A Sharp Disagreement
A daily devotion for July 6th
The Council’s Letter to Gentile Believers
22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
30 So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. 32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. 33 After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them.  35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.
Disagreement Between Paul and Barnabas
36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers 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 believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Some time later Paul said to Barnabas,Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 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. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Acts 15:36-39a
Here is a quarrel between Barnabas and Paul which has fascinated many. They could not agree whether or not to take young John Mark with them again. Barnabas was his cousin and wanted to give the young man another chance. But Paul did not want to take the chance because the work was both important and dangerous, and he did not think it wise to take someone they could not count on.
So we read the sad note:
there arose a sharp disagreement between them. Many have said,
Which of these men was right? There have been a lot of disagreements over that, so that many people have had
sharp disagreement over whether Paul or Barnabas was right! But that is really not the point. Both of these men were right. One was looking at the work and the other at the person. As Paul looked at the work he was perfectly right to say,
We don't want somebody who is apt to cop out on us. That is exactly what he said. And he probably quoted the words of Jesus,
No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62) That is right. Christian service is demanding, and those who undertake it should be prepared to go through with it and stick with it to the end, for God's cause is injured by those who quit in the middle.
On the other hand, Barnabas, though I am sure he would have agreed as to the importance of the work, was looking at the young man. He knew Mark was gifted. Sure, he had failed, but who doesn't? Who of