Barnabas, the Encourager - A Bible Discussion Guide
A Five Week Bible Study
Below you'll find the entire contents of a Bible discussion guide written to help us learn how to be an encouragement to others. You will also find the study as a free download in my resource store.
This Bible Study is written from the perspective of being an encouraging Christian.
However, it was inspired by a lecture from the perspective of Christian Counseling hosted by the American Association of Biblical Counselors presented by
Eric Scalise, Ph D and Jennifer Cisney, M.A.
Study One - Practical Encouragement
Read Acts 4:36-37
- What was Barnabas’ real name?
- Why do you think the apostles’ gave him this nickname?
- What is your real name? Do you have a nickname? If you do, what does your nickname say about you?
- What nickname might you give others in this group?
- What does it mean to you to be an encourager?
- What did Barnabas do that might have been considered encouraging in these verses?
- How were Barnabas’ actions in these few verses an encouragement?
- How can this practical kind of encouragement affect an individual? Who do you know who needs this kind of encouragement? How can you encourage them this week?
A SUMMARY OF PRACTICAL ENCOURAGEMENT
In a lecture by Eric Scalise and Jennifer Cisney, Dr. Scalise mentioned that Barnabas was just an “Average Joe.” You see, his given name was Joseph, but because of his personality, the apostles dubbed him “Son of Encouragement.” Obviously this was an important fact about Joseph. Otherwise, Paul could have simply told us his real name or left out the fact that it was a nickname.
Often we’re given nicknames we’d rather not boast about. Sometimes our nicknames fit us during one time of our life, but not so much as we grow and mature. Some nicknames stick; others come and go. And probably as Christians, if we are using a nickname for someone, we should probably make sure that’s the name they want to be called during this time of their lives.
In these particular verses, we see Barnabas selling a field and bringing the money to the apostles to use in their ministry. Ask a leader in any church and they’ll tell you that watching people learn to give is a huge encouragement. When the giving per person goes up in our congregation, we are encouraged because we know that someone has learned to tithe or a tither has gotten a better job. It’s also encouraging because it reminds us that people believe in the ministry of our congregation.
As an individual, when I’ve received gifts that meet my needs it is tremendously encouraging. One of the greatest examples of practical encouragement in my own life happened just a few years ago. My daughter and son-in-law gave birth to a two month pre-mature special needs baby. She had to be in the hospital for three months, and they couldn’t afford to take off work. Their insurance was good (praise God), but the daily 150 mile round trip was taxing on their emotions as well as their bank account. Family gave them practical encouragement as someone visited the infant almost daily while the parents worked, and our church family and other Christians gave them encouragement with gas cards and Subway gift certificates to help them with the financial strain.
If we look around us, we can always see someone who can use an extra smile or word of blessing, but when we back it up by meeting a practical need we are an encourager like Barnabas.
Study Two - Encouraging Can Be Risky Business
- REVIEW: What was Barnabas’ real name, and what does his nickname mean?
READ Acts 9:19b-28
- What was Saul like before his conversion? How do you think the apostles felt when Saul tried to join them?
- What might it have felt like to have been Saul when the apostles turned him away?
- What do you think about Barnabas’ role in this story? What were the risks of his involvement?
- What do you think Saul felt after Barnabas stepped in for him?
- How can you be an encourager like Barnabas? What risks could this entail?
- What did Saul go on to do? How did Barnabas’ risky encouragement facilitate this?
- Who can you take a risk for? Who needs someone to stand alongside of them?
Barnabas’ real name was Joseph, but the apostles called him Son of Encouragement.
When we read about Saul before he became Paul, we know that he was passionate about his faith in God, but he was also passionately opposed to the new movement with Jesus Christ at the center. He had been the one in charge of Stephen’s stoning and had special papers that gave him permission to imprison anyone who called himself a follower of Jesus Christ. He had a reputation that struck fear in those who’d come to believe in the power of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Saul, on the other hand, probably felt like a lot of us who have changed over the years. Many times it doesn’t matter how much you try to prove yourself, people remember the old you. When this happens, we often feel defeated. He may have also felt very alone, because those in the synagogue wouldn’t have welcomed him either after hearing he’d given up traditional Judaism for this new sect.
Regardless of his history, Barnabas, the encourager, took Saul under his wing. Even though the apostles could have turned against him or at least thought poorly of him, Barnabas chose to support Saul in his new found faith.
As Christians who are called to encourage, sometimes we have to take a chance on people. We might risk being ridiculed, and we may even risk being betrayed by the one we are trying to encourage. Those are some of the risk Barnabas took, but these risks can’t stop us from encouraging those who are trying to grow in Jesus Christ.
Barnabas had no idea that Saul would become Paul and then become the most influential author in the New Testament. He had no way of knowing that Paul would take Christ to the Gentiles and help fulfil prophecies from the Old Testament. By taking Saul under his wing, he helped him reach his potential in Jesus Christ.
Like Barnabas, we never know what our encouragement will do. It might not always be easy or safe, but when we are willing to take a risk to encourage someone to be all they can be in Christ, we are an encourager like Barnabas.
Other Studies by Lynne Modranski
To be an encourager, one has to have the sense of hope that only a life with Jesus can bring. This book has four Bible Studies written by Lynne Modranski, all with the theme of Hope. I've used each of these studies in several churches. We've grown and blossomed as we discussed these scriptures that can help us place our hope in Jesus Christ.
Study Three - Encouragers are Committed
- Take a minute to remind everyone why Joseph was called Barnabas.
Read Acts 11:19-26
- Why might the apostles have sent Barnabas to Antioch? Why would these people need extra encouragement?
- Why might this have taken commitment?
- How does Luke describe Barnabas?
- What was the fruit of this encouragement?
- What does this tell us about what is needed to be a true encourager?
- What did Barnabas do next?
- What is another sign of Barnabas’ commitment to encourage Saul and those in Antioch?
- Who are you committed to be an encourager to?
COMMITTED TO BEING AN ENCOURAGER
We don’t really know why the apostles sent Joseph, aka Barnabas, to the new Christians in Antioch. However, there’s a good chance it’s because these original followers of Christ knew that these new followers would need more than the usual amount of encouragement. These new believers were living in the midst of a pagan society. It would have been a difficult place to live out their faith. Plus, with no other Godly influence, they would have needed instruction in the faith that also encouraged them not to return to the life of the world around them.
For Barnabas, who’d been raised as a good Jew, this would have taken extreme commitment. The Jewish people were taught not to associate with non-Jews. To live among this pagan culture, even among those who had committed their lives to Christ, would have been out of his comfort zone. But Barnabas was a man of faith, and with the strength of the Holy Spirit, not only was he able to encourage the believers there, Luke tells us that his encouragement brought many others to the faith.
We learn from Barnabas that the Holy Spirit is crucial as we try to encourage others. Often we try to do things on our own strength, but this leads to fatigue and burn out. It’s no accident that Luke mentions Barnabas’ faith and his relationship to the Holy Spirit right before he tells us that many came to the faith.
But those in Antioch weren’t the only ones that Barnabas was committed to. Barnabas never gave up on Saul. Saul was still early in his Christian walk when Barnabas went to Antioch. By bringing Saul to this Greek city, this new apostle had an opportunity to learn how to share the gospel from the encourager.
For an entire year, Barnabas and Saul met with the church in Antioch. This is real commitment. Not only did they teach them, but they lived among them for this year, giving up friends and family.
Sometimes in order to help someone find or grow in Christ it takes a committed encourager. When we make a commitment to encourage someone in Christ we are an encourager like Barnabas.
Lynne preaches from time to time
Where is Antioch?
This map shows current day Antakya, Turkey. According to Wikipedia, the ruins of ancient Antioch lie just outside Antakya & give the town its nam
Study Four - Are You Ready to Encourage?
- Remind everyone how Barnabas got his nickname as well as where we left him last week.
Read Acts 13:1-12
- Saul (Paul) and Barnabas were at Antioch for a full year. What happened at the end of the year?
- How much time did Saul and Barnabas have to get ready to leave?
- How would this timetable work for you? What would it be like if you had to leave in a moment’s notice?
- Barnabas and Saul were ready. What do you need to do in order to be ready to be an encourager like Barnabas at all times?
- How does knowing scripture make us ready?
- How does prayer make us ready?
- How did Barnabas and Saul know where they were to go?
- How can listening to the Holy Spirit help us always be ready?
- How can being ready make us a better encourager?
READY TO BE AN ENCOURAGER
Saul/Paul and Barnabas spent a full year in Antioch with just a short break when they took a trip to Jerusalem near the end of the year to take gifts from the church in Antioch to the apostles in Judea who were facing persecution. During that year these two men had obviously trained some leaders or brought in reinforcements from Jerusalem because they are only two of the men listed as prophets and teachers in the Antiochian Church. As these leaders met for prayer, the Holy Spirit called out Saul and Barnabas to leave Antioch for a “special work.”
I marvel at verse 3! After they have fasted and prayed, they sent them out. It would appear as though Barnabas and Saul left immediately after their prayer time. No dinner, no goodbyes, they just left. They were ready to go. I once heard Tom Blackaby speak at a conference. He asked if the crowd was ready to go wherever God might send. Most responded enthusiastically, “yes.” Then he asked how many of us had a passport. The room got a bit quieter. Now, maybe we don’t need to rush out and get our passports, but perhaps we need to realize, we aren’t always as ready as we’d like to think. For some finances will keep us from being ready because we are too far in debt to go where God calls. Others may be overcommitted or not ready to lead. Bible studies and scripture reading are so important for those who want to be ready to encourage. Additionally, we each need to take time to write out our own personal story of how Jesus came into and changed our life so we can share it at a moment’s notice. Craig Groeshell, in his book “The Christian Atheist” tells of a bus ride. A person standing nearby just came out and asked him why he should believe in Jesus Christ, but Craig hadn’t prepared an answer. Being ready is important.
Later in scripture Paul tells us to pray continuously. My daughter recently gave me an excellent analogy of this concept. She said that a faucet can potentially drip continually. You know . . . drip . . . drip . . . drip. But there is a pause between each drip. A river, on the other hand, runs continuously. It never stops. Perhaps Paul was ready to go where God called him partially because he had learned the art of continuous prayer. It’s this prayer that put him and Barnabas in tune with the Holy Spirit, telling them where to go and being an encouragement to them along the way. If God calls us to go be an encouragement to others, to share the gospel with them, it’s important that we are ready.
Another Place to Fiind Bible Studies
- Bible Studies at Christian Book Distributors
Bible studies available for all of your small group and individual Bible study needs. Find a study that's just right for you whether you're a man, woman, couple, parent, teen, or child. We have topical studies, studies of individual Bible books, DVD
Study Five - Encouraging with Patience
- Remind yourself one last time about why Joseph is called Barnabas.
Read Acts 15:36-40 (Acts 12:25-13:13 will tell you about Mark leaving)
- Would you have been more like Paul or Barnabas? Why? (neither is wrong)
- How do you think John Mark felt at Paul’s reaction? (We know him better as “Mark” – the guy who wrote the book named after him)
- How do you think Barnabas made him feel?
- Why is it about Barnabas’ reaction that shows he has patience?
- How difficult is it for you to be patient with those who let you down or don’t agree with you?
- What was the result of Barnabas’ patience and encouragement? (Check out Colossians 4:10 and 2 Timothy 4:11)
- Who might you need to show patient encouragement to?
- What potential does your encouragement have?
- Your practical encouragement
- Your risky encouragement
- Your immediate encouragement (because you are ready)
- Your committed encouragement
- Your patient encouragement
ENCOURAGING WITH PATIENCE
Joseph, the “Son of Encouragement” had patience. In a ministry like this of Paul and Barnabas, losing a member of your team out on the road can be trying. Nearly everyone can relate to counting on someone to help with a project and that person not following through. It makes extra work, and produces caution the next time the person volunteers. Perhaps that’s how Paul felt. Who needs to be 1000’s of miles from home when your number one helper goes AWOL?
However, Barnabas seems to be the guy who gives second chances. After all, he was the one who believed in Paul when he was still Saul and had just found Christ. And now we see him being patient with John Mark as the young man returns to the mission field after his period of desertion.
Most of the time, it is difficult to trust someone after they have betrayed us. We are generally wary, like Paul. But we also know that it is disheartening when we have made a change in our life and no one will give us a second chance. We often just need someone who will be patient with us until we prove we are trustworthy. Do you suppose that John Mark worked twice as hard alongside Barnabas to prove to him his encouragement was not wasted?
Many people don’t realize that this John Mark is the author of the second gospel. Most theologians believe that it was Mark who ran away naked in the garden on the night of Jesus’ arrest. (Mark 14:51-52) A relative of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10) he was also a family friend of Peter. (Acts 12:11-14) In fact, he was with Peter enough that it is believed that Mark’s gospel was written from Peter’s perspective. One has to wonder if it is Barnabas’ patient encouragement that put him in the position to write the story of Jesus we love to read today.
There is no way for us to know if our encouragement will build a church or help an enemy of the faith become an evangelist. We can’t predict whether or not the speed of our response will be the one thing that finally brings someone to Christ or whether sticking by someone will make monumental changes in an entire city. Even restoring a fallen Christian to the faith doesn’t guarantee he’ll write a book people will be reading 2,000 years from now. However, we do know that each of these scenarios is possible, and even if no one ever knows we have been an encourager, Christ knows. And one day He will tell us so when He says, “Well done, Good and faithful servant. You have been an encourager like Barnabas to those you ministered to and to me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Devotions for your Meeting or Small group
- Devotions to Inspire Your Week
Everyone needs some inspiration in their week. These scripture based devotional readings are designed to do just that. You will eventually find 10 devotions here to help you stay close to Christ.
Bible Study is Important for Christians
How Often Do You Study the Bible?
© 2014 Lynne Modranski