God’s Word for You
Acts 9:26-27 Barnabas and Paul
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, February 5, 2020
26 When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.
Paul was in a tough spot. He couldn’t go back to his former friends in Jerusalem; they would only convict him and perhaps stone him to death for defecting to the Christian faith. On the other hand, the Christians who were there had no reason to believe he wasn’t a double agent of some kind, perhaps trying to infiltrate the church to find out who else was among the believers and have them arrested. In fact, it was just such a problem that caused the early church to adopt a system of sponsors for new converts. These sponsors would accompany the convert to worship for as much as a whole year while instruction was going on and the initiate had an opportunity to show their new faith in their thoughts, words, and actions. Finally, a day would arrive, an unexpected moment when the convert or initiate would be invited to attend worship in a late evening ceremony, a yearly vigil that happened in the dark of the night on the eve of Easter Sunday. It was at this vigil that such new converts were at last baptized. The sponsor’s task was then at an end, but they were probably expected to remain in contact with initiate and certainly to pray for them. These sponsors were the forerunners of our modern baptismal sponsors which are now known as godparents.
In Damascus, Paul had needed someone’s help, and God had sent Ananias to restore his sight and to baptize him. Now in Jerusalem, he needed someone’s help even to be welcome among the Christians, and here was Barnabas. Perhaps we can infer that Barnabas had become aware of Paul or even met him. Barnabas was originally from Cyprus (Acts 4:36), but Damascus wouldn’t really be on his way if he traveled between Cyprus and Jerusalem. It’s more likely that there was another acquaintance, someone like Ananias, who introduced the two men.
Luke tells us that Barnabas introduced Paul to the apostles in Jerusalem, but Paul later says that of the Twelve, only Peter was there at this time, but that Paul stayed with Peter for fifteen days (Galatians 1:18). He also met James, the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:19). Barnabas told the story of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus and of his preaching in the years since, “preaching boldly in the name of Jesus.”
The words of Barnabas on behalf of Paul are an illustration of the words of our Mediator, Jesus, who speaks on our behalf before God the Father. “There is God,” Paul later wrote, “and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom to all men” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). Just as Paul had to trust that the apostles would take Barnabas at his word, so also we can be confident that the Father will take our Lord Jesus at his word. He speaks up for us, as the Father accepts us on his merits, not ours. Through him we have forgiveness and fellowship in our Father’s house now and forevermore.
Pastor Timothy Smith