church was packed. And as he looked along the rows, nobody moved. And so he continued to walk.

And eventually, having walked all the way to the front and still never having found a seat, he sat down right in the middle of the aisle, cross-legged on the floor. And an ostensible groan went through the congregation, people nudging one another and saying to each other, What in the world should we do now? And it was just at that point that they saw the senior deacon start to walk from the back aisle, a small man in a three-piece suit with a pin in his tie. And as they saw him going further and further and further towards the hippie, they were saying to themselves, He'll take care of him. And they watched him as he walked right up to the young man.

And he sat down on the floor, and he crossed his legs beside him. That wee man was a Barnabas. One Barnabas, out of a group of five hundred, had made the difference in a brand-new convert's life. Some of us have been reared in environments in conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity where the motto of so many of our churches has been, Us four, no more, shut the door. We're very happy to have our little group.

We know who's in it, we know who we want to be in it, and we know who we don't want to be in it. Well, when that exists in the fellowship of God's people, we are just in point of identification here with the group in Jerusalem, because Saul himself had no place to go, and there was no one to take him. And then come these four fantastic words that begin in verse 27, But Barnabas took him.

But Barnabas took him. Four great words, suitable for a tombstone. I mean, it would be enough, would it not? I would be happy if they put it on my stone concerning one individual. But Alistair took him. That would be enough.

Could I content it? See, Paul needed somebody at this juncture in his life, somebody to encourage him, somebody to lead him, somebody to introduce him. And God looked from heaven and said, Now who will I use for my servant Saul? And who did he pick? He picked a character that he had been forming all along. He picked this individual, a foreigner from Cyprus, a man who had been given a new name, a man with a great religious background, a man by the name of Joseph, but everybody called him Barney, because he knew he was just the kind of fellow that would be ideal for the task. Now, you see, those four words in verse 27 are the key to what we discover in verse 28. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews.

They tried to kill him, and soon he was on his way again. But the key to all of that was in this individual Barnabas. The key to Paul's ministry in that day lay in an unsung hero. Do you realize how important this kind of ministry is?

I'm sure you do. Many of you wouldn't be here tonight, were it not for a Barnabas. It's lovely what it says. It doesn't say that Barnabas directed him or Barnabas drew him a map or Barnabas suggested someone he might talk to, but Barnabas took him.

And when you take somebody, it involves time, it involves effort, and it involves a rearrangement of your plans. And since most of us are cagey with our time, are not necessarily committed with our effort, and don't like our plans being rearranged, as much as we want to be Barnabas, we may be one of the disciples that closed the door in Saul's face, because we didn't want to give up the time. You're listening to Truth for Life weekend, that is Alistair Begg with a message he's titled Son of Encouragement.

We'll hear more next weekend. Wouldn't you like to be able to encourage others, as Barnabas did, to be able to console or exhort others with God's Word anytime, anywhere you go? Well, it helps when God's Word is hidden in your heart when it's on the tip of your tongue. And we found a booklet that makes memorizing scripture a whole lot easier. It's titled How to Memorize Scripture for Life. It's an inspiring practical guidebook that will help you memorize both short passages and large sections of scripture. For more information about the booklet, How to Memorize Scripture for Life, visit our website at

And by the way, if you haven't memorized scripture before, don't let that stop you from encouraging others with God's Word. You can have access to the Bible right at your fingertips no matter where you go. Download the Truth for Life mobile app to your phone or your tablet. You can access the whole Bible. You can see related sermons and series that you can read or listen to. Download it for free when you search for Truth for Life in your app store. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for studying God's Word with us this weekend. Be sure to join us next weekend when we'll learn why there are no unimportant tasks, no chance encounters, and no irrelevant people. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-11 06:09:03 / 2024-05-11 06:17:44 / 9

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