Lately the Holy Spirit has again been drawing my attention to my words in my interactions with others. For example, I recently had a conversation with a neighbour after I returned from walking the dogs early in the morning. A short time later the Holy Spirit took me back through parts of this brief conversation and showed me how I could have spoken more life and encouragement into this mother’s life (Later in the day I was able to do this but felt I had missed an opportunity earlier that would have had more impact.) He then encouraged me to look more to Him throughout the day as I encounter people so He can release more life in my interactions.
So what do I mean by ‘life and encouragement?’ To answer that question I will look at Barnabas in scripture and the meaning of his name, and other scriptures that relate to this concept. The first reference to Barnabas is in Acts 4:36.
36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, Acts 4:36 (NKJV)
Here we discover that his actual name is Joses but due to the impact he had in the lives of others the apostles named him Barnabas, Son of Encouragement and that is how he is addressed in the rest of the NT. Later, Barnbas, along with Paul, became an apostle (Acts 14:4, 14).
Barnabas was known as an encourager and if you are familiar with the NT you see this played out in Barnabas seeking out Paul (still Saul at that point) the former persecutor, and advocating for his acceptance by the first apostles. We also see Barnabas supporting John Mark after a significant failure. The same Mark who later wrote one of the four gospels. Barnabas had a significant impact in the formation of the early church, in fact from the scriptures we know more about Barnabas than most of the original 12 apostles.
So what does Barnabas mean? Acts 4:36 tells us it means Son of Encouragement. The biblical dictionary meaning is below.
Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.
Given Barnabas could be translated Son of Prophecy just as easily as Son of Encouragement. What else does the NT tell us about this? Paul said the simple gift of prophecy is available to all of us (1 Cor. 14:31) and when we use it correctly (motivated by love, 1 Cor. 13) it does the following.
3 But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 1 Corinthians 14:3 (NKJV)
This connection to Barnabas is twofold. The Son of Encouragement is the same as the Son of Prophecy and the Greek word translated ‘exhortation’ in 1 Corinthians 14:3 is the word translated ‘encouragement’ in Acts 4:36 (some English bibles translate it as encouragement in 1 Corinthians 14:3. So if NT prophecy is primarily for edification (building people up), exhortation (encouragement) and comfort, when we are speaking life into people we are functioning in a prophetic way.
The mother I spoke of in my introduction is not a believer but we aren’t called to be insular and encourage only one another, we are called to reach the world and many people around us need encouragement. Encouragement is one tool to move them closer to the cross and seeing the need for Jesus.
This raises another point, to speak prophetically we don’t need to quote scripture. Spend some time studying how Jesus spoke into people’s lives in the gospels. The bulk of His interactions were not quotations of the OT, they were words that spoke to hearts. In the same way the Holy Spirit wants to anoint our words so that we speak to hearts in our interactions with others, believers and non-believers alike. I think Toby Mac addresses it well is his song Speak Life.
In future posts in this series I will build more of a scriptural foundation for interacting in this way and talk about various ways to hear His voice. In the meantime, ask Him to make you like Barnabas and release life wherever you are.
Speak Life by Toby Mac