GBs in The Bible: Paul and Barnabas

In my introduction to this series about GBs in The Bible, I suggested that Scripture provides some great examples of God Buddies (“GBs” for short). Each of the next posts in this series will explain the biblical foundation and Christ-like characteristics that helped transform one or more of the people in the story as they were used for God’s bigger purposes.

I begin with more about the Apostle Paul and his companion, Barnabas who you initially learned about in my post, Three Relationships Every Man Needs.

A Peer Turned Mentor

The story of Paul and Barnabas demonstrates two important aspects of God Buddy relationships: doing life together with a peer, and having a mentor to help guide and teach you about what it means to be a godly man (or women, since females should also have a mentor).

You may recall Paul and Barnabas traveled together to the island of Cyprus and province of Asia (modern Asia Minor) preaching about the life of Jesus Christ during Paul’s first missionary journey. The two shared a common goal to obey Jesus’ command to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15).

What surprised me as I researched for this post was that it was actually Barnabas’ mentoring that played a significant part in Paul’s development into the influential leader; not the other way around as I first thought.

Biblical Background

Barnabas appears in the book of The Bible called The Acts of the Apostles, which is the story about the early Christian church. He also appears in several of the Epistles, which are
Paul’s letters to various churches in the region. Barnabas became an early leader in the church due to a financial gift from the sale of a field he owned (Acts 4:36-37). It also helped that Barnabas “was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.” (Acts 11:24).

The book of Acts also tells us about Paul. First known as Saul, this religious zealot was a persecutor of the early church (Philippians 3:6; Acts 8:1-3). Blinded by a light on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-10), Saul was converted into a devoted leader, minister and evangelist for Jesus Christ.

The newly renamed Paul was only accepted by the other Christians due to the sponsorship of Barnabas, who vouched for the reality of Paul’s faith and ministry (Acts 9:26-30). Barnabas recruited Paul to help him teach new followers of Christ in Antioch (Acts 11:25-26). The pair met and taught with great numbers of people in the early church for a whole year. Barnabas’s guidance led to Paul growing from a novice follower of Christ into what some believe as the greatest evangelist of the faith in history.

Early in their relationship, Barnabas was the leader of the team. The writers of the Acts often wrote about “Barnabas and Paul” when the pair first worked together. However, we see a change in the language later in Scripture that shows the switch as they became known as “Paul and Barnabas” to signify the student becoming the leader of their group of ministers.

Many people remember that Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement about bringing John Mark along on future journeys. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them but Paul thought it was not wise since Mark he had deserted them in Pamphylia. They had such a sharp disagreement that Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, whereas Paul chose Silas and went to Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:37-40).

Years later, Paul finds the formerly useless John Mark had actually become very profitable for the ministry, saying “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministering” (2 Tim. 4:11). Paul also benefited greatly since Barnabas chose to train John Mark.

It’s important to note these two men spent many years together as friends in ministry but did not always agree. Regardless, these two close friends continued to have a respect for each other and supported each of their decisions.

The GB Lesson

Have a Common Goal and Be Intentional

The lesson and one of the principles for being a God Buddy is that you share a common goal and are intentional in your relationship together. Paul and Barnabas clearly had the commonality of learning to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. They also showed a commitment to their relationship, which brought glory God. These are both important lessons for even today!

What strikes you most about the relationship between Barnabas and Paul?

Do you have a peer or mentor in your life? If so, how has that relationship helped you navigate your journey?


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