Discipleship Lessons from the Life of Barnabas.

Before leaving earth, Christ left a task for each believer in the church: to make disciples as a way of life (Matthew 28:19). Last week, we saw three requirements of disciple-makers from the life of Barnabas. This week, we will look at four expectations in the discipleship process.


Each believer is to be teaching truth from God's Word to another person, "one life to a life for life." As you mentor your disciple, you can expect:

To Minister Together

Discipleship is more about practical living than data transfer. In Acts 11:27-30, Barnabas and Saul were sent to deliver a gift to the church in Jerusalem. Acts 12:25 says they accomplished their mission. Disciples learn from serving together as they live out what it means to love God and love others.

God's rule of operating is not miraculous in this age. Most of the time, God works providentially. Philippians 2:12 tells us that growth takes work! There is no shortcut or rocket-science secret.

The believers at Antioch likely learned from Barnabas how to respond to other believers in need. They did the same thing he had done in Acts 4:36-37. Acts 12:29 says they gave "in proportion," showing that Barnabas probably taught them the lesson of honesty in giving from Ananias and Sapphira.

Lifestyle discipleship requires a discipler who is practicing Christianity and willing to share what they learn. The point is not perfection. Disciples need to see the struggle and wrestling. Let them know what you are working at!

Your Disciple May Eventually Take a Lead in Ministry

In Acts 13:7-13, Saul becomes more prominent in ministry than Barnabas. This may be the most important chapter in the book of Acts. It is the crossroads between the Jewish faith community and the body of Christ that includes Gentiles. The Holy Spirit initiates Saul, now called Paul, as a new leader for a Gentile-inclusive church. Barnabas becomes less visible, one of Paul's companions.

This is a hard but glorious reality. Don't fear the day your disciple will outpace you – this is the goal! They must be Spirit-filled to be entrusted with the next generation of ministry.

Not Always to Be in Agreement

Acts 15:36-39 finds Barnabas in disagreement with his disciple Paul over John Mark, who was their helper but left their first trip early. John Mark had probably struggled with the fact that his uncle Barnabas was no longer the leader on the mission. He may have been uncomfortable with the Gospel being given directly to a Gentile without a Jewish referent. As disciples grow, they may not always agree! But the Holy Spirit keeps working on every believer.

The Holy Spirit Will Work in Your Disciple Apart from You

2 Timothy 4:11 shows Paul doing the exact same things that Barnabas did in Antioch. He knew a message to share and spoke it. He recognized his limitations and sought help.

Disciple-making is more than the professional duty of pastors; it is the responsibility of everyone in the church family. The Gospel demands a disciple-making culture. As the Holy Spirit works through the teaching of the Word and spiritual discipline, the church will never want for Spirit-filled leaders.

Application Points

  • What is a mission you have tackled with a disciple? What is one way you can serve together with a younger saint?
  • What changed when you were saved? The lessons that the Holy Spirit impressed on you are different from the person next to you. They are important to the growth and health of the body of Christ. Are you willing to share your struggles so that others can learn from them?
  • Are you sensitive to needs that the Holy Spirit brings to your attention?
  • Keep an eye open for the Spirit's grace working in others' lives. Take joy in the spiritual success of those following you.
  • Believers should not schedule our lives around miracles. Do you look for spiritual shortcuts or continue pursuing normal Christian living?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Acts 13:2 – Paul and Barnabas were called to a work.
  • Galatians 2:11-14 – Paul confronted Barnabas.
A Hymn to Encourage: "Chosen As His Children"

Chosen by the Father’s mercy,
Set apart to serve His Son,
Sanctified by His own Spirit—
Praise the Holy Three in One!
Saved by resurrection power,
Shielded in His faithful love;
Now, no enemy can tarnish
My inheritance above!

I’m Born again!
I’m God’s own chosen child of mercy!
Born again! What love and grace!
Father, keep me walking worthy
‘Til I look upon Your face.

Led by wisdom into suff’ring,
Grieved by many trials below,
Yet rejoicing in His purpose,
That my faith as gold may glow.
Granted faith for overcoming,
Filled with love for Christ unseen;
Even angels cannot fathom
What salvation God will bring!

Fixed upon this hope completely,
As obedient children fear;
For the Holy One who called you
Purchased you with blood so dear.
Born anew from seed eternal,
By His lovingkindness spurred,
Lay aside all tasteless yearnings—
Crave the true and living Word!

Built on Christ, the sure foundation,
We are free from guilt and shame;
He is fitting us together
As a house to praise His name!
We are chosen as God’s people,
Called from darkness into light;
O what mercy now entreats us
To proclaim His glories bright!