Acts 15: 36 – 41 Disagreement between Paul and Barnabas
Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’ Barnabas wanted to take John, also known as Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
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Barnabas and Paul “had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.”
How easily such disputes arise! We can think we’re right; we can be sure we’re right. Our co-worker, our friend, our partner thinks something different. They must be wrong!
The argument between Paul and Barnabas seems to have been about the wisdom of taking John Mark with them on a pastoral visit to the churches in Syria and Cilicia. John Mark had left them during their previous missionary journey. Barnabas was inclined to give him another chance; Paul was not. I am sure that both men felt that the Holy Spirit supported their position.
So they argued, and the argument was bitter.
Paul: John Mark will let us down; missionary work needs total commitment.
Barnabas: John Mark deserves a second chance; God has a plan for him and it’s important.
I wonder whether either of them, at the time, considered that they might both be right?
When we read ahead a little in Acts 16: 22, we find Paul and Silas being severely flogged and thrown into prison, which is exactly the sort of persecution that could have caused John Mark to desert them again.
On the other hand, Mark subsequently became a figure of authority in the church. He was either the author of the gospel that bears his name, or a figure of sufficient authority that the gospel was ascribed to him to strengthen its credibility. (Modern scholars think the latter is more likely). He founded the church in Alexandria. Eventually he was martyred for his faith.
God, through his Holy Spirit, arranged that the right people were in the right place at the right time, but this was despite the frailty of humanity. We find it so difficult to discern the prompting of the Holy Spirit, especially when it goes against our preconceived ideas.
I am human and frail. Please help me to hear what your Holy Spirit has to say to me, and to be obedient to the message he brings.
In Jesus’ name, Amen