Original Research

Barnabas: Early Church leader and model of encouragement

R. G. Branch
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 41, No 2 | a307 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v41i2.307 | © 1970 R. G. Branch | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 July 2007 | Published:

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R. G. Branch, Research Associate, Joy Project, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

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Acts presents Barnabas, an early church leader, as a model of integrity and character. It loads him with accolades. It calls him a good man (Acts 11:24), a prophet and teacher (Acts 13:1), an apostle (Acts 14:14), and one through whom God worked miracles (Acts 15:12). It recounts the times he faced persecution (Acts 13:45; 14:19) and risked his life for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 15:26). He believed Saul truly had been converted (Acts 9:27) and saw the potential of John Mark (Acts 12:25) and championed them both at different times (Acts 11:25-26; 15:36-41). 1 Corinthians 9:6 affirms his charac- ter by noting he worked while serving congregations in order not to burden them. Acts introduces him as Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, and praises his generous spirit (Acts 4:36). Arguably, Acts portrays no one else – except the Lord Jesus – in such glowing terms. The apostles nicknamed him Barnabas, Son of Encouragement, probably because he earned it!


Significantly, a passage relating the character attributes and big heartedness of Barnabas note that the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch (Acts 11:19-26). Because of its textual context, it may well be that the character traits of Barnabas defined the early use of the word Christian.


Barnabas played a decisive role in the Early Church. Yet over two millennia, he has slipped into unjustified obscurity behind Paul, Peter, John, and James, the brother of Jesus. This article examines selected stories about him that showcase his contributions to the Early Church and establish his significant leadership role.


Antioch; Barnabas; Early Church Leaders; Encouragement; Jerusalem Council; Saul or Paul


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