“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Barnabas or Barabbas?, by Randall D. Kittle

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The strong presence of the Lord suddenly seemed to fill every space and everything that surrounded me. Clearly and purposefully the Lord declared, “Ask those in leadership in My Church to examine their hearts and answer the question ‘Are they seeking to be Barnabas or Barabbas? Is the true desire of their heart to exhort others to see Me, or are they willing to take My place in the lives of those who surround them?’ I am coming in the days ahead to lift up the Barnabases throughout My Church and reward them for being faithful friends of the Bridegroom. I will also deal with the Barabbases amongst you — those who take the multitudes which gather unto Me, cause the attention to focus upon themselves, and then, because of the passionate celebration of who they are, have been able to attain many of the things they’ve treasured in their hearts.”

According to the fourth chapter of Acts, Barnabas was a Levite from Cyprus whose real name was Joseph. Because he had the gift of encouragement, the apostles gave him the name Barnabas, which literally means
“son of encouragement.” Barnabas was a prophet and teacher in the early church with a heart to raise up and release others in ministry. His greatest example of this was the apostle Paul. When Paul returned to Jerusalem after his conversion, most believers wanted nothing to do with this man who had been their worst nightmare. Barnabas, however, took him under his wing and introduced him to the apostles (see Acts 9:27). Later, while Barnabas was overseeing the rapid growth of the church at Antioch, he went to Tarsus in search of Paul to invite him to be his assistant. Paul returned to Antioch with Barnabas and they began their years of ministering together.

If the Lord is calling us to be like Barnabas, we must be willing to spend the time and energy it takes to raise up others and release them into ministry. The Scriptures clearly show Barnabas coming alongside Paul and later John Mark to help them enter into ministry. It is interesting that both Paul and John Mark (Mark) were used by the Holy Spirit to write portions of the New Testament while there is no “Book of Barnabas.” Yet without Barnabas taking these younger ones under his wing these two might never have become the men of God they eventually became. Those who truly have a “Barnabas anointing” are not concerned when those they raise up become better known and more celebrated than they are. In fact, they delight in this as long as Jesus is the main one being glorified.

Barabbas, on the other hand, was a robber who committed murder while leading a rebellion. Sentenced to die, he was set free by the clamoring crowd when Pilate the governor was trying to release Jesus.
“Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, ‘Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’… But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. ‘Which of the two do you want me to release to you?’ asked the governor. ‘Barabbas,’ they answered” (Matthew 27:15–21).

Barabbas’ big break happened because of the crowd that had gathered to see Jesus. We must be certain we do not use the giftings God has given us and the opportunities He provides for us toward our own purposes. Barabbas gained attention, fame, and freedom when the enemies of our Lord drew the gathered crowd’s attention to him instead of keeping it upon Jesus. In one brief moment, everything changed from being fully focused on Jesus to having a divided focus between Jesus and Barabbas. The enemy always wants the focus of things to be on anything but Jesus!

Let us make certain we have the heart of a faithful friend of the Bridegroom, not the heart of one who uses someone else’s bride for their own pleasure and profit. The question for us today is not Jesus or Barabbas, for Jesus is already crucified, risen, and reigning on high. No, the question the Lord is requiring us to answer is will we live out our Christianity like a Barnabas — strengthening others while continually pointing to Jesus, or will we be like Barabbas — benefitting from taking the place of Jesus in the heart of His Bride. Let us choose to serve the Lord, encouraging all to glorify Jesus!


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