Barnabas and Paul - Missionary Companions

Barnabas and Paul Were Contentious Companions Who Changed the World

Barnabas and Paul
Barnabas and Paul in Lystra. Public Domain

Barnabas was one of those humble early Christians who played a vital role in the church's growth simply by stepping out in faith.

His real name was Joseph, born into the Hebrew tribe of Levi, the group responsible for serving in the temple. The book of Acts tells us he was from Cyprus, an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The apostles called him Barnabas, which means "son of encouragement." No doubt he earned that title by building up the members of the struggling young church.

His first act of stepping out was to sell a field he owned and put the money at the feet of the apostles in Jerusalem.

Barnabas and Paul Team Up

His second act of faith is hardly noticed, yet it had such a profound effect on Christianity that it is still felt today. Paul had been preaching in Damascus, and his ministry was so powerful there that the Jews conspired to kill him. He managed to escape only when his friends lowered him in a basket from the city wall.

When Paul fled to Jerusalem, the apostles were afraid to meet with him. Before his conversion, Paul had persecuted the church, dragging men and women off to prison. But Barnabas sought him out, heard his story, and introduced him to the disciples. Gradually they accepted Paul, who became one of the most tremendous missionaries of all time, taking the gospel to the Gentiles and all the way to Rome.

Barnabas's great faith wasn't just in Paul, though.

He was a cousin of John Mark, who accompanied both of them on Paul's first missionary journey to Cyprus. When they sailed for Perga, John Mark left them.  The reason is not stated in Scripture.

When it came time for Paul's second missionary trip, Barnabas wanted to take Mark, but Paul would not because he had deserted them earlier.

The disagreement became so bitter that Paul went one direction with Silas while Barnabas set out for Cyprus with Mark. Through Barnabas's faith in Mark, the unintended result was two missionary teams instead of one. Later, Paul reconciled not only with Barnabas but with Mark as well. 

Accomplishments of Barnabas and Paul

Indirectly, Barnabas made possible Paul's missionary trips and epistles and the gospel of Mark, written by John Mark. They strengthened the early church and helped spread the good news to Gentiles. 

Barnabas' Strengths

Barnabas was an encourager. His faith held strong despite persecution.  He bolstered weaker disciples, and as a missionary, he was a clear, zealous preacher of the Word.

Barnabas' Weaknesses

He was "led astray," according to Paul, by Peter and a group of former Pharisees who believed Gentiles had to be circumcised to become members of the church.

Life Lessons From Barnabas

We never know how our small acts of faith will benefit others. Barnabas was a true believer in Jesus Christ and boldly centered his whole life on that belief.  Just like him, we can step out and the ripple effect of our actions can have long-lasting impact.



Reference to Barnabas in the Bible

Acts 4:36, 9:27, 11:22-30, 12:25, 13:1-7, 42-50, 14:1-3, 12-23, 15:2, 12, 22, 25, 35-39; 1 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 2:1, 9, 13; Colossians 4:10.


Missionary, teacher.

Family Tree

Aunt - Mary, mother of John Mark
Cousin - John Mark (Mark)

Key Verses

Acts 9:27
But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. (NIV)

Acts 13:2
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (NIV)

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Your Citation
Zavada, Jack. "Barnabas and Paul - Missionary Companions." ThoughtCo, Dec. 29, 2016, Zavada, Jack. (2016, December 29). Barnabas and Paul - Missionary Companions. Retrieved from Zavada, Jack. "Barnabas and Paul - Missionary Companions." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 14, 2017).