Summary: Exposition of Acts 15:36-41 regarding the disagreement that Paul and Barnabas had over whether or not to take John Mark with them
Text: Acts 15:36-41, Title: Sharp Contention, Date/Place: NRBC, 9/7/08, AM
A. Opening illustration: they called it the first church of laying on of hands and healing (see below)
B. Background to passage: Theological conflict settled. Church rejoicing in unity and freedom. And the heart of the Apostle Paul was still burning for the calling that God had placed on his life—“he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” So his heart and his proposal were to again leave Antioch and go to the nations and to the churches he had started. And so he went to recruit his long-time partner in the ministry and friend Barnabas, so they could plan their journey. Everything was great.
C. Main thought: Until then. And then we see a volatile situation develop between two seasoned, mature, Christ-centered missionaries, not over theology, but over personal convictions…
A. The Problem (v. 37-38)
1. John Mark was not necessarily the problem. The personal convictions of Paul and Barnabas were the problem. Barnabas the “Son of Encouragement” was willing to give John Mark (his cousin) another chance. Remember that he had deserted them in Pamphylia. When the going got tough, Mark hit the road. We don’t really know why, but from Paul’s assessment, it probably wasn’t for health reasons. And Paul didn’t think it was wise to take a deserter with them. Barnabas was thinking of the man (Mark), and Paul was thinking of the mission (it wasn’t a picnic). And they were both very persistent. The word in the Gr. that is used to describe this disagreement means “a severe argument based on intense difference of opinion.”
2. Acts 13:13,
3. Illustration: the Donatist controversy of 311 AD, list of how to have a fair fight, Covenant Marriage, 217,
4. Although the disagreement was intense and emotions probably ran high, this does not necessitate sin. It is never stated that Paul, Barnabas, or their supporters ever resorted to name-calling, character assassination, rounding up support, throwing things, etc. It does not say that they lost their cool, their head, or their temper. They probably realized that there was not clear scriptural commands regarding such a situation, and that their problem was not theological, but opinion in nature. Even though their fight was heated, and unresolved, they maintained their religion. With the influence of the Spirit, they kept their actions under control. Were they listening to the Spirit?
B. The Solution (v. 39)
1. Consider the possibility of a Spirit inspired discord? So the Dynamic Duo decide to part ways. They decide that, even though firm in their disagreement, Christ was more important. So again, they are careful about what they do. They don’t say things that they will regret later. They don’t compromise their personal convictions. Yet, they are gracious and humble, but convinced that with this particular disagreement, they could no longer work together.
2. Pro 11:14, James 1:19-20,
3. Illustration: My roommate in college, Preston, tell about the pastor talking to the perspective church member, and inviting him to go somewhere else to church, A news story from Wales told of a feud in a church looking for a new pastor. It read: "Yesterday the two opposition groups both sent ministers to the pulpit. Both spoke simultaneously, each trying to shout above the others. Both called for hymns, and the congregation sang two--each trying to drown out the other. Then the groups started shouting at each other. Bibles were raised in anger. The Sunday morning service turned into a bedlam. Through it all, the two preachers continued trying to out shout each other with their sermons. Eventually a deacon called a policeman. Two came in and began shouting for the congregation to be quiet. They advised the forty persons in the church to return home. The rivals filed out, still arguing. Last night one of the groups called a let’s-be-friends meeting. It broke up in argument."
4. How often in arguments we say or do things that we will regret? Sometimes we complicate the situation seemingly beyond repair, when we could have just agreed to disagree. We must always be gracious and leave room for God to repair the situation. And it is really good to wait until emotions have calmed down before making any sort of decisions. Sometimes its good to just wait a few hours or days before we send that email, write that note, or have that conversation. It happens to the best of us. And always get counsel. Find someone more objective, unrelated, and wise, and get their advice, not their support.
C. The Results (v. 40)
1. Before there was one mission team that we know about. Now there are two. There used to be two missionaries, and now there are four. And they are going to pick up Timothy in the next chapter, so their will be five. Only one area could be covered at a time, and now two. Think if the exponential possibilities that exist now, rather than before. Now jump way down the road, remember the possibility was left open for later reconciliation. Paul affirms the ministry of Barnabas in the letter to the Corinthians. He also later mentions Mark as being useful to him. And remember there is a gospel that bears his name, and the recollections of Peter. And church tradition says that Mark was the first to carry the gospel to Alexandria, Egypt, and there is a long standing rich Christian history in that city.