Saint Barnabas, according to tradition, was of Jewish descent, possibly from the island of Cyprus; he was one of the earliest and well known Christian disciples in Jerusalem and worked alongside the apostles. Joseph was his given name, but the early disciples called him Barnabas, ‘Son of Encouragement.’ Barnabas was also described as ‘full of the Holy Spirit.’ He excelled in peacemaking, encouraging and exhorting, gifts much needed in an early church, which was fraught with struggles, difficulties, and persecutions both real and potential.
In the book of Acts, we meet Barnabas as a friend and staunch supporter of Paul. Paul needed reconciliation with the Jerusalem Christians, whom he had assiduously persecuted. Barnabas was able to confirm and testify to Paul’s conversion and faith in Jesus, facilitating Paul’s acceptance.
Saint Barnabas also understood the work of God, including the Gentiles in His saving grace; he probably spent his life serving God to this end. Barnabas and Paul worked side by side in Antioch. They included John Mark, possibly the cousin or nephew of Barnabas on missionary journeys to Asia Minor. Paul and Barnabas had their differences and separated at one point, reconciling later. These were flesh and blood men. Barnabas was no stranger to opposition as he spoke directly against false practices and concepts. Tradition says that Barnabas was martyred by stoning.
The Book of Acts outlines and describes how this ‘Son of Encouragement’ was instrumental in the formation and growth of the early church, attempting to steer a true and accurate course.