Barnabas, the man who gave sacrificially and generously to encourage the church in Jerusalem is not mentioned again until after the archenemy of the church, Saul of Tarsus, was gloriously and miraculously saved on the road leading to Damascus. Remember?
“Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ ” (Acts 9:1-4, CSB). Only a God of great grace would save a tyrant like Saul!
“Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. He was unable to see for three days and did not eat or drink” (Acts 9:8–9, CSB). That’s when a faithful disciple named Ananias showed up. “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit”(Acts 9:17, CSB).
“Immediately he began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues: ‘He is the Son of God.’ All who heard him were astounded and said, ‘Isn’t this the man in Jerusalem who was causing havoc for those who called on this name and came here for the purpose of taking them as prisoners to the chief priests?’ But Saul grew stronger and kept confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah. After many days had passed, the Jews conspired to kill him” (Acts 9:20-23, CSB). To save his life, the church in Damascus sent the new convert to Jerusalem.
“When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, since they did not believe he was a disciple. Barnabas, however, took him and brought him to the apostles and explained to them how Saul had seen the Lord on the road and that the Lord had talked to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus”(Acts 9:26-28, CSB).
Everyone knew Saul’s reputation as a brutal bully, a tormentor, a persecutor, who had vehemently and viciously sought to capture and kill Christians. He was feared. The church was not quickly persuaded that Saul had been so radically transformed.
However, Barnabas saw the grace of God displayed in the life and testimony of Saul. He accepted Saul. He befriended him. With great courage, Barnabas urged the apostles to embrace Saul as a coworker. Because of Barnabas, the encourager, they did.
Imagine what might have been if Barnabas had not stood shoulder to shoulder with Saul and persuaded the church to accept him as a brother.
That begs the question: Who do I need to accept, befriend, encourage?