Online Bible Commentary
Being a Barnabas
Acts 9:26 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. 29 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. 30 When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul was born into a Jewish Pharisee family in a primarily Gentile nation called Cilicia. His father was of the tribe of Benjamin.
Paul’s Jewish birth name was Saul. Saul was born in the city of Tarsus which was located in what is now southeastern Turkey not far from the Mediterranean Sea.
He was born in a primarily Greek speaking city, so Saul learned the Greek language. As a Greek speaking Jew he was known as a Hellenist.
As a young man, probably about twelve, Saul moved to Jerusalem to study under the great Jewish leader Gamaliel. In the early A.D. thirties he became perhaps the most devout persecutor of the new sect called “The Way”, who were eventually known as Christians.
About A.D. 35, when Saul was in his early thirties, he was converted on the road to Damascus through an encounter with Jesus. He became a believer and spent the rest of his life spreading the gospel.
Saul preached in Damascus for three years, except for a sabbatical to Arabia for a time (Galatians 1:17-18). While in Damascus, he was threatened by the Jews (Acts 9:23) and the governor of Damascus (2 Cor. 11:32), and Saul escaped to Jerusalem.
In this passage, we see that things did not go any better in Jerusalem than they had in Damascus. Saul “tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple” (v. 26).
So Barnabas took Saul under his wing and through his endorsement the apostles accepted Saul (v. 27). Saul joined in with the apostles and “was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out” (v. 28).
Saul “spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists”, his own people (v. 29a). Because of this Saul’s life was again threatened by the Jews when they “attempted to kill him” (v. 29b).
One day, while in the temple praying Saul fell into a trance and the Lord appeared to him. Jesus told Saul to quickly leave Jerusalem because his testimony would not be received by the Jews (Acts 22: 17-18). The Lord told him he was sending him far away to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21).
When the apostles found out about the attempted murder of Saul they sent him back to his hometown of Tarsus, by way of Caesarea (v. 30). So the Lord’s commandment to Saul to return to Tarsus and preach the gospel to the Gentiles was fulfilled.
We know virtually nothing else of the time Saul spent in Tarsus, other than, perhaps, his vision of Heaven (2 Cor. 12:2) experienced in about A.D. 42 (assuming 2 Corinthians was written in A. D. 56). We do not hear of Saul again until Barnabas came to Tarsus to get him (Acts 11:25). They traveled to Antioch and assembled a church for a year (Acts 11:26). Saul and Barnabas then traveled to Judea on a relief mission (Acts 11:29).
Then James, the brother of John, became the first apostle to be martyred, at the hands of Herod Agrippa in A.D. 44 (Acts 12:2). From this we deduce that Saul was in Tarsus for only a short time, from about A.D. 39 or 40 to about A. D. 42, some two or three years.
Barnabas was very instrumental in Paul’s ministry. The name Barnabas means encourager. He was Paul’s sponsor, friend, and encourager.
We all need a Barnabas. We all need someone to be our encourager.
It is not hard being a Barnabas to someone else. Just be their friend and encourage them in the Lord. We all can do that.