Summary: Lessons from Paul and Barnabas and their disagreement

WHEN GOOD MEN DISAGREE Acts 15: 36-41 Disagreements between people are going to happen. It’s human nature to disagree with one another at times because we are different people! We are made out of the same stuff, dirt, but we are different people in spirit, attitude, thinking, etc.

A naive Christian married couple both believed that because they loved each other and they loved the Lord, they were going to live in peace and never have a disagreement or an argument. And they soon discovered. It didn’t work that way! The longer they were married, the more they disagreed and the more they argued.

The wife was really disturbed. She didn’t believe in divorce, so finally one day she said to her husband, “Honey, let’s just pray to the Lord that He will take one of us home, and then I’ll go live with my mother!”

DISAGREEMENTS ARE INEVITABLE! People are different. Just as there is a difference in male and female, there is also a difference in all of us.

DISAGREEMENTS CAN BE DANGEROUS. Why? Because they can often lead to some other things, which are not good.

Church members often are like those porcupines: we need each other, but we needle each other! As Vance Havner observed, there are many “porcupine” Christians—they have their good points, but you can’t get near them!

Let us observe a disagreement in the early church!

I. The Passion Of One Man (36)

Paul’s was tireless.

A. The Initiative of Paul

Paul had been at Antioch long enough; there was a lost world waiting for the Gospel. There were plenty of people in Antioch to minister to sinners and saints. "Let us go." These words give us a little insight into a dimension of Paul that we run into again and again and again. It was hard to keep him in one spot.

Paul had in his mind that no matter where he was there was someone else out there that needed him, and thought he may have been effectively ministering where he was, there was a tugging and pulling at his heart the regions beyond.

He was a man driven by a desire to communicate Christ. He was a tremendously motivated man.

For Paul the church at Antioch was not a parking lot but a launching pad.

An active spirit will not long be at rest. Love to Jesus sets a man at work for his cause, and leads him to stir up others, as Paul did Barnabas.

B. The Intention of Paul

Paul had a missionary heart and vision.... he had to go to the regions beyond.

He had a burden for the lost and a desire to strengthen the new believers. As a result, he suggested to Barnabas that they should march on.

Paul felt that he was not called to spend a peaceful, though laborious life at Antioch, but that his true work was far off among the Gentiles.

Paul proposed to Barnabas that they should go and review their work among the Gentiles and renew it, to conduct circuit among the churches they had planted, and see what progress the gospel made among them.

Paul and Barnabas agreed on the importance of the trip, but they could not agree on the composition of the team.

II. The Parting Of Two Men (37-39)

What happens when an irresistible force meets and immovable object? There follows a heating discussion of John Mark.

Paul and Barnabas part company.

It is encouraging to know that even though they are heroes of the faith, they were men like us.

I want to make a couple of observations about this parting.

A. Spiritual maturity does not erase personality differences.

We often think that if we all were just spiritually mature, we would never clash with one another. I agree that generally our clashes should be less frequent and less severe in proportion to our spiritual maturity.

However, until we are perfectly sanctified in heaven, I’m afraid that the little ditty will always be true,

To dwell above with the saints we love, O that will be glory. But to dwell below with the saints we know, well, that’s a different


1. Personality clashes can arise between men who shared the same basic theology.

Paul and Barnabas had just come away from the Jerusalem Council, where the core issue of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone had been affirmed. Both men firmly agreed about this, but their personalities clashed over a practical matter of ministry, whether to take Mark along on the second journey.

It is worth noting how much trouble can spring or find its roots from unfaithfulness on someone’s part.

2. Personality clashes can arise between men who were both godly and committed to the cause of Christ.

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Greg Nance

commented on Aug 31, 2013

Thank-you for a great lesson on relationships and disagreements! Very helpful and soundly biblical.

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