Gospel Encouragement

101 5pm church update header

‘You, Son of a …. ‘

How would you complete that statement – in an encouraging way or a cursing way?

On Sunday we met Joseph from Cyprus in Acts 4:36. This man was a man of encouragement. In fact, he had such an encouraging effect on people that Luke goes out of his way to identify him so readers would know who was being talked about – ‘Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement)’.

What does a man have to do, to gain such a good reputation among people, that he gets renamed in such a way that defines his character – ‘Son of Encouragement’?

The answer is simple. Worry not about your reputation, worry about others.

You can’t buy a reputation, you earn it.

The contrast between Barnabas (who sells a field and selflessly, sacrificially gives the proceeds to the Apostles to care for those who are needy), could not be sharper when you look at Ananias and Sapphira in the following verses. Ananias and Sapphira, presumably knowing Barnabas’ reputation, set out to buy a reputation for themselves – they succeeded. They bought themselves a bad reputation and now for all recorded history have becoming the posters kids for hypocrisy! They, like Barnabas, sell property but unlike Barnabas try to get the credit for their act – to be seen as selfless and sacrificial, when in fact they just lie to men and God.

You can’t buy a reputation, you earn it.

As we read on in Acts, we meet Barnabas a few more times. He is good for his name.

  • Chapter 11:19-26, Barnabas travels to Antioch to encourage the many new believers and help them ‘remain true to the Lord with all their hearts’ and through him a great number of people were brought to the Lord. In fact it was at Antioch where ‘Christians’ were first called ‘Christians’.
  • Chapter 13, Barnabas joins Paul to travel from Cyprus (his home town) to Pisidian Antioch and along the way proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues (13:5, 14). His encouragement was to stand alongside Paul as he proclaimed the Word of the Lord in the face of much opposition and then to go with Paul to the Gentiles so they might also hear the gospel (13;46).
  • Chapter 14:20-24, Barnabas gets to Derbe and again preaches the good news winning disciples and everywhere ‘strengthening and encouraging [people] to be true to the faith’ despite the hardship. How great it is to have one who in the face of suffering is willing to stand with you and point you to the Lord?
  • Chapter 15, sees Barnabas standing against heresy and then appointing and equipping elders to continue the proclamation work (15:1-4). There is good record here of a handing on of the work as the elders go off to new areas to proclaim the gospel (15:22-35).

It seems to me the two great ways that Barabbas earned his reputation as a great encourager was first to proclaim the word of the Lord and second to support and encourage others as they themselves proclaimed and lived out the Word of the Lord.

Can we do the same for one another? We shouldn’t buy a reputation by doing what aims to benefit ourselves, but we can earn a reputation by selflessly, sacrificially proclaiming the gospel and supporting and encouraging others as they proclaim and live out the Word of Lord.

With Easter coming, worry not about your reputation, worry about others. You, ‘Son of Encouragement’!

And praise be to God when you do!

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