Summary: From this text, we get a few ideas of what to do whenever disputes arise in the church. 1- Legalism always leads to trouble 2- Trouble should be handled by the leaders 3- Leaders must always follow God’s Spirit

INTRO.- ILL.- A married couple were arguing with one another. The husband said, "Don’t you remember promising to love, honor and obey me?" His wife, "Yes, but what else could I do, I was in church!"

ILL.- A wife said, "Dear, could I have some spending money?" Husband, "Money, money, money. If you ask me I think you need brains more than you need money." Wife, "I was just asking you for what I thought you had the most of."

ILL.- A husband said to his wife, "We have been married five years and haven’t agreed on a thing." The wife said, "You’re wrong again. It’s been six years!"

We live in a world of dispute and debate. It’s everywhere: at home, at work, in politics, and even in the church!

ILL.- Will Rogers once said, "A fool and his money are soon elected." He also said, "I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts." And he said, "The man with the best job in the country is the vice-president. All he has to do is get up every morning and say, ’How is the president?’"

Elaine and I have often wondered why anyone in their right mind would want to be the president of the United States what with all the disputes, headaches and problems!

Brothers and sisters, America’s problems will not be cured by any president but by the prince of peace! If and when Jesus enters into the hearts of people in the US, then and only then will our problems be cured or at least made better.

One of the worst places for disputes and debates is the church. It shouldn’t be but it is. It does happen and it doesn’t matter what church we’re talking about. Christian people are still human. They still have weaknesses and they are tempted to fight and dispute with others.

ILL.- There is a rather large Baptist Church in southern IL but it’s not large any more! It split right down the middle because the preacher got the big head, thinking he was/is some sort of prophet of God. Another Baptist pastor who has known him for a long time said that he lost where he came from, that is, from his roots as a Southern Baptist preacher. Apparently, he did some very strange things, thinking he could do anything and say anything and it caused a big dispute in the church and split it. HOW VERY SAD!

ILL.- I know of another church in TX that asked their preacher to resign because of just one troublemaker in the church. The preacher kept doing his work but finally caved in to the pressure and resigned. After he resigned, the church members were very upset and started calling the elders, wanting to know what was going on. One Wednesday night the elders had a special congregational meeting to answer questions and they discovered that nobody could say anything against their preacher.

The members said they wanted their preacher back in the pulpit. The elders went to the preacher and asked him to stay with the church. He said, "No," and went looking for another church. He ended up moving from TX to South Dakota. Well, guess what? That church didn’t work out.

Apparently, that church was basically run by one man in the church who had some money. The preacher did not please him so in six months he started looking for another church. Now he’s back in TX in another church. WHAT A MESS!

And all because of disputes in the church! All because people wouldn’t learn to work together and some wanted to have "their own way," not thinking about the good of the whole church.

OUR TEXT READS: 1"Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." 2This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question."

Some people were teaching some things that caused dispute and debate in the church. Were they right or wrong? And what about today? What about disputes in the church today? What can be done?

PROP.- From this text, we get a few of ideas of what to do whenever disputes arise in the church.

1- Legalism always leads to trouble

2- Trouble should be handled by the leaders

3- Leaders must always follow God’s Spirit


1 Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." 2This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.

Unless you are circumcised, you can’t be saved. What do those words sound like? It sounds like somebody thought they had all the answers.

It’s like someone saying, "Unless you drive a GM product, preferably a Chevrolet, you can’t be an American." Well, common sense tells us this isn’t true. And I like Chevrolets!

Legalism always seems to twist the Word of God or at least, twist the grace of God into something it’s not. Legalism seems to always divide people but the grace of Christ saves people and brings them together.

ILL.- The young applicant for a position as junior accountant clerk was being interviewed. When the subject of outside interests arose, the youth loftily said, “My avocation is color photography.” The personnel manager laid down his pen. “Young man,” he said steadily, “vice presidents have avocations. Department heads have hobbies. What you’re doing is fooling around.”

