Judas and Barsabas: Encouragers

by Donny Weimar

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” [1]

(1 Th 5:11 ESV)

          The brethren were wrestling in argument over the pharisaical notion Gentile Christians must be circumcised to be legitimate children of God. They were not even taking the apostle Paul’s nor the prophet Barnabas’s words for the matter. So they sent these two astute men to Jerusalem for an answer from the council. We are reading Acts 15.

          Experienced elders and apostles in Jerusalem were gathered to debate the topic. Peter delivered the resolution. It pleased everyone present, was it is the will of God, “but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.”[2] The church decided to send leading men to deliver the message to the Gentile churches to the north. Among them were Judas who was surnamed Barsabas and Silas, men of great reputation among the brethren. They carried the letter.

          These spiritual leaders did something marvelous for the Gentile brethren. For these frustrated and unsettled Christians, Judas Barsabas and his fellow worker brought words of encouragement. These giants in the faith did three things for the brethren that they could not find in themselves to do.

First, they brought a letter of encouragement. This letter confirmed the authenticity of their conversion – that they did not need to be circumcised of the flesh. Because Christian circumcision is of the heart (Romans 2:29). Judas Barsabas and Silas settled the brethren’s minds with encouraging words (Acts 15:24, 31). It is good to get encouraging mail. Isn’t it? When we are discouraged, the best thing to read is something positive. I have kept the most encouraging mail I have received over the years to read when I feel pessimistic and disgruntled. Thank you to all the Barsabas’s and Silas’s out there.

          Secondly, leaders like Judas Barsabas and Silas knew when and how to say just the right words to exhort the brethren when the brothers are disheartened. Acts 15:32 says, “And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words” (NKJV). Such spiritual leaders didn’t just pat their brethren on the back and say it’ll be all ‘right. They used words of encouragement. This kind of exhortation encouraged harmony in the family of Christ (Rom. 15:5).

          The Greek word for encouragement is pareklesis, which includes comforting earnestly, consoling and exhorting. A strong, gentle spiritual leader puts his arm around you and earnestly exhorts you to take comfort in God’s promises to care for you. With an exhortation, he has the element of not just moving one to get up and get going, but he says everything is going to be okay. He may also speak with a loving chastening, and a conviction to change faulty thinking or behavior.

          Third, Judas Barsabas and Silas spent a great quantity of time with the Syrian, Gentile, brethren. They did not spend an hour or two on a Sunday morning or a three-day seminar encouraging them. They spent quality time. Acts 15:33. Before they left them, the brethren were strengthened. An athlete does not become strong overnight. And a Christian who has been frustrated in his faith by pseudo spiritual leaders, claiming to know the way of salvation better than an apostle, does not become a mighty soldier for Jesus overnight either.

          Imagine the impact you will have on those around you when you choose to become like Judas. Judas Barsabas that is, or Silas his co-leader. This was a man who realized the source of comfort was not actually in himself but in God who is the source of all mercy (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:3). Encouragement is a most compelling manner to express biblical love because it places others ahead of ourselves. It takes humility and looking out for the common interest of others. When you see someone who is forlorn or disheartened due to the discouragement of others, pick them up with the love of Jesus.

          The brethren unite in harmony with peace surpassing understanding. It is the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3). Jesus laid his life down as a servant of humanity in the same manner that we are told to put others ahead of ourselves (Philippians 2:1-11). So, like Judas Barsabas and Silas we are carriers of living letters of encouragement (2 Corinthians 3:2). We bring words of exhortation and strength when we speak God’s love and truth with our brethren. Out of this kind of humility we too take on a type of spiritual leadership that brings comfort to our brothers and sister, thereby building up the body of Christ.

Our spiritual leadership might become well-known or remain lesser known. Our reputation could not be known, whatsoever. Without regard to how well-known we are – like Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas – let us encourage, exhort, and strengthen one another, as they did. When we focus more our energy on resolving conflict and time building harmony, we do much for the betterment of the church of Christ.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Th 5:11). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Ibid. Ac 15:20.


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