Acts 15:35 But Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching, with many others also, the word of the Lord.
36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are."
37 And Barnabas was desirous of taking John, called Mark, along with them also.
38 But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.
39 And there arose such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.
40 But Paul chose Silas and departed, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.
41 And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
16:1 And he came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek,
2 and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.
3 Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
4 Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees, which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe.
5 So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.
In today’s scripture, we look at how God takes a team leadership conflict and turns it into two teams that campaign for Christ. We then follow Paul and Silas team and meet Timothy, a young man of faith and devotion to Christ. But first there is this conflict matter between Paul and Barnabas. Luke allows us to overhear the topic of the personal dispute that brought it all about. It centers around who should be allowed to go on a mission trip and who should not. They disagree strongly about this. The end result is the separation of two great coworkers for Christ and the formation of two new mission teams, one to Cyprus and one to Galatia and beyond. I don’t know about you, but I still hate to see the breakup of a great team.
I remember when the Chicago Bulls were on top in Basketball. It was a sad time when they finally went their separate ways. Do you remember when Michael Jordan left the Bulls to try his hand at baseball? That was a learning experience! When he came back to the team, they welcomed him and again went to the top. It’s a good thing their coach wasn’t Paul. He might have never been allowed to come back!
Isn’t it amazing how God’s word invites you into the lives of the men and women within it, some who have followed God’s will and some who have not? Through the eyes and ears of the inspired writers we observe their lives and see not just them, but, if we look carefully, we also see ourselves.
In Acts 15:36-41, Look at the way Paul and Barnabas deal with what to do with John Mark.
While this sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas explains how the team of Paul and Barnabas became the team of Paul and Silas, this little glimpse into the private conversation here is also a confirmation that Acts is authentic and accurate historically. We see the humanity of these men. Even though God worked it together for good, this is still an example of conflict among great Christian leaders. These are not weak and fleshly novice Christians; these are seasoned mature missionaries who have the Holy Spirit. They are biblical heroes. Select followers of Jesus Christ who the Holy Spirit called for the first great missionary journey! What are they doing here? What were their differences? Paul viewed John Mark’s desertion as a character flaw that made him an inappropriate team member. Barnabas viewed Mark’s desertion as an immature decision on the part of one who needed another chance. Mark was also Barnabas’ cousin. But this is classic Barnabas type behavior! Son of Encouragement that he is! It was Barnabas that helped Paul find acceptance in Jerusalem among the church after his conversion to Christ. And it is Barnabas who went to Antioch and welcomed the Gentiles into the church. It was Barnabas who went to get Saul, now Paul, to come work with him at Antioch, and it was Barnabas and Saul that the Holy Spirit chose to make the first missionary journey. And now it is Barnabas who stands with John Mark and says, “Let’s give him another chance!”
Paul won’t have it. Why? Well, we must realize that for Paul the cause of Christ deserves the best and most reliable team one can put together. He does not condemn John Mark; it is just that he’s like Dr. Phil who said, “The past is the best predictor of future behavior.” Here we see a bit more into the character of Paul and find that reputation and loyalty rate very high in his Christian value system. Behaviors that demonstrate disloyalty or lack of courage, among other things, can disqualify a person for certain areas of ministry. Barnabas disagrees with some of this, at least regarding John Mark.
Barnabas and Paul are two strong Christian men with two strong personalities and two strong opposing opinions about who to include on their mission team. It is possible to see the value of both viewpoints. One is mission driven, the other is relationship driven. Thank the Lord that he works for the good of those that love him.
You can learn a lot about people by how they view other people. Which of these are you most like: Paul or Barnabas?
As we enter chapter 16 we see how Paul’s mission team adds another member. Here we meet Timothy for the first time. He’s a young man who has already built a good reputation among several churches. Even with some pretty serious obstacles in his way, Timothy’s faith has blossomed and he catches the eye of the apostle Paul as a worthy worker for their team. Paul was not disappointed. Listen to this description of Timothy in a letter of Paul some years later to the Philippians 2:19 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition.
20 For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.
21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.
22 But you know of his proven worth that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.
23 Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me;
NIV translates verse 20: I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.
Think about what this says about the character of this young man, Timothy. What a great commendation to his character! And just look at what Paul says about others: they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. Interestingly, Paul is not condemning everyone else, he’s just saying that Timothy rises above all the rest. Timothy, it appears, eventually became Paul’s closest friend. They were good for each other. Paul certainly was for Timothy, and it appears that Timothy was good for Paul too.
I have seen through the years how closeness and friendship are used by God to shape and build the character of Christ in people. God uses relationships for our good, but it is also true that Satan can use them for our demise.
Who is your closest friend? Think about the things that attract you and bond you together. You can tell a lot about a person by the kinds of friends they choose and hang out with. You can also tell a lot about a person by the kinds of activities they participate in and devote their time and energies to.
Here we are in a rich society where those in the entertainment industry are among the highest paid members of our society. That’s a clue as to what our society is like. Americans value having fun. We pay large sums of money and spend large blocks of time watching competition events or movies that do absolutely nothing to better our lives. We value youth and sexual attraction and comforts and thrills and power. Viagra and Levitra advertisements punctuate the nightly news. If anything what we need is medication to reduce some of this, not inflame it further!
We live in a world that hasn’t changed much. Isaiah (almost 3000 years ago) said, “All we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” Paul (almost 2000 years ago) said, “for they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.”
But every now and then there’s a Timothy. Every once in a while there’s a Paul. From time to time there’s a Barnabas. What is different about these men? What made the difference? It all started with their relationship with Jesus Christ. They came to know the Lord and walk with him. They found relationships with others who did the same. I tell you, God is calling us into relationship with himself first, but it doesn’t stop there. We need to form close bonds of friendship with fellow followers of Jesus Christ or we will find that our faith dims or even dies.
This world’s magnetic pull will draw you in! Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with some entertainment and relaxation. The problem is that for so many people today, these have become the goal of life! These have become grossly over important! They tend to swallow up hearts and lives of people, distracting us from God. They eat up far too much time and energy throwing life out of balance. The world encroaches upon the sacred. We see it in so many ways! But can we do anything about it? Yes! But not alone!
I think the reason God chose to teach us so much of his will and truth through life stories of others is so we can see the gospel lived out in real flesh. We need to know that in a world like ours, God can still do it in us. We can walk with God and follow in the footsteps of men and women of faith. God wants to work in us just as he did then to give us an abundant life in Christ complete with adventure and fulfillment. It will not be boring! In fact, the adventure and fulfillment of the Christian life vastly overshadows the cheap counterfeit that the pit of hell offers today. We don’t need a virtual Christianity, we need genuine Christianity! God wants us to find fellowship with faithful followers of Christ who will challenge and encourage us and who we will also challenge and encourage.
Paul and Barnabas and Timothy are just ordinary, flesh and blood men. People, just like me and you here today. Their lives were rich with God’s purpose and filled with the thrills of glory. They confronted the darkness of the world around them with the dazzling light of God’s truth and love. They lived their days to the fullest and discovered God’s power and strength. Why, because they walked where they needed it and they were willing to use it to God’s glory.
Time spent on earth for them was not about building comfort or security for the here and now. It was not about attending the Roman games or theatre and being impressed with the fashion and glitter of the day. Retirement was not on the horizon for the years after 65. To live is Christ! To die is gain! For those words to ring true in our hearts we must make a clear clean break with the world and take hold of Jesus Christ in faith! We must join hands and hearts with others who walk with Christ and help protect us along the way. Let us not fall in love with the world or the things of this world. If we do, the love of God will not be in us. Jesus said, “Whoever loves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will keep it unto eternal life.” But even here, we are never alone. Jesus says, “Lo, I will be with you, to the very end of the age.” And Jesus calls each of us to walk with each other as we serve together in his kingdom.
Your love belongs to Jesus! Give it to him. Your heart, soul, mind and strength, your hopes, dreams, goals, and values, your wealth, health, breath and life… all belong to Jesus Christ, Lord of lords and King of kings. He paid for you! Give yourself to him! And find strength in fellowship with others who have given their lives to Christ.
Hebrews 6 says: 4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit,
5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,
6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.
Why does this happen?
Hebrews 3:12 Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God.
13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end;
Right in the middle of what keeps us from an evil unbelieving heart and hardening by the deceitfulness of sin is this: encourage one another day after day
That tells me that one another is a key to the Christian life of victory and glory.
When I was 16 and wanted to rededicate my life to Christ, God gave me a great relationship with another Christian young man that made all the difference.