Everyone needs encouragement sometimes — a shoulder to lean on, an encouraging word, help that arrives just in the nick of time. Encouragement is of so much importance in context of faith in the name of Jesus Christ that the given name of a prophet who excelled in encouragement, ‘Joses’ became lost to him, because, once the Apostles surnamed him, ‘Barnabas’, which means, ‘Son of Encouragement’, from that point on, all knew him only as ‘Son of Encouragement’ (Acts 4:36–37).
It is important that believers who show up at church services (focus on those who get to stand on the podium), or better yet, church fellowships (focus on one another — whether sitting side by side, or standing on the podium), be able to receive encouragement in respect of pursuits of this life. As is well articulated in Christian Scriptures, if church fellowships do not cater to physical needs of believers, they are exercises in pretense, and perhaps chicanery (James 2:14–17).
If believers showed up at church services in the ancient city of Antioch, the city in which Barnabas went on to become one of the prophets (‘encouragers’) who ministered to believers, they were sure to receive all of the encouragement they could use for the week to come. For concreteness of Barnabas’ Holy Spirit inspired gift for encouragement, consider his response to Apostle Paul shortly after his, Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.
And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he (Saul) declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to Him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:26–27, NKJV).
A Son of Encouragement does not practice pity, practices exaltation. When disciples were afraid of Saul, who would go on to become Paul, Barnabas introduced him to the Apostles — that is, Peter, James, and John — the leaders of all disciples.
It is by their fruits — actions and character — that we recognize, ‘Sons of Encouragement’.
When the Apostles heard that people in the ancient city of Antioch had received Jesus as Lord and Savior, they sent Barnabas to Antioch to minister to the new believers. Consequent on his arrival in Antioch, the record states essence of Barnabas’ ministry to the believers as follows.
Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord (Acts 11:22–23).
Who better, then, to sensitize us to importance of having of a teacher in context of fellowship of believers than Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement. Upon the realization that he did not have the gift of teaching, and the realization that encouragement was not enough for building up of new believers, Barnabas acted and generated outcomes as follows.
Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets (encouragers) and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was also called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul (Acts 11:25–26; 13:1).
The evidence from the Scriptures is unambiguous, Barnabas encouraged, Saul taught, and eventually, the Church acquired more of encouragers, that is, prophets, and more of teachers.
Why did Barnabas consider it imperative to go looking for a teacher for the new disciples in Antioch? Why was it that he knew encouraging the people in the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:24) was not enough for building up of new believers in Christ? Well, consider God’s very own words in Jeremiah 3:15.
And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding (NKJV).
By the declaration of The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, only those who provide knowledge and understanding, that is, Teachers, have qualification as Shepherds, that is, those who guide. Any corroboration in the New Testament? Well, consider Ephesians 4:11–12 (words in brackets mine in spirit of an amplified reading of Christian Scriptures).
And He (our Lord Jesus Christ) gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as proclaimers of good news (evangelists), and some as shepherds and teachers, unto the perfecting of the saints, for a work of ministration, for a building up of the body of the Christ.
God is very clear, only teachers have characterization as shepherds. Given an apostle provides revelations of God to other believers, every apostle simultaneously is a teacher — Apostles Paul, James, Peter, and John, all Teachers.
What then the role of a prophet? After teachers have taught, we arrive at demand for those who know how to encourage people to follow through on knowledge that has been provided by teachers. This is the work of prophets — ministration of the Holy Spirit to those desirous of strength for follow through on knowledge and understanding gleaned from teachers.
Of the Apostles whose writings are preserved for us in the New Testament, the Apostle who always was equal parts Teacher and Prophet was Apostle John — his teachings almost always are framed as appeals, as opposed to instruction; Apostles Paul, Peter, and James taught more by instruction as to what is true, as opposed to via appeal. Evangelists, of course are persons who have the gift of proclaiming the good news of the Christ to those who as yet are not Christians.
A concrete set of illustrations of differences in balance between teaching and encouragement?
I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one, I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father (1 John 2:13).
Apostle John speaks prophetically about what The Father expects believers at different stages of spiritual growth to be, declares what ought to be as if it already is.
With focus on the truth that believers in Christ are called to overcome evil (equivalently, wickedness), how do Apostles Paul, James, and Peter frame the same truth?
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings (resistance to evil and submission to God) are experienced by your brotherhood in the world (1 Peter 5:8).
All Apostles are Teachers, else they are unable to communicate spiritual truth. All Apostles are Prophets, else they are unable to encourage believers. Not all Apostles are equal parts, Teacher and Prophet.
Barnabas was a prophet, but not an Apostle, as such, while he could encourage, he did not have the gifting for teaching, hence, the true humility that sets him on a quest for a teacher who would go on to become an Apostle.
The heart of the matter? God wants Christians to be successful in context of their earthly lives, hence, His supply of prophets to the church. Absent a Christian arriving at knowledge and understanding of God, however, the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ does not produce the fruit that was intended. How do we know this? Well, consider the following words.
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3).
If for this life only (if only for the cares of this life) we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:19).
Because of this I say to you, be not anxious for your life, what ye may eat, and what ye may drink, nor for your body, what ye may put on,. Is not the life more than the nourishment, and the body more than clothing? But seek ye first the reign of God and His righteousness, and all these shall be added to you (Matthew 6:25,33, YLT).
If all you receive in your church is encouragement in respect of the cares of this life, your church fellowship as yet is not after God’s heart, does not have teachers who guide you into knowledge and understanding of God — the source of eternal life that only is available to those who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Your confession of Jesus as Lord and Savior does not produce knowledge and understanding of God, rather only is the ticket, right, authority, or power for acquiring of knowledge of God. Only those who are authorized are able to arrive at eternal life.
Suppose then, that you profess faith in Christ, but do not actively seek out knowledge of Jesus and The Father? Is there any cost to such an inertia? Well then, consider the following words.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children (Hosea 4:6).
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
For My people are foolish, they have not known Me. They are silly children, and they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge (Jeremiah 4:22).
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:17).
If you profess faith in the name of Jesus Christ, the path to wisdom resides in active pursuit of knowledge of Jesus and The Father.
If your church fellowship is after God’s heart, there is teaching that guides towards knowledge of Jesus and The Father, and prophecy that encourages in the things of this life.