The Apostle Paul – maybe the greatest evangelist to ever live – was famous for persecuting and murdering Christians before he had his “Damascus Road Experience” when Jesus spoke to him and made a believer out of him.
Paul immediately began preaching about Jesus but no one would take him seriously or pay any attention to him because the the disciples would not accept him as one of them.
The disciples feared Saul. They couldn’t bring themselves to believe he was a disciple. “But Barnabas . . . ” Isn’t that a great opening? Out of nowhere comes Barnabas to encourage Saul and be his personal advocate. How did Barnabas know Saul needed his help? We don’t know. Yet we do know that God is sovereign and has his Barnabases in every town, every church, on every college and seminary campus, and even on the mission field. Each Barnabas stands ready at a moment’s notice to come to the aid of someone in need of encouragement.
So rather than operating out of fear and prejudice, Barnabas stepped up and “took hold of him.” Saul was willing to accept his assistance. That’s a healthy dependence. Barnabas took Saul under his wing and said, “Come with me, I’ll set this thing straight with these men. They trust me.” So off they went, and the sacred narrative says that Barnabas “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” (v. 27). That’s what I call divine intervention through a lesser-known saint! Barnabas basically said, “I’ve checked this guy out—he’s the genuine item. He saw the risen Christ, just like all of you. The man is on our team. Make room . . . relax!”
The next statement describes the result of Barnabas’s action on behalf of Saul: “And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord.” For the first time in his ministry, Saul spoke freely about Christ in Jerusalem, in the company of respected disciples—set free to be himself for the glory of God. What made the difference? Barnabas!
You may be a Barnabas today. Do you know someone who has been kicked in the teeth because he has a bad track record? Someone who can’t get a hearing, yet she’s turned her life around and nobody wants to believe it? I urge you to step up like Barnabas did for Saul. Look for those individuals who need a second chance—a large dose of grace to help them start over in the Christian life. Everybody needs a Barnabas at one time or another.