Summary: Those who follow Christ can hold strong convictions without sacrificing good relationships.
Handling Conflict within God’s Family
Acts 15:22-35 follows up on the Jerusalem Council, where the apostles and other Jewish church leaders extended grace to the Gentiles who had believed on Jesus. They told them they did not have to keep the Jewish law of Moses in order to be saved. Since we already covered the content of the letter they sent back to Antioch a few weeks ago, I’d like to skip over this passage and look at Acts 15:36-41. Paul & Barnabas have returned to Antioch with Silas and Judas, welcoming the Gentiles to faith in Christ without being bound by the law of Moses. Now, we’ll pick up with verse 36:
-36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing."
37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Intro: [Example of conflict- how not to deal w/ it] Have you ever had a disagreement with another Christian, and you both knew you were right? As long as we are in this world, there will be disagreements. Close family members can disagree on things and may never change their minds about how they feel. Friends can be friends and still disagree on a number of things. Disagreeing with someone does not mean that you do not love them, nor does it necessarily mean that you are angry with them. Disagreement is the result of a little something God gave to all human beings: a will.
-So, I believe it is okay to disagree with one another on a variety of issues, as long as we learn to do it in love. We must agree on certain non-negotiables that God has clearly revealed to us in Scripture, but there are countless issues where unity can be found without having uniformity of thought. Here is where I’m going with all this.
Prop: Those who follow Christ can hold strong convictions without sacrificing good relationships.
(Another way to say this comes from Eph. 4:15, which says, “Speak the truth in love.”)
Interrogative: How is this possible?
TS: Let’s look at a few thoughts from our text that show us how believers can disagree agreeably. First we see that all need encouragement.
I. Christ-Followers Need to Foster an Encouraging Environment
36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing."
-Both Paul and Barnabas were caring men who wanted to help people grow strong in their faith and love for Christ. God had burdened them with a desire to see His church grow and flourish. It is no wonder, then, that they wanted to return to the people they had led to the Lord to encourage them. We have already seen them return to some churches to strengthen them: Acts 14:21-22 “Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.
-However, there were other times that even Paul found himself in need of strength and encouragement: [Click] Acts 23:11 “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, "Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome." Paul was in the middle of all kinds of problems and may have been dealing with fear and discouragement. Why else would Jesus Himself visit him and say, “Take courage.”
-We may or may not get a personal visit from Jesus. But one thing is certain: Jesus wants us to be encouraged! He may send someone to you to lift your spirits and give you hope. We should all be quick to speak the language of love and encouragement to one another. It may be safe to say that we should always be on one end or the other of encouragement. The front end starts with an “E”. That can remind us to Extend encouragement to those around us. [Click] The last letter of encouragement is a “T”. That serves to remind us to Take encouragement when it is extended to us. There are many times when we simply need to encourage ourselves in the Lord, as David did: [Click] 1 Samuel 30:6 “Now David was greatly distressed… but David strengthened [encouraged] himself in the LORD his God.”