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)
Example: God used the journey as a way of further spreading the gospel of truth. Allow the Lord to use controversies to spread the truth in ways you might not have thought about.
Application: Ask the Lord to help you to be pliable to go to whatever lengths to see Godâs purposes fulfilled.
5. Controversies are not always solved by logic, but through the truth delivered in the power of the Holy Spirit. Logic can only take you so far. Too many people believe that if they can just present a logical argument they will resolve the debate ö seldom does this work.
Application: Ask the Lord to help you see how controversies can bring out the best for Godâs purposes as we allow the Spirit to empower us with the truth.
Illustration:Don’t write or say anything that you won’t sign your name to. If you receive a negative, anonymous note, ignore it! If they’re not willing to sign their name, it’s not worth reading don’t take heed to it. Like the pastor who received an anonymous note with nothing but the word "FOOL!" written on it. The next morning he got in church and said, "I’ve gotten many notes without signatures before but this is the first time I got one where someone forgot to write the note and just signed his name!"
6. Controversy can create a greater reliance on the Lord for help. The apostles learned that they needed to ask for God’s help or there would be a great division in the church. When we are at our wits end, we often turn to the Lord for deliverance.