Summary: The Spirit taught Paul and Barnabas how controversy may produce many benefits for individuals and the church. When some believing Pharisees said, "It is necessary to circumcise the Gentiles and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses."
Illustration: Paul wrote, "My grace is sufficient for you. Therefore I rejoice in weakness, in insults, and hardships. So that your faith does not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." (2 Cor. 12:9,10)
Illustration: Lord, deliver me from the lust of vindicating myself.
1. Have you ever considered how controversies can produce beneficial effects?
The Spirit taught Paul and Barnabas how controversy may produce many benefits for individuals and the church. When some believing Pharisees said,
"It is necessary to circumcise the Gentiles and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses." (Acts 15:5)
As a result of this controversy the Jerusalem council met to work out the practices of the principles of being led more grace instead of by law. After this decision the Christian church enjoyed the principle of grace in its decisions for 2000 years.
Application: Ask the Lord to help you to see how controversy can work for the best of God’s interest in your life, relationships and ministry.
Illustration:Advice from Dr. Mitchell’s life: Someone in his congregation pointed out several faults in him and his preaching. Instead of retaliating, or trying to defend himself, he looked at the woman and said, "If what you say is true, would you mind praying for me?"
2. Controversy is allowed by God to conform us more to the image of Jesus Christ. Our lifelong transformation in to Christ likeness is done individually as well as through the church.
Example: In this instance, the leaders of the church were able to see with Paul and Barnabas how the Holy Spirit brought new life to the Gentiles without using the law. Many of the apostles and elders learned that the church should put truth higher than personal friendships.
Quote: One scholar wrote, "Though Plato is my friend, truth is my friend still more." Do not let your desire to keep everyone happy cause you to surrender your beliefs in the truth. Greater clarity of God’s will for our life is often achieved through controversies.
Application: Ask the Lord to help you see how controversies can refine some of the rough edges in our character, attitudes or actions.
3. Controversy in Antioch caused men to seek advice from their mother church in Jerusalem. Discussions can often lead to opposing viewpoints that lead to healthy debates. Had the controversy not come out in the open, many individual churches might have continued with destructive legalistic practices. As a result of this public debate greater communications between churches were established. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit allows controversies to come to light so that greater good can come about.
Quote: Even though a cloud may come between minds, the light of truth will eventually shine through. Trust the Lord to use all controversies for the greater good of Christâs church and His people.
Application: Pray together using the truth found in the scripture and you will find your controversies can be beneficial.
4. The controversy allowed Paul and Barnabas to witness on their way to Jerusalem. "They passed through Phoenica and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles and were bringing great joy to all the brethren." (Acts 15:3)