As most of us know, oftentimes “names” in the Bible are one key to understanding the “character”” or the “mission of an individual. Barnabas is first introduced to us earlier in Acts chapter 4:36-37 (NIV), “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.” We learn much about the man Barnabas from these two short verses. He is more than another typical “generous giver.” He is more than likely an extravagant contributor. He receives joy from giving to others and supporting the church. He is fulfilled when he sees the Kingdom of God advancing in part due to his monetary support. He is continually thankful for the abundance God has given to him, and he wants to give back as much as possible. These are all signs of the gift of generosity.
Due to his godly character and faith he has become a respected leader in the church (probably without any official title). There is a reason Luke, the author of Acts, adds the meaning of his name, “son of encouragement.” It apparently described the person of Barnabas, his character. He had the ability, strength, talent, and/or Spiritual gift to encourage others in their faith journeys.
Now connect the dots to the Apostle Paul. Barnabas, who uses his God-given gift or ability to encourage others in their faith walk, meets new convert Paul. Due to his keen interest in helping others in their faith, Barnabas takes an instant interest in the zealous Paul and his dramatic testimony. Because of his willingness to utilize his strengths or gifts from God to advance the Kingdom, he personally brings Paul to the Christian leaders, vouches for him, and jumpstarts his entire worldwide ministry.
We might be able to spot another “gift” of Barnabas as that of “discernment.” Barnabas was undoubtedly a sharp man. He was well acquainted with the appalling background of Paul as a persecutor of Christians. Therefore he had to be convinced of Paul’s authenticity as a convert in order to prevent severe damage to the entire Christian movement. Barnabas was able to fully discern Paul’s genuineness through the Holy Spirit and was convinced of his legitimate conversion.
Luke adds another description of the man later in his book of Acts, “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit(A) and faith…” (Acts 11:24, NIV). So let us review some of Barnabas’ strengths/gifts which he utilized to impact God’s Kingdom: discernment, encouragement (from his name “son of encouragement”), generosity, goodness, faith, and fullness of the Holy Spirit. These are special gifts we may never have gleaned from a cursory reading of this story. Folks, I pray these many stories/examples serve to help you understand how your own abilities/strengths may be better exercised for God’s Kingdom and Christ’s Church here at Trinity.