Bible Study

7 Characteristics of Barnabas in the Bible

In the early church, there was a man who was commended by the Apostles for having the gift of encouragement. That man was Barnabas and he stood out, not so much by the words that he spoke, but by his actions. The characteristics of Barnabas reveal the spiritual gift of encouragement in its many different forms. A gift that we all need to give and receive!

7 Characteristics of Barnabas

The Apostles spoke well of Barnabas and they recognised in him the spiritual gift of encouragement. He became a respected figure in the life of the early church, as a prophet, teacher, and evangelist. What were the characteristics of Barnabas, this inspirational man of God?


The spiritual gift of encouragement starts with compassion, our concern for others. Compassion prompts us to respond, to try and help to support or strengthen someone else’s physical, spiritual, or emotional need.

In the beginning of Acts, chapter four, there is a description of the strong bonds of fellowship in the early church. The new believers were powerful witnesses of God’s grace at work as they shared everything they had. Then we are introduced to Barnabas the encourager, and his character, his heart of compassion is revealed by his actions.


How did Barnabas encourage others? Our introduction to the characteristics of Barnabas comes through his act of generosity. The person who is held up as an example of an encourager teaches us firstly about giving…

The believers in the early church voluntarily sold their possessions to provide for the poor. Barnabas sold a plot of land that he owned and gave the money to the Apostles to bless those in need. He gave generously, trusting in God to provide for his future.  (Bible Gateway Acts 4:33-37)

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to us… if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously”

Romans 12:6,8


The characteristics of Barnabas include kindness, a fruit of the Holy Spirit. This was demonstrated throughout his life and ministry and is essential with the gift of encouragement.

Barnabas began by showing kindness to the believers in the early church in Jerusalem through his generous giving. Then he showed kindness to Saul, befriending him when everyone else in Jerusalem was afraid of him.  Later on, Barnabas encouraged the new believers in the first Gentile Church in Antioch with kind supportive words.

And after his first missionary journey with Paul, Barnabas was particularly kind to his young cousin John Mark. He chose to believe in him and gave him the opportunity to travel with him on a missionary trip.

Related Post: Who Is Barnabas in the Bible?


Love is the foundation of our faith, love for God and for one another. As we receive the revelation of God’s love we are changed forever. Quite simply we love God because He first loved us. Then we begin to experience the outworking of His love transforming our lives. The response in our hearts to God’s overwhelming love for us is increasing love for His family.

Scripture is clear that whatever spiritual gifts we may seek to operate in, without love they are worthless. Love is the beginning and end of all things, a love that acts, a selfless sacrificial love.

Barnabas son of encouragement lived up to his nickname. He demonstrated love through his compassion, generosity, and kindness revealing himself to be a man of God.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forebearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23
A picture of four people from behind with their arms linked together looking into the sun and the txt 'Seven characteristics of Barnabas.'
Seven Characteristics of Barnabas

A Good Friend

Friendship is not defined as a fruit of the Holy Spirit or seen as a particular gifting, but it is a gift! Friendship can be such a God-given blessing. True friends are the ones we can confide in, who will support and encourage us. The ones we can trust to speak God’s truth into our lives.

Related Post: Can the Wounds of a Friend Be Encouragement?

The characteristics of Barnabas include friendship. He proved himself to be a true friend to Paul. After Saul’s conversion, Barnabas was the one who welcomed him, the one who believed in him. He introduced Saul to the Apostles in Jerusalem so that he was accepted by them.

And Barnabas did not forget about Saul. Some years later he saw an opportunity for Saul and sought him out. Barnabas was the one who brought Saul to Antioch, the place where finally his ministry to the Gentiles began.

A Servant Heart

The gospel spread out from Jerusalem, first into Judea and then further afield. Some men from Cyprus and Cyrene went to Antioch, a Greek city, and began to speak the gospel to the people there. News spread back to Jerusalem that the Holy Spirit was blessing the Gentiles! The elders of the church in Jerusalem wanted to know more and to find out whether this was a genuine move of God. (Acts 11)

Barnabas was a respected figure in the life of the early church and a man with a good reputation. The elders of the Jerusalem church sent him to Antioch to find out what was going on. This was a task that involved an arduous journey and a job that maybe no one else wanted. They needed someone who would be willing to go, someone without prejudice, who they could rely on and trust to bring back a true report.

“He (Barnabas) was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.”

Acts 11:24

Barnabas demonstrated his willingness to serve and to put himself out for the benefit of others, again and again.

Investing in Others

Barnabas recognized the need for teaching in the new Antioch church. He remembered Saul and sought him out. Once again Barnabas put himself out to travel to Tarsus and bring Saul to Antioch where they worked together for over a year.

Related Post: Being transformed – The story of Saul to Paul

Later on, when Barnabas’ partnership with Paul came to an end, he began again with John Mark (Acts 15). Barnabas did what he had always done – he encouraged others!

Characteristics of Barnabas – The Spiritual Gift of Encouragement

The characteristics of Barnabas reveal to us that true encouragement is far more than just kind words. The spiritual gift of encouragement is when our words and our actions draw others closer to the Lord.

Barnabas was compassionate, this was revealed in his loving kindness toward those who were in need. He proved himself to be a good friend, reaching out to offer friendship when others were wary. Barnabas did not always agree with his friends – he was willing to speak out, but was still held in high regard. He was willing to serve the church, the body of Christ, by investing in the lives of other people. As Barnabas stepped out in faith God blessed and multiplied his ministry.

The spiritual gift of encouragement is one that we all need to give, and the more we give the more we receive!

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

Related Post:  10 Bible Verses About Investing in Others

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