When Barnabas gave the example, encouraging other brethren to be generous in giving after Pentecost, none who had need lacked. The same text says that he was surnamed by the apostles as “the son of consolation” or the son of exhortation (Ac.4:34-36). The idea of exhortation is to entreat or strongly urge by words.
What if Barnabas had not encouraged Paul when the brethren at Jerusalem distrusted his discipleship? Paul had formerly made havoc of the church (Ac.8:1-3; 9:1-2) and so understandably they feared him (Ac.9:26). Barnabas exhorted the brethren to believe and presented evidence of Paul’s conversion. He spoke up for Paul to the apostles as well (Ac.9:27). Surely without the efforts of Barnabas, the work among these brethren might have remained tentative.
What about the nephew of Barnabas (Co.4:10), John Mark? Leaving his mother’s home in Jerusalem, John Mark took a part in the first Gospel effort to which Barnabas and Paul were assigned by the Holy Ghost (Ac.8:1; 12:1-12; 13:2). John Mark ministered to the church in Salamis on that journey (Ac.13:5). However he returned home after the evangelistic company came to Perga in Pamphylia (Ac.13:13). Some time later at Antioch, the apostle Paul invited Barnabas to go back with him to check on brethren they had earlier taught (Ac.15:34-36). Barnabas again thought to take his nephew with them, but Paul rejected John for his earlier conduct. (Ac.15:37-40). Luke tells us that the contention was so sharp between Paul and Barnabas that they went separate ways. Paul went on the journey with Silas, but Barnabas had enough confidence in his nephew that he traveled with him to preach in Cyprus.
Rejection is often the “make it or break it” point in a soul’s conversion and falling. (Ga.6:1,2; 1Th.5:14; Co.3:21). The decision of “the son of consolation” was a needed shot-in-the-arm for John Mark. He was given opportunity to prove himself equipped for the work. No doubt heard many paternal words from his mentor as they laboured together. The words and work of encouragement that Barnabas rendered to “his sister’s son” did double-duty. Paul would later rejoice, recommend and re-unite with John Mark, declaring “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2Tm.4:11; Co.4:10).
Encouragement may restore the fallen or spur one to greater faith. Inspiration saw fit to record the powerful part the son of encouragement’s words and deeds were in building up the church and the work of leading so many then and now to the eternal salvation. Second to the Gospel, encouraging words are the most powerful force to lead one to conversion or restoration of faith!
Is there someone you know who could use some words of hope and cheer? Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world (Ja.1:27). Is there someone you could move a little closer to Christ by your concern and consolation? Perhaps the words of this short article can encourage you to be an encourager for Christ! Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on (Ac.13:15b).
How powerful are your words of encouragement! HJS