ACTS 15:36-42 FEBRUARY 19, 2017
“IT ALL DEPENDS ON YOUR VIEWPOINT!”
I believe that most of us will agree that it is helpful to listen to another person’s view point. However, difficulties can arise when a decision has to me made. If both parties are unable to be swayed to the other person’s point of view then conflict is inevitable. We see this scenario being played out on a daily basis in our news. It is frustrating and sad to see friendships fray and even end. I heard on the news this week of a woman divorcing her husband because he was a Trump supporter and that was her last straw in their troubled marriage. This incident recorded by Luke that separated Paul and Barnabas reveals the struggles believers sometimes face in their lives. May God give us grace to see how we can minimize these types of situations?
Luke records that Paul and Barnabas spoke before the Jerusalem Council about their evangelistic efforts to the church leaders in Jerusalem. Afterwards the two men needed to decide their direction of travel. Acts 15:36 (NIV) “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.”
Luke had previously mentioned John Mark as one of their companions. Acts 12:25 (NIV) “25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.” Acts 13:13 (NIV) “13 From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.” Luke did not record the reason why Mark left them nor is it mentioned in other literature.
Acts 15:37-38 (NIV) “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.” Whatever the reason Paul did not want Mark going with them. Paul was passionate about this. Acts 15:39-41 (NIV) “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.”
The wording used in verse 39 that is translated in the NIV as “a sharp disagreement” is a rare word only used twice in the Greek Old Testament. In both instances the word was used to express furious anger. (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary) Paul must have gotten seriously upset about Barnabas wanting to take Mark with them. Disagreements are normal but this incident led to Paul and Barnabas separating. Barnabas is not mentioned again in the New Testament.
“One commentator said this incident is a classic example of the perpetual problem of whether to place the interests of the individual or of the work as a whole first.” (NIV Application Commentary) This dilemma is not solely a question of forgiving Mark but whether it is wise to place one’s trust in the person again.
I think we can deduce that Paul wanted companions who would not run off and leave them when hard times came. Paul took Silas, who was one of the leaders chosen by the church in Jerusalem to go with them to deliver the message to the churches. Silas was a proven leader and Paul knew he could depend on him.
Barnabas chose to give Mark a second chance. It may have been because Mark was his cousin. We know this because Paul later mentioned it in his letter to the Colossians. I admire Barnabas for giving Mark another chance to prove himself. Cyprus was also the home of Barnabas so it is not surprising that he chose to go there.
Forgiveness is at the heart of who we are to be. Jesus made this very clear. Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV) “14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”No one is perfect and often it takes more than once to learn from our mistakes. Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV) “21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” I am grateful for everyone who has forgiven me and given me numerous second chances to redeem myself. What about you?
We do know that Paul and Mark were later reconciled. Colossians 4:10 (NIV) “10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)” Mark helped Paul when he had been imprisoned for his evangelistic efforts. And in his second letter to Timothy we see how much Paul had come to depend on Mark as well as Timothy. 2 Timothy 4:9-11 (NIV) “9 Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” I am sure that Paul was later grateful that Barnabas had spent the time in encouraging Mark in being faithful to Christ.
Who was right: Paul or Barnabas? Both sides of the coin can be defended. We all seek to make the best decisions we can at the moment. God is in control and we are not able to view God’s plans. No one is perfect, including the Apostle Paul. Even the Apostle Peter had denied ever knowing Jesus and later he was greatly used by the Lord in the kingdom of God.
I believe there are several valuable lessons to be learned from this passage.
(1) There will always be occasions when there seems to be no right or wrong answers. We must continue to pray and trust in the Lord to guide us. This leads to the second lesson.
(2) God is sovereign and we can trust God to work all things according to his plan. Romans 8:28 (NIV) “28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Proverbs 16:4 (NIV) “4 The LORD works out everything for his own ends– even the wicked for a day of disaster.” I am grateful for the providence of God that even when I have made mistakes God uses them in spite of me and my shortcomings.
(3) Anger is never helpful. James 1:19-20 (NIV) “19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
May the Lord give us the wisdom and insight we need in making decisions that can affect the kingdom of God and his church. And may the peace and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us always. And may the Lord fill us with his love.
Let us pray.