If I were to ask you who you thought was the greatest Christian in the Bible, there are probably just a couple names that would come to mind.
Names like Judas and Demas probably won’t be making the cut.
At the top of the list, people would probably list people like Peter and Paul (and apparently people steal from Peter to pay Paul).
I wonder, though, if they would truly be the greatest Christians mentioned in the Bible.
They are certainly two of the most well-known Christians. But is popularity the measure of spirituality or Christ-likeness?
We can look at the great influences that each of these had, and there can be thousands of people that came to Christ as a result of their preaching and ministries.
Peter is often known for his quick and rash decisions, often doing before thinking. But he is also known as the only one who walked on water with Christ, led the disciples on the day of Pentecost, and shared the vision God gave regarding the opening of the Gospel to the Gentiles (through his interaction with Cornelius). His influence in the early church is well known.
But who influenced Peter?
The obvious answer is Jesus. But who brought him to Jesus?
It was his brother Andrew.
Andrew is the lesser known brother. It seems that, even though he came to Jesus first, he lived in Peter’s shadow.
But we need to remember that without Andrew, we wouldn’t have Peter.
Paul’s reputation after his conversion is one of passion and action. He was zealous for God and doing His will, that he would risk his own life to preach to people that hated him.
He went around the known world preaching the Gospel and starting churches.
God used him to write most of the New Testament, setting in order the instructions for how the churches should operate and how Christians ought to behave.
His knowledge of the Scriptures was great and the applications he made with that knowledge was powerful. How many times do we find ourselves quoting from one of the books he wrote?
But who was Paul’s mentor for years?
It was his partner on his first missionary journey: Barnabas.
And contrary to popular belief, Paul was not the leader in that first journey.
In fact, Barnabas was the leader during much of Paul’s training, which was over 14 years after Paul’s conversion.
I believe that we could safely conclude that Paul would not have been who he became if it had not been for the influence of Barnabas.
Also, after their separation, you don’t really hear about Barnabas. Is that because he wasn’t faithful?
Absolutely not. The last the see of Barnabas, he takes John Mark with him and works with him.
John Mark is the one that started on the first missionary journey and left after the first city. He was a quitter. Something happened that scared him and caused him to leave the work.
Barnabas took John Mark under his wing, just like he did with Paul many years before. He worked with him and taught him.
What became of John Mark?
Not too much. He just wrote the book of Mark in the Bible. And then later, Paul wrote that he wanted John Mark to come because he was valuable to him in the ministry.
The work that Barnabas had done changed the opinion that Paul had about John Mark and helped the Gospel to spread even farther.
How about you?
We all have our heroes. We have our aspirations.
Are you trying to be like Peter or Paul?
Would you be content to be the lesser known Andrew or Barnabas?
Would you be okay if you spent years training someone, only to have them “surpass” you?