That personnel manager laid down the law, that is, what he thought was the law! What he did for pleasure was ok, but what others did was "fooling around" or perhaps a waste of time.

What is legalism? This is my own definition but basically, legalism is saying I am right and you need to listen to me and do things my way! There will always be some people who think they have all the right answers and ideas and believe that everyone must side with them in order to be right with God. I’ve seen many preachers like that and many church leaders. But the truth is, none of us have all the answers. None of us know everything so we need to be careful about telling others how to live.

Our only true authority in life is the Word of God and at times we even misinterpret it or misrepresent it, thinking we "alone" know what God is saying.

The spirit of legalism is still with us today and in some ways may be worse today than in Paul’s time.

ILL.- “You’re minister, huh?” asked a man. The preacher said, “Yes, I am.” “What church?” “Baptist.” “Oh, you’re the narrow-minded bunch that believes only their group is going to make it to heaven.”

“Well,” he went on, “I’m even more narrow minded than that. I don’t think all of our group are going to make it!” THAT’S THE SPIRIT OF LEGALISM!

That’s the spirit that says, “I’m right and you’re wrong. And if you don’t agree with me you’re damned.”

No church has all the right answers. We don’t know everything. We don’t have all the answers. To say that we’re right and all others are wrong and are going to hell is wrong. That’s legalism!

Brothers and sisters, whenever we allow our own personal opinions to become a law, that’s when we will become legalistic with others. And legalism is always divisive. It’s divides people and churches.

Any time we think our opinion is the same as God’s law, we’re going to cause trouble. However, on the other side of the coin is grace. When we demonstrate grace and graciousness toward others, giving them the benefit of the doubt people will be brought together rather than separated.

I Tim. 1:3-5 3As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith. 5The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Did you hear this scripture? THE GOAL OF GOD’S COMMAND IS LOVE! It’s not being legalistic and laying down the law to people. God has laid down His law, but we must live by His greatest law, which is love!


ILL.- Lord willing, I plan to go see my daughter, son-in-law and the grandkids the last of this month. Baby Hayden is almost 9 months old and the last time we saw her she was only 7 weeks old. She’s had some ups and downs with her health and I think it’s time to go straighten out that baby!

Serioiusly, a year ago I flew out to see Holly and the kids and as soon as she picked me up and I got in the back seat with Hope and Caleb (who are now ages 7 and 4), I taught them something that they will probably never forget. I TAUGHT THEM A CHANT. It goes like this, "We want candy! We want candy! We want candy!"

I’m not sure their mother appreciated my teaching so consequently, we got no candy. I thought they needed candy but not mama. Every kid needs some sugary candy, don’t they? How else can they function?

Brothers and sisters, I think we all know that children, especially, young children don’t know always know what is best for them. They don’t make the best choices in life because they are immature and haven’t received enough direction or teaching about life. And even some who are taught well, still make bad decisions because of the company they keep.

ILL.- I remember while working at the Foodtown grocery store in Webb City, MO, back in the 1960’s that one of my fellow workers and friends was a PK. What’s that? The same thing as a CO. What’s that? Clergyman offspring. He was a preacher’s kid. And boy, was he ornery!

Of course, I’ve always heard it said that the reason some preacher’s kids are bad is because they run around with the elders’ kids! Bad company does corrupt! Just as most children don’t know what is best in life and don’t make the best decisions, so some adults don’t either. It all depends on how they’ve been raised and the kinds of friends they choose in life.

Hebrews 5:11-14 "11We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."

If we are honest, I think we all would have to admit that some adults are immature. They make bad decisions in life. Some make horrible financial decisions because they are thinking about what they want right now and not how it will affect them in the long haul OR how they will pay for what they get.

Some make bad decisions in other ways. Consequently, they must not be quick to acquire positions of leadership.

Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." 2This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.

They went to see the apostles and elders about this question. I would say they went to see the apostles and elders about this dispute. Why? Because they were God ordained leaders in the church. And you just don’t solve problems in the church by talking to everybody about them. God has a chain of authority in the home and in the church, which we should follow.


28It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.

It seemed good to the Holy Spirit. Do these words tell you anything? They tell me that these leaders were willing to be led by God’s Spirit, rather than strictly follow their own leading.

ILL.- Winston Churchill and Mark Twain met for the first time in 1900, when Churchill was just coming into prominence as a young statesman. The meeting took place at a dinner in London. During the dinner, they decided to step outside for a smoke.

An observer, Sir William Harcourt, speculated that since both men tended to dominate conversations, the one who got the floor first would keep it. He told others at his table that since Twain was older and more experienced, Churchill’s voice would get the first rest it had had in a long time.

When the two return, Harcourt asked the young Churchill if he had enjoyed talking to Twain. Churchill replied with an enthusiastic "Yes." Harcourt then asked Twain if he had a good chat with Churchill. Twain paused, then said, "I had a good smoke." Meaning Churchill did most of the talking.

Somebody needs to do the talking and somebody needs to be listening. If the person who is talking knows what he is talking then we need to be listening. There is a time for talking and a time for listening.

And before we talking, we must first listen well. To whom? When we’re young we need to listen to mom and dad. I am confident that your mom and dad gave you some good advice for life. Like my dad used to say to me, "Steven, pay attention to what you’re doing."

Those words were good advice. It always pays to pay attention to what you’re doing; work and otherwise.

Who else should a person listen to in life? Ultimately, we should be listening to the Lord in His Word. We should be listening to the Spirit of God who has written the scriptures for us. If we follow the leader in life and we will follow someone... If we follow the right leader in life we will make better decisions in life.

As someone said, "It’s always right to go by the Word." If we all followed the Bible or God’s leading the Bible we’d be better off and make better decisions in life. DON’T YOU AGREE?

And this is definitely true for all church leaders! If we who lead the church (preacher, elders, deacons, teachers, etc.) would listen more closely to God’s Spirit as He leads us in scripture we’d make better decisions in the church.

However, if we get self-centered, thinking we know better than God and the Bible then we’re going to foul things up.

ILL.- I once heard an elder in one church say on Sunday morning in the pulpit, "Good morning. Someone in the church gave me a tie. No thanks, I already have a tie."

What kind of a leader do you think he was? I heard another leader say one time, "I am the board!" Do you think that leader had the whole church as his best interest?

Brothers and sisters, it always pays to listen to God whether you’re a church leader or otherwise! The smartest people in the world are those who pay attention to God and His Word. And the way to handle disputes in the church is to first of all consider what God says in His Word, then pray, seek His Spirit AND ALLOW HIS SPIRIT TO WORK IN US!

Gal. 6:1-2 " Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.

But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."

Restore gently. Bear one another’s burden. Do these things in the Spirit of Christ. That’s the way handle disputes in the church. That’s the way to act inside the church and outside the church!

Spirit-taught and Spirit-led leaders lead wisely and graciously.


ILL.- When F.B. Meyer was pastoring Christ Church in London, Charles Spurgeon was preaching at Metropolitan Tabernacle, and G.Campbell Morgan was at Westminster Chapel.

Meyer said, "I find in my own ministry that supposing I pray for my own little flock, ’God bless me, God fill my pews, God send my a revival," I miss the blessing; but as I pray for my big brother, Mr. Spurgeon, on the right-hand side of my church, ’God bless him’; or my other big brother, Campbell Morgan, on the other side of my church, ’God bless him’; I am sure to get a blessing without praying for it, for the overflow of their cups fills my little bucket."

Brothers and sisters, the problem with disputes in life, wherever they are is selfishness. But when we get to the point where we start thinking more of others, how to bless them and praying for them, DISPUTES WILL TURN INTO BLESSINGS FOR US AND FOR THEM!

The goal of God’s command is love from a pure heart and a sincere faith!