Contentions in the Church Lessons from Paul and Barnabas. ACTS 15:36-41.

At times disagreement will occur among believers who love the Lord and one another. When this cannot be resolved, it is best to agree to disagree and let God work his will in the lives of all concerned. Differences in opinion that lead to a separation as in the case of Paul and Barnabas must never be accompanied by bitterness and hostility. Both Paul and Barnabas continued their work for God with His blessings and grace.

John Mark was a young man who worked with Paul and Barnabas as attendance and ministered to them and was supposed to be a witness of their doctrine, manner of life and patience and should have been fitted and trained up for further service by being occasionally employed in the present service. He was a nephew to Barnabas who was determined to take him long because probably, it was Barnabas who brought him up and had a kindness for him and was solicitous for his welfare. There is thus, a suspicion of partiality against Barnabas in the disagreement.

Paul opposed the position of Barnabas because he did not think it was wise to allow John Mark to follow them because he had earlier deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. (Acts15:38). When looked at the action of John Mark, it could be said that his departure was clandestine, without their knowledge or wilfully without their consent, and did not continue to work with them because he was either lazy and would not take the pains that must be taken or cowardly and would not run the hazard. Because of his action, Paul saw him as one who do not have a good reputation and who has betrayed their thrust. Paul’s position was that he does not want to be deceived twice. He based his decision on Proverbs 25:19 ‘confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth and a foot out of joint’ which will hardly be used again.

This disagreement threw both men into fits of passion. It was so sharp that they separated and went their different ways. Barnabas was peremptory that he will not go without John Mark. Paul was peremptory that he will not go with John Mark. They were both not ready to accept each other’s position. Neither would yield for the other. Therefore the only option left was for each man to go his separate way.

Now what is very humbling and a matter of lamentation, even though very instructive in the disagreement is this:

We must note that the best of men are but men, subject to like passions as we are, as these two good men had expressly owned up concerning themselves. (Acts14:15). If I am to pass a judgement on them, I do not think that there was a fault on both sides. Perhaps, Paul separately severe upon the young man, and did not allow his fault the extenuation it was capable of, he did not consider what a useful woman his mother was in Jerusalem (Acts12:12), nor make the allowance he might have made to Barnabas’s natural affection, in a case in which the interest of Christ‘s kingdom was concerned and indulged it too much.

They were certainly both at fault because the argument was so intense that they had to allow it to separate them. They must have used harsh words on each other and were so resolute on their stands that they had to go their separate ways. It was a pity that they did not refer the matter to a third person or allowed a friend to intervene to prevent its coming to an open rupture. Was there no wise men to intervene with his good office and to accommodate the matter to prevent it from affecting the missionary work they were doing and not bringing their ministry to disrepute before the Canaanites and Perizzites, seeing that they were not only with the Jews and the heathens but that there were also false brethren amongst them who would warm their hands at the flames of the contention between them.

When looked at further, we can also conclude that both men had the type of pride and ego that portrayed them as poor or weak in character. Yet some good was brought out of the evil - meat out of the eater and sweetness out of the strong. It was strange that even the sufferings of the apostles but much more strange that even the quarrels of the apostles, should tend to the furtherance of the gospel of Christ. Yes it led to the furtherance of the gospel. God would not have allowed such things to happen if he did not know how to make them serve his purpose. Because of the separation, Barnabas went to another place, Cyprus while Paul went to Cilicia. Each, to his own country. Each showed affection to his native land. God served his purpose through the diffusing of the gospel light.

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