Barnabas was closely associated with Paul the Apostle, the Acts of the Apostles says. In fact, he was Paul’s sponsor. After his dramatic conversion, Paul preached in Damascus, but he was forced out of the city and went to Jerusalem. There the disciples of Jesus received him warily. They “were all afraid of Paul” because he persecuted the followers of Jesus. But Barnabas believed in him and “took charge of him and brought him to the apostles.” (Acts 9, 26-30)
Later, as great numbers came to believe in Antioch, the Jerusalem church sent Barnabas there and, convinced the Spirit was at work, he went to Tarsus to get Paul. Together they spent a whole year and taught a large number of people. (Act 11, 26)
Then, Barnabas and Paul were commissioned by the church of Antioch to bring the gospel to other places. Their missionary journey took them to Cyprus (Barnabas’ birthplace) and a number of cities in Asia Minor. They preached in Jewish synagogues with mixed results, but increasing numbers of gentile hearers accepted their message. The Acts of the Apostles highlights Paul’s preaching, but the ministry involved the two of them. “They appointed presbyters … in each church” and returned to Antioch. (Acts 14, 21-23)
A dispute arose between them: “After some time, Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Come, let us make a return visit to see how the brothers are getting on in all the cities where we proclaimed the word of the Lord.’ Barnabas wanted to take along John Mark,, who w but Paul refused to take him, because he deserted them at Pamphylia. So sharp was their disagreement that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark and sailed to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and traveled through Syria and Cilicia “bringing strength to the churches.” Acts 15, 36-41
Why the “sharp disagreement?” Two strong personalities at odds? Paul’s vision against Barnabas’ vision? A clash like this reminds us that God’s plan advances even as humans disagree.
I find it strange, though, that Paul never mentions Barnabas in his later descriptions of his work. Barnabas, humanly speaking, got him his start.