Readings: Acts 4:23-37; Romans 15:1-7; John 14:25-27;
- Are you a son/daughter of encouragement?
There are many Bible people – like Barnabus (Acts 4:36), Tychicus (Acts 13:15; 20:2) and others, who are very encouraging people. Barnabus gets our main attention today. Luke introduces him in the reading from Acts 4:
Act 4:36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), Act 4:37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Barnabus’ name means “son of prophecy” in Aramaic. In Luke’s Greek it becomes “son of encouragement”.
Lloyd Ogilvie, during his tenure as Senior Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, California (a church noted for more than half a century as a centre for biblical preaching and exposition) writes this in his commentary on Acts:
In two brief verses we are introduced to one of the most admirable personalities of the New Testament. If all we had to enable us to know this man’s character were these two verses, we’d still have enough to stand in admiration and then desire to be like him.
I think one of our home groups should be telling the story of Barnabus. They have been studying him in detail.
My attention to him is with mixed motives. I want us to be like him – yes. But I also would like us to understand the significance of groups that use his name – like the Barnabus Fund – as we approach our World Mission Sunday focussing on the persecuted church around the world.
This man is Joses – or Joseph. He is from Cyprus where there was a colony of Jews. A Levite. And a cousin of John Mark – so he had connections in the Jerusalem church. (Mark was mentored by Peter of course).
Ogilvie suggests that if Joses aka Joseph from Cyprus, names Barnabus by the apostles, would have been in Jerusalem at Pentecost, or at least after that when the Holy Spirit came in power. His life was changed. By the Holy Spirit – became committed in full to God’s work – hence his generosity. (Churches today that give, give fully in response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and a passion for God’s work!).
Here’s the wonderful thing.
I wonder if you picked up on the link between the readings today?
Lurking beneath the words in English (and not beneath the surface of our murky dams that we spoke about last week) – are treasures and gems.
Encouragement is a key word in the reading from Acts and Romans. In Acts 4 we are introduced to Barnabus. In Romans 15 encouragement comes from God – with endurance – in Paul’s prayer for a spirit of unity amongst the Roman believers.
Rom 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Rom 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus
The Gospel passage is the one in which the word treasures are hidden!
Joh 14:25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. Joh 14:26 But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Joh 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
So what is the link?
- Yes – peace is encouraging.
- Not letting your hearts be troubled is an encouragement to be steady in faith and feelings.
- The power word?
Verse 26. the Counsellor.
Here’s the lovely truth. Ogilvie puts it best really:
The apostles, who spoke Aramaic, named him Barnabas. The name is power-packed, having the meaning “son of prophecy,” from bar, “son of,” combined with nebū‘ā, “prophecy.” Some scholars have given it a slightly different emphasis, “son of refreshment.” In Luke’s Greek, however, we have the reflection not just of translation into another language, but the intimate personal observation by the physician of Joses of Cyprus. In a powerful parenthesis, Luke uses huiòs paraklḗseōs, which can be rendered “son of consolation, exhortation, or encouragement.” It is exciting to understand that the same basic word was used to translate Jesus’ Aramaic promise of the ministry of the Holy Spirit:
“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (Joh_14:16-18).
In this case the Greek word for “Helper,” or as it is in the RSV “Counselor,” paráklētos, means one who is called to one’s side to help who strengthens and helps us to stand. Joses had clearly displayed inherent inclination toward being that kind of person.
huiòs paraklḗseōs and paráklētos are the two key words.
Barnabus got his name because he was emulating the work of the Comforter – the helper – the Holy Spirit. He was empowered by the spirit! Clearly!
And of course it’s not a trick. Comfort and encourage are very close to each other in meaning.
- Encourage from French into Middle English. It means to “make strong” or “hearten”. Or to put in courage! To spur on. To help.
- Comfort is stolen from Latin. Com-forte means to strengthen much! Fortis is Latin for strong! Forte is the Italian term for loud or strong in music! (Piano means soft! Pianoforte means a soft loud – as it has a pedal I suppose!)
Encouraging people come along side you and sustain, strengthen and uplift you.
Is that you? Am I always like that? Great questions.
We will revisit Barnabus again. I encourage you (in the very ordinary sense of urge, prompt and suggest to you) that you look him up in your bibles through the week.
For today a couple of important matters. Are you a son/daughter of encouragement – was our first question or point today.
The second is this – how do we become like this? Point 2 is simple – the Bible and encouragement.
- The bible and encouragement
Listen to Romans 15 again – in case you missed it. We focussed on verse 5. Listen to verse 4 again:
Rom 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Rom 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.
You can’t be encouraging unless you know the truths of scripture. Like you can’t know God’s character without knowing your bible – and you can’t get to know and trust God without knowing his character!
The endurance and ENCOURAGEMENT of the Scriptures brings hope!
Barnabus’ name is close to the name of the Holy Spirit – and the two go hand in in hand – the Bible, the word of God, and the work of the Spirit!
Here’s a good biblical reason to illustrate that they are two sides of the same coin.
Letting the Word of God make its home in us, and being filled with the Spirit!
Two of Paul’s letters show this clearly. Colossians and Ephesians.
Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. Col 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Eph 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, Eph 5:19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, Eph 5:20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The outcome of the input of both word and Spirit is worship, praise and thanksgiving and gratitude.
And people like that are very encouraging to have around.
A further thought today about people who are like God and speak God’s word to us in a prophetic sense. And so our third point:
We saw that Barnabus in Aramaic meant “son of prophecy”.
It’s interesting that prophecy is the most desirable gift in 1 Corinthians 14. But this is not like the Old Testament prophets’ way. Paul writes this;
1 Corinthians 14:3 – But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
God wants to speak into our lives – through his word, his Spirit, and the proclamation of preaching and prophecy (or prophetic preaching) to build us up.
We need to be strong. The battle is tough! How much more for the persecuted church!
But finally, our last point:
- God and Jesus encourage us.
If figures really. The Holy Spirit the comforter/encourager is just like them!
Listen to Paul in 2 Thessalonians: 2Th 2:16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 2Th 2:17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
What a lovely blessing!
Lloyd Ogilvie shares about the Barnabus name again in this way. A good way to end our thoughts today: He talks about Luke – and suggests that Luke may have known Paul’s letter to the Ephesians or heard him dictate it and understood his desire for the church to be like Christ in chapter 4. He says this of this passage: “It is a charter and guide for a challenging Order of Saint Barnabas in any congregation today.”
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Eph_4:1-3, Eph_4:30-32).
He concludes: “ Only the indwelling Lord could produce an affirmer and encourager like Barnabas. And it all was focused in his stable loyalty to the Lord, to his friends, and to new believers. What would we do without the Barnabases? And with the Paraklētos in us, can’t we go beyond just emulating Barnabas, and become the Lord’s own unique miracle of an encourager? Whatever our name is now, it can be loyal encourager.”