Summary: Who was right--Paul or Barnabas? Does it matter? What could have been done differently? What can we learn from this disagreement?

Resolving a Difference

Acts 15:36-41

Once upon a time there was a business owner and project manager who had just months before successfully completed a project that created positive cash flow for their company. Not wanting to rest on his laurels, the business owner decided to write up a new project. The project manager thought it was a great idea and began enlisting team members for the project. After a few days, the business owner called the project manager in to discuss the team members. He said that under no circumstances was Meghan to be offered a slot on the team, b/c of her behavior on the last project. The project manager disagreed emphatically having been the one that hired Meghan and due to the fact that He had already asked Meghan to be on the team. Now what?

It started at Antioch

At Paphos, Paul blinds a false prophet and converts the governor

Antioch of Pisidia: Paul’s first sermon

Iconium: the missionaries flee for their lives

Lystra: Paul heals a crippled man; he and Barnabas are called Mercury and Jupiter. Trouble makers from other cities incite a riot and Paul is stoned.

Derbe: last stop before heading back.

Paul/Barnabas speak before Jerusalem council.

This part of the story has always fascinated me…

Spiritual giants able to negotiate a theological crisis with the WorldWide church, but couldn’t agree on the next team composition for the next missionary journey.

Sometimes being right is more important to us than the work that God is doing through us.

Sometimes we spend time debating a problem when we should be debating the solution.

The Old Testament warns, “Little foxes spoil the vine.”

No one is immune from differences.

Barnabas deliberated w/ himself (resolved to take Mark). He had put thought into it.

Have you ever done this and made up your mind?

Can two walk together unless they be agreed?

“Contention” between Paul/Barnabas

Only twice in scripture is this word used. It had been translated “furious anger of the Lord.” Comes from a word meaning a “Stirring”

Who was right Paul or Barnabas?

The prosecution: Paul’s case

Call a witness

Witness #1

Mark has a long history of running from tough ministry assignments. When Judas came to betray Jesus, we all know that Mark ran away as fast as he could while Peter fought for his Lord. Mark ran then and he also deserted us on the first missionary journey. He can’t be trusted.

Witness #2

It is difficult to give someone a second chance. Especially someone like Mark who deserted us on the first missionary trip before anything difficult even happened. While Mark was on a cruise ship home to see his mommy, Paul was nearly stoned to death. We can’t reward that type of behavior.

The defense: Barnabas’ case

Witness #3

Mark and Barnabas are related; Barnabas has a family responsibility to look after his cousin and get him involved in ministry. Mark is a young man full of

energy; He has taken up writing and I believe he may be a great writer some day. Barnabas is known as the “son of encouragement” and he is only doing what he thinks is best.

Witness #4

He comes from a godly family; his mother is a prominent member of the Church at Jerusalem; it was to her house that Peter turned on his release from prison. Furthermore, Mark has experience in missionary work having traveled with Paul and Barnabas before. Just because he let fear get the best of him once, doesn’t mean he can’t be used of God in the future. He deserves a second chance.

You have heard the evidence, what do you think?

So who was right?

These jurists side with Paul

Jurist #5: Barnabas is never again mentioned in the New Testament.

Jurist #6: Mark isn’t mentioned in the New Testament until ten years later.

These jurists side with Barnabas

Jurist #7: In Colossians 4:10, we find that Mark wasn’t afraid anymore; he is found associating himself with the Apostle Paul in prison.

Jurist #8: Barnabas’ stand for Mark resulted in Barnabas ministering to people in his native area and resulted in two missionary teams as opposed to the one team proposed by Paul. God actually used the disagreement to multiply ministry.

Jurist #9: Over ten years later, Paul all but admitted that he was wrong about Mark saying in 2 Timothy 4:1 that Mark was useful for his ministry.

This was at some level a values difference.

Paul’s values: stability, responsibility, perseverance

Barnabas’ values: flexibility, mercy, encouragement

Paul asked, “What can they do for the work of the Lord?”

Barnabas asked, “What can the work of the Lord do for them?”

Learnings from this passage . . .


Ok to have different value sets from other people. In fact, you should expect this. There is no one else like you in the whole world. You are unique.

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