Why Was Barnabas Called an Apostle? by James R. Lewis

Please Explain Why Barnabas Was Called an Apostle.

      Barnabas is indeed called an apostle in Acts 14:4,14, but he was not an apostle of the same order as the twelve who were selected and named apostles by the Lord (Luke 6:13).

An understanding of the meaning of the word apostle as it is used in the New Testament will help us see why Barnabas, and others, may correctly be called apostles.

The word apostle literally means, “One who is sent forth.”   The English word apostle is a transliteration of the Greek apostolos.  This same word is also translated “he that is sent” (John 13:16), and messenger(s) (2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25).

An apostle is “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon).  He is “one sent out with the personal authority and as a representative of the one sending” (Reinecker and Rogers, Linguistic Key to the New Testament at Matthew 10:2).  The verb form apostello means “to send forth a messenger, agent, message, or command” (Analytical Greek Lexicon).

In the New Testament, the word “apostle” is used to denote the following: (1) the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 3:1); (2) the twelve chosen by the Lord (Luke 6:13; 9:10); (3) Matthias, who was chosen to take Judas’ place (Acts 1:20-26); and (4) Paul, who was selected by the Lord to be an apostle, especially to work among the Gentiles  (Acts 9:15; 22:19; 26:15-28).  Others identified as apostles are Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14); Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2:6); two unnamed brethren sent by Paul with Titus to Corinth (2 Corinthians 8:23, translated messengers, KJV); and Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25, messenger, KJV).  Some think Andronicus and Junia (Romans 16:7) should also be so identified, but the language is inconclusive.  Perhaps Apollos is also identified as an apostle (1 Corinthians 4:6; 9).

From the above we can derive the following concerning Barnabas: he was an apostle because he was one sent, and obviously sent with authority to carry out a specific work.

Barnabas was sent by the Holy Spirit with Paul “for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2, 4).  Thus, his authority and apostleship came from God.

The fact that Barnabas, as well as Paul, did “signs and wonders” is conclusive evidence that his authority and apostleship came from God (Acts 14:3).  It is also said that the church at Antioch “sent” Barnabas and Saul away” (Acts 13:4).  In Paul’s and Barnabas’ report back to the church at Antioch it is said that the church had “recommended them to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled” (Acts 14:26).  In other words, the church was fulfilling its responsibility of sending God approved men to carry out God’s approved work.

In summary, in the New Testament the term apostle specifically identified one who was sent as a representative with authority to act in behalf of the sender.  In addition to Christ Himself and His apostles, Barnabas and other men are identified as apostles.  These were men approved of God and duly delegated with authority from God.