Antioch Series: When Worship, Prayer, and Missions Collide

#5- A Barnabas Company


At the core of Jesus’ invitation in the Gospels is the simple call to “follow him” and the radical cost associated with that decision along with it’s immeasurable reward. In Mark chapter 10, a wealthy young man came to Jesus. Here was a guy who was young, rich, intelligent, and influential. Think of all that this guy, with this kind of wealth and influence, could accomplish for the kingdom! He had a clean record and a good reputation. Not only that but he was ready to go! Jesus, make it easy for this guy, don’t scare him away.  If we can get him saved then he can start sharing his testimony among the other wealthy and affluent citizens, maybe even write a book, and do some fundraising for the cause.

Yet he lacked one thing. The bible says when Jesus looked at him He loved him. He knew that this guy wanted into the leadership team for what it could provide for him. It would give him the visibility, position, influence that he craved. Jesus looked into his soul and saw all of his wealth and affluence. Something else had so possessed his heart that he could never see Jesus as supremely valuable and worthy of all that he had.

You may be asking, “well what does that have to do with me?!?” If you live above the “poverty line” in America, you are in the top 2% of the wealthiest people in the world. If you live on or above the median income level in America you are in the top 1%.

We are starting to redefine Christianity. We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with. A nice, middle-class, American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who would not expect us to forsake our closest relationships so that he receives all our affection. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all, he loves us just the way we are. A Jesus who want us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who, for that matter, wants us to avoid danger altogether. A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream.  – David Platt

 

Christ is fighting for our greatness! Not only in this age but in the age to come.  Jesus wasn’t trying to strip this man of all his pleasure. He was fighting for his greatness and for a reward that will last forever! Money and possessions are not inherently evil, but according to the Bible they can cost you your life and the love of them can cost you your destiny. This young man walked away from an opportunity of a lifetime. He could have been on Jesus’ apostolic leadership team.

There was another wealthy man who, in the grace of God, actually said yes to the invitation from Jesus. Luke introduces us to him in Acts chapter 4. Acts 4 is a snapshot of a community of people whose hearts and lives have been utterly revolutionized by believing in Jesus. They found themselves freely caring about people and freely selling land and houses, giving the money to the church for distribution to those with specific needs. Luke attributes this to the great grace that was upon them all. When grace moved, all of a sudden, people started falling out of love with “things” and started falling in love with the Lord and with His people. They had found something of more value than houses and comfort and possessions. They were becoming disciples of Jesus. Heavenly people. They were transitioning from their “ownership” mindset to “stewardship” for the glory of Jesus Christ.


Luke focuses in on two stories that are meant to complement and contradict what was going on in the community there in Jerusalem. The first account is of a man that will become one of the most influential and beloved men of the New Testament. Luke chooses to introduce Joseph. A wealthy man from Cyprus who owned land and was an affluent citizen in Jerusalem. He wasn’t a young and irresponsible man being swept up in a fad or a trend. He was being radically transformed by grace, from the inside out, into a heavenly minded vessel for the kingdom. And he was full of joy. So much so that the Apostles had nicknamed him “son of encouragement” or Barnabas.

He shines as one of the most mature, reliable, loveable leaders of the early church. Right here in Acts 4:36–37, Luke shows us how Barnabas’ trusted ministry began. It started with a demonstrated freedom from the love of things and a heart of love for the presence of God and the people of God. He sold a field that belonged to him and gave all the proceeds to the apostles to use for the movement. In this story he stands as the example of what the grace of God and the Spirit of Revival does in the human heart. It creates a bond of love for people and cuts a bond of love for money and possessions. These three things were distinguishing marks on Barnabas’ life.

Love for people, radical generosity, and great joy.

He was a Levite, well acquainted with Levitical law. Barnabas in this one act gives us a glimpse into “New Covenant” giving. “Old Covenant” required 10% tithe. The New Testament writers never give a number as a law for giving because giving was meant to flow out of a heart of joy and love, struck by the worth of the Lamb. Instead they write about Barnabas and others…

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints-– – 2 Corinthians 8:1-4

Do you see that? The grace of God was producing a wealth of generosity even in their severe affliction and extreme poverty. Old testament giving was 10%, New Testament giving is Barnabas. Barnabas found a greater joy then having influence and a greater possession than having wealth. He found a treasure hidden in a field and in his joy he went and sold all that he had. 

He sold his little field and he gained an apostolic assignment. He laid down his field at the apostle’s feet and picked up a mantle for a greater field called the nations of the earth.

Radical generosity changes history and unlocks destiny.


Immediately after, Luke then juxtaposes another story with Barnabas’. A man named Ananias who also sold a field.


What was wrong with Ananias and Sapphira? They loved their money and they loved position. They made the sale, they looked at all that cash, and they couldn’t bear the thought of giving it all away without getting something in return. So they kept some back (v. 2). They, like the rich young ruler who, thought if they followed some external religious law, could manipulate their way into the promises.  They wanted to look more generous than they really were. They wanted the apostles to think that they were like Barnabas perhaps. They not only loved money, they loved the praise of men. They wanted approval. So they lied to cover their covetousness, and to give the impression of radical generosity. If you love possessions and you love the praise of men, your love for truth will dissolve into deception and fraud. That’s the meaning of hypocrisy. Half hearted obedience is no obedience at all. They were struck dead at the altar so that all the church would know this one thing. The love of money and the love of the praise of men will lead to a wasted life.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:7-9

The truth is: You are reaping what you sowed five to ten years ago and what you do today is setting the stage for what you will walk in five and ten years from now.

Barnabas shows up next in Acts 9 about 6 years later. At this point, Saul has had his conversion experience and spent a few years in the wilderness before coming up to Jerusalem to try and join the apostolic leadership team. Everyone was afraid of this young “convert” and no one wanted to associate with him. But one man, full of love, grace and joy took Paul by the hand and marched him right up into Peter and James’ office and said, “You gotta hear this young mans story.” Barnabas believed in Paul and his calling when no one else would. He saw this diamond in the rough and was determined to put his arms around him and make sure was successful. He was a true spiritual Father.

When the Apostles heard the report of what was happening in Antioch, they knew there was only one man right for the job of shepherding this young revival community. They sent Barnabas. When he saw what was happening in Antioch, he knew that it was the perfect place for the young Paul to cut his teeth in ministry and leadership. Only one problem, he hadn’t seen Paul in a few years and heard that he had returned home to pursue a different path for his life. Barnabas believed in Paul’s calling even when Paul didn’t have the courage to believe in it himself.

I often say that Acts 11:25 is one verse that changed all of history,

So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch…” – Acts 11:25


Barnabas goes and searches for this young man and finds him living at his parents house, completely resigning from his calling because of hope differed, disappointment, and wounds from leaders.

Imagine the conversation in the living room of Paul’s parents house. Whatever was said changed history.  

Barnabas returns to Antioch as an Apostolic leader to care for this young revival community and nuture it into maturity while mentoring Paul in Antioch. Pretty soon the community starts to reflect this DNA of radical generosity and love for people under the leadership of Barnabas. After he returns from Tarsus with Paul, it says they spent a whole year teaching a great many people (Acts 11:26). Two verses later, an offering is being taken up to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. This was no small love gift. Everyone in the church of Antioch pitched in. In fact it says that everyone according to their ability or NASB says it this way, they determined to send a contribution according to each of their means. Sound familiar? Love for people and radical generosity with joy!

In just a year or two he and his young companion would be launched out as the first Apostolic mission’s movement that will raise up revival communities all across Asia minor and be one of the few catalytic leaders in the rapid expansion of the church in the first century.

 

All because he sold a field.


Antioch Sending Centers are always marked by the lives of fathers and mothers who, like Barnabas, long ago “sold their field” to be a part of what God was doing on the earth. These ones are so marked with love, generosity and joy that they provide a safe place for young laborers to be formed and fashioned without the fear of over-correction, manipulation, or punishment. Their lives of faith and obedience over decades give permission for a new generation to go hard after God no matter what the cost. I believe that there are hundreds and thousands of Barnabas’ out there that God is sending to serve these emerging prayer, revival and missions centers across the earth so that hand in hand, not passing the baton, the generations can experience the greatest outpouring and missions thrust the earth has ever seen.

 

R.A. Martinez

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *