Barnabas Character Bible Study Background and Lessons

Barnabas Character Study

Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 1 Cor 10:6

Meaning of Name:

NT:921 Barnabas (bar-nab’-as); of Aramaic origin [OT:1247 and OT:5029]; son of Nabas (i.e. prophecy); Barnabas, an Israelite:

OT:1247 bar (Aramaic) (bar); corresponding to OT:1121; a son, grandson, etc.: -X old, son.

OT:5029 nebiy’ (Aramaic) (neb-ee’); corresponding to OT:5030; a prophet:

Son of Encouragement


NT:5207 huios (hwee-os’); apparently a primary word; a “son” (sometimes of animals), used very widely of immediate, remote or figuratively, kinship:

NT:3874 paraklesis (par-ak’-lay-sis); from NT:3870; imploration, hortation, solace:

Acts 4:36-37

36 Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. His original name was Joseph,

NT:2501 Ioseph (ee-o-safe’); of Hebrew origin [OT:3130]; Joseph, the name of seven Israelites:

OT:3130 Yowceph (yo-safe’); future of OT:3254; let him add (or perhaps simply active participle adding); Joseph, the name of seven Israelites:

His Ancestry and Family Life:

Acts 4:36

36 Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement),

He was a Levite and was born on the island of Cyprus.

When and Where He Lived:

Other than the record that he was born on Cyprus, little is known about where he lived. He was living in Jerusalem (Acts 11:22) when the issue of the Greek disciples who were preaching the gospel arose. He went to Antioch (Acts 11:22) to investigate this. From there he went to Tarsus (Acts 11:25) to seek Paul to assist him with following up and discipling the young converts at Antioch (Acts 11:26).

Training He received and His Occupation:

Apparently, he was trained by Jesus. Likely he was one of the seventy whom the Lord sent out. (Acts 11:22; 14:14) No mention is made of his occupation, though he had enough means to own a field.

Place in History:

  • He and Paul were largely responsible for establishing for the church at the Jerusalem Council the liberty of believers in Christ. They overcame the intense pressure from the Jews for Gentile believers to be required to obey the Law as well as follow all the rituals of Judaism.

Special traits:

  • He had the gift of encouragement. (Acts 4:36; 9:26,27; 11:23; 15:37-39)
  • He was an apostle. (Acts 14:14)


  • Maybe he allowed his emotions to affect his judgment about taking along John Mark (Acts 15:37-39).
  • Surprisingly, he was influenced by the hypocrisy of Peter and others in not associating with Gentile believers (Gal 2:13). This is particularly surprising in light of the fact that Barnabas previously was the one who embraced and strongly encouraged the Greek believers who were preaching the gospel in Antioch (Acts 11:20-24).


Generous                  Acts 4:36-37

Courageous              Acts 9:26-27; 15:25,26

Supportive                Acts 9:26-27

Persuasive                Acts 9:28

Doctrinally Sound     Acts 11:20-22

Dependable              Acts 11:22; 12:25

Responsible              Acts 11:22, 1 Cor 9:6

Good                       Acts 11:24

Godly                       Acts 11:24

Discerning                Acts 11:24,25

Humble                    Acts 11:30-13:7 àBS X 5; Acts 13:42-15:36àPB X 9, BP X 4

Encourager               Acts 4:36; 9:26,27; 11:23; 15:37-39

Diligent                     Acts 11:26, 1 Cor 9:6

Trustworthy              Acts 11:22,30

Important Acts and Events:

Acts 4:36-37

36 Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

  • Barnabas strength of being an encourager was well known to the apostles.
  • Barnabas was very generous.

Acts 9:26-28

26 When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord.

  • When others were afraid of Saul, thinking that he was trying to deceive them to bring them harm, Barnabas courageously took Saul under his wing and vouched for him. He took the risk to be a friend when Saul really needed one.

Acts 11:19-26

So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. 23 Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; 24 for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. 25 And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

  • They trusted Barnabas to correctly assess the doctrinal soundness of the teaching of these Greeks who were preaching Jesus.
  • Barnabas faithfully exercised his gift of encouragement.
  • As many were coming to know the Lord there at Antioch, Barnabas correctly surmised that it would be helpful to have Paul there to help follow up and disciple these new converts.

Acts 11:29-30

29 And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. 30 And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.

  • Barnabas and Saul were entrusted to take the contribution to the brethren in Judea.

Acts 12:25

25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with them John, who was also called Mark.

  • They accomplished the mission they were sent on.

Acts 13:1-3

Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

  • Barnabas and Saul (Paul) were set apart by the Holy Spirit for the very first missionary journey.

Acts 14:11-18

11 When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us.” 12 And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out 15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM. 16 ” In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; 17 and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” 18 Even saying these things, with difficulty they restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.

At Lystra, Paul and Barnabas are worshiped as gods. They are greatly distressed and tear their robes at this. They relate to the crowd that they are merely men and with difficulty persuade the crowd not to worship them.

It is interesting in verse 14 that both Barnabas and Paul are referred to as apostles. Besides “The Twelve” and Paul, there are very few other apostles named.

  • James, the Lord’s brother. Gal 1:19
  • Timothy and Silvanus 1 Thess 1:1 with 1 Thess 2:6

Acts 14:19-28

19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ” Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” 23 When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24 They passed through Pisidia and came into Pamphylia. 25 When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished. 27 When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they spent a long time with the disciples.

  • Jews came to Lystra and won over the crowds. Paul was stoned and left for dead. For some reason Barnabas does not seem to be present. Paul
  • Barnabas and Paul continue their journey preaching the gospel and strengthening and encouraging the saints. This is a prime example of follow-up and disciplemaking.
  • Further support that Paul and Barnabas were both apostles is that they appointed elders in all the churches they visited.
  • Upon returning to Antioch, they give a full report about how God was using them to minister to the Gentiles

Acts 15:1-4,12

 Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. 3 Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren. 4 When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 12 All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.

  • Because of a great dissension with some Jews about requiring believing Gentiles to be circumcised and follow the Law, Barnabas and Paul travel to Jerusalem to present their case before the apostles and elders. They relate all that God was doing through them with the Gentiles.

Acts 15:21-29

22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas — Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, 23 and they sent this letter by them,

” The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings.

24 “Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, 25 it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

27 “Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth. 

28 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: 29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”

  • The council in Jerusalem concludes that Gentiles should not be burdened with keeping the Law.
  • They send a letter by Barnabas and Paul to communicate this to the believers at Antioch.
  • This produces great rejoicing in the church there.
  • The letter commends Barnabas and Paul for risking their life to serve the Lord Jesus.

Acts 15:35

35 But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching with many others also, the word of the Lord.

  • Barnabas and Paul remain in Antioch preaching and teaching the Word of the Lord.

Acts 15:36-41

After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. 38 But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. 40 But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

For the second missionary journey, Barnabas and Paul had a sharp disagreement over whether they should take John Mark with them. As a result, they parted ways. Barnabas took John Mark and Paul took Silas. Clearly, at least one of them was wrong in this disagreement. I think that Paul was in the right and Barnabas erred in this dissension. Here are some reasons.

  • Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:1; Col 1:1; Tit1:1) and Barnabas should have deferred to him.
  • When Paul chose Silas, they were “committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.” No such statement is made of Barnabas and Mark.
  • Barnabas is never mentioned again in the bo