BEST DECISION EVER: BARNEY’S GAMBLE

In the course of a twenty-four hour period we make gobs of decisions. Some of these we make with a serious amount of forethought and prayer. Others we make spontaneously with little or no thought as to the consequences or impact our decisions will have—not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives are intertwined with ours.

Have you ever thought much about how a single decision can change your life forever? For better or worse?

In these blog posts I’d like to look at the one good decision that some people in the Bible made that changed the course of their life for the better. By looking at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word I hope we’ll all take comfort, courage, and hope in the fact that, despite the mess we’re presently faced with, we can still turn things around. A lousy past or dismal present doesn’t have to give us the same future. By God’s grace, our future and life can be changed for the better…if we only make the right decision today. May God help us do that on a daily basis!

BARNEY’S GAMBLE

Who of us have not heard of the apostle Paul? From his zealous persecution of Christ’s followers, to his dramatic conversion on the Damascus Road, to his tireless work in spreading the Gospel that he once sought to destroy; to his many letters which were later included in the canon of sacred, inspired Scripture; the apostle Paul almost singlehandedly changed the world of his day and made Christ known to a world who knew Him not. Christianity today is largely the religion that it is because Paul stood fast on the conviction that Christ was for everyone—not just for the Jews, but for the Gentiles too. And through his tireless missionary efforts and undaunted zeal in the face of horrendous pains and persecutions; his courageous stance against those who wanted to keep Christianity Jewish; Christianity grew beyond the bounds of a peculiar religion of one race of people, the Jews, and became a worldwide religion with followers from every nation and tongue. Through him, this Apostle to the Gentiles brought to fulfillment the promise God made centuries earlier to Abraham that through him all the nations of the earth would be blest (Genesis 22:18). If you stop and think about it, Paul changed the world of his day and his profound influence continues to be felt in our world thousands of years after his death.

What many of you may not know is that all this would not have happened the way it did had it not been for one man. Barnabas was his name. Now Barnabas was an influential leader in the early church. He wasn’t an apostle like one of the twelve, but he was well respected throughout the church and the apostles used him quite a bit in the work of the Gospel.

Anyways, Paul, who was at that early time known as Saul, was dramatically converted to Christ on the Damascus Road (Acts 9). Christ personally appeared to him in a vision and that was the end of Saul the antichristian persecutor of the church. (Just goes to show you’re bound to change when you meet the Lord!)

Paul continued the rest of his trip to Damascus as a changed man. Shortly thereafter he went into seclusion in Arabia. We don’t know exactly how long he was in Arabia. But we surmise with good reason that it was during these solitary times in Arabia where the Lord taught him and convinced him of the truths of the Gospel (Galatians 1:15-17). From there, Paul returned to Damascus and began to preach with boldness and conviction the truths that he was now fully persuaded of.

Three years later, after his conversion, his time in Arabia, and his evangelistic ministry in Damascus, Paul returned to Jerusalem (Galatians 1:18). He sought to meet with the believers there, including most especially the twelve apostles. But, wonder of all wonders, the Christians in Jerusalem wouldn’t have anything to do with him! Acts 9:26 tells the story. After Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples. But everyone was afraid of him. They wouldn’t believe that he was a disciple.

He’d been saved for 3 years. He spent the last 3 years ministering for the Lord in Damascus. His was a courageous stance. His life was on the line. In fact, the reason why he came to Jerusalem was because of a Jewish attempt to assassinate him in Damascus (Acts 9:23-25).

Didn’t the apostles and church in Jerusalem hear about his miraculous encounter with the Lord and his subsequent conversion? Didn’t any of them bother to go to Damascus and check out this sensational story of the church’s chief persecutor? Apparently not.

They wouldn’t believe that Paul was saved. They didn’t believe he was a changed man. Like many of us, they probably thought this was Paul’s ploy to discover who Christ’s followers were in Jerusalem and where their meetings were at so that he could have them all arrested. It made perfect sense to the Christians and the apostles. Their lives and the well-being of their families were on the line. They would do the safest and sensiblest thing: they would refuse to have anything to do with Paul.

But Barnabas wasn’t similarly inclined. He contravened the apostolic stance, took his life in his hands, took a risk and a gamble, and went to see Paul. Didn’t it occur to him that the apostles and the entire church were right? Mightn’t this be Paul’s ploy to discover, arrest, and wipe out the entire Jerusalem church? Did Barnabas seriously think that he was right and the apostles and everyone else was wrong about Paul? What made Barnabas want to see Paul anyway? The Spirit? Curiosity? The principle of fairness and giving a guy a chance to speak for himself instead of letting his past, his reputation, and everybody else speak for him?

I don’t know what went through Barnabas’ mind. I’m sure, being human like all of us, he struggled with the fears and doubts that plagued the rest of the church. But when it was all said and done, Barnabas mustered the courage to seek Paul out and give him a chance to tell his story. Turned out, after he heard Paul’s testimony, Barnabas was convinced that Paul was indeed a changed man, a believer, and a God-called minister or apostle.

With this firm conviction in hand, Barnabas risked incurring apostolic censure and discipline, he risked the criticism and wrath of the Christians in Jerusalem; by courageously bringing Paul before the apostles. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:27).

As it turned out, there were only 2 apostles in Jerusalem at the time, or perhaps only 2 apostles who succumbed to Barnabas’ persuasions and agreed to meet with Paul. They were Peter and James (Galatians 1:17-19). When the four of them met together, it was Barnabas who started out doing the talking. The apostles trusted and respected Barnabas. On Barnabas’ words, they let Paul speak for himself. And when Paul was done speaking, Peter and James were convinced that Paul was indeed a changed man. They extended the right hand of fellowship to him and told the rest of the church that it was safe to let Paul in. Paul got to meet the Christians in Jerusalem. He testified of Christ throughout the city. And the rest, as you know, is history.

History all because Barnabas rose above his doubts and fears, did the right thing, sought Paul out, and gave him a chance to tell his story, believed him, defended him, and advocated for him. It was Barney’s best decision ever! How different Christianity would have been if it hadn’t been for Barnabas! Isn’t it amazing how one decision to go and talk to Paul changed the course of history!? Think about it. If it wasn’t for Barnabas the apostles wouldn’t have seen, believed, or received Paul. They believed Paul because they believed Barnabas. If it wasn’t for Barnabas we wouldn’t have the Paul of Acts and the Epistles. We are where we are today because of Barnabas. And the Christian world owes him a debt of gratitude that can never be fully paid. Thank you, Barnabas!

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