Barnabas, meaning ("Son of Encouragement" in Hebrew) was an early Christian, following Jesus' Ascension into Heaven. He was originally named Joseph by his parents, but was called Barnabas by his fellow apostles because of his generosity and encouragement of fellow Jews to join the Faith. He was most known for being one of the first aides to Paul.
Barnabas was born as Joseph in Cyprus, a member of the Tribe of Levi. Joseph owned a field of land that had monetary value. He was an early Christian who adhered to the leadership of the Apostles and was a brother who shared his possessions.
Son of Encouragement
As an early Christian he was a notable example of a believer who sold their property to be used by the Church to serve the poor and fund their ministry. Joseph sold a field he owned and gave all of the proceeds to the Apostles to help the Church in their outreach and take care of the needs of the people.
Due to his kindness, the Apostles began to give him the nickname "son of encouragement," because of how encouraging his gift was. Eventually Joseph would take up this as true name. Perhaps Barnabas was the first to sell his property and use the money to give to the church, because in the Book of Acts the context makes it very probable that Luke was implying this.
Barnabas became so favored a couple, claiming to be in the church Ananias and Sapphira followed this example but withheld a portion of the money for themselves. Peter rebuked them for allowing Satan to convince them that they owned, when it belonged to God. When selling his property Barnabas likely knew this very well
During this time the early church faced persecution from the Jewish leadership, being prosecuted by a man named Saul. Soon Saul was powerfully converted by Jesus Christ and became a Christian. When Saul came to Jerusalem to preach, most of the Christians feared him. Barnabas believed that Saul's faith was sincere and so brought him to the Apostles, and explained to them account of his conversion (which he evidently would've learned from Saul by conversation or Saul preached it).
Preacher in Antioch
Soon persecution forced believers to be scattered throughout nearby Asia Minor and many new churches planted. One of these was a church in Antioch. Many Christian men from Barnabas' home province of Cyprus began going on missions to Antioch to preach to the Greek population there. The church in Jerusalem heard that God's hand was with them and so they sent Barnabas from Cyprus to Antioch.
When he arrived in Antioch he saw God's grace was present and encouraged the church to stay true with God in their hearts. It was evident by his actions in Antioch that Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit and had brought a great many to the Lord.
Eventually Barnabas traveled to Tarsus to seek out his friend Saul to assist him in his ministry. When he found him he brought him back with to Antioch and so for an entire year Barnabas and Saul grew the church there. While there for a year, a prophet named Agabus predicted a famine would inflict all of the Roman Empire. In Antioch Barnabas and his associate Saul decided to help provide supplies for the Christians in Judea. So they gathered gifts and then Barnabas and Saul would send them to the elders of the church in Judea.
Called as a Missionary
As Barnabas served his role as a teacher in the Church in Antioch, the Holy Spirit called Barnabas and Saul apart for missionary work. Being guided by the Holy Spirit, Barnabas sailed to his homeland of Cyprus. He and his associates went to the town of Salamis and preached in the Jewish synagogues with Mark as their aide. They also went to the town of Paphos.
After Paphos, Barnabas and his associates went to Pisidian Antioch. There Saul (now called Paul) spoke in a synagogue and intrigued many, which led them to be invited to speak again the next Sabbath. Soon many of the Jews began to follow Barnabas and Paul, who continually encouraged them in God's grace. The next Sabbath, almost the entire city gathered to here their speaking. Eventually this turned into a riot against their teachings and so Barnabas and Paul were expelled from the region.
Barnabas continued on to Iconium where he went as usual into Jewish synagogues, speaking effectively to lead many to believe. Despite this, many were still resistant to the Gospel he and his associate taught. Thus, Barnabas spent a considerable length in Iconium where God confirmed his message by allowing him to perform signs. Still a great many were resistant to Barnabas and Paul, planning to abuse and stone them. The missionaries found out and fled to surrounding country.
Next they preached in a city called Lystra. Here there was a crippled man that Paul healed. When the people in Lystra saw this they believed Barnabas to be the Greek god Zeus. The Priest of Zeus brought sacrifices to offer to Barnabas and Paul. When they knew of this, the two ripped their clothes and rushed into the crowds to tell the people they were not gods. Eventually the crowds were angered and they stoned and beat Barnabas's co-missionary.
The next day he left with Paul and went to Derbe. After going through Derbe, they returned to the cities that had traveled to before and appointed elders over the churches they had started. Then Barnabas went went through many cities preaching the Gospel. Then he returned to Antioch and gave testimony to the church of the works he had completed.
Presenter to the Church Council
So Barnabas stayed in Antioch for a long time. Soon it came to pass that people came down to Antioch and taught one would have to be circumcised to be saved. Barnabas and Paul went into a strong argument with the people teaching this false idea. In order to solve the doctrinal issue, Barnabas among others were sent to Jerusalem to present his idea before the Church Council of the Apostles and Elders.
First the Pharisees, who taught circumcision was required for faith, presented their argument. Then Peter spoke up, offering Paul and Barnabas as key witnesses. Barnabas presented their testimony opposing circumcision for faith, by talking about the miracles performed and the Gentiles converted. So the church sent Barnabas, Paul, Silas and Barsabbas back to Antioch with a letter explaining what had been determined. After they returned and revealed that the Church Council had recognized that circumcision was not required, Barnabas and Paul stayed and continued their church ministry.
After a while, Peter came up from Jerusalem to visit. He unwisely refused to eat with the Gentiles because he thought his Jewish friends would be offended. This decision led to confusion within the church at Antioch, with several Jews, including Barnabas, putting aside the ruling of the council. Paul stood against this hypocrisy, standing firmly upon what had been decided: Gentile Christians did not have to "become Jews." This was the very reason he and Barnabas had gone before the elders.
From this point on, things did not go well between the partners in the gospel.
Split with Paul's ministry
After staying in Antioch for a while, Paul told Barnabas they should return to cities they had preached in, and check in on the Church's growth there. Barnabas wanted to bring his nephew John Mark with them, but Paul disagreed because he had left them in Pamphylia. Barnabas disagreed with Paul so strongly, he parted ways with Paul. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed for his homeland of Cyprus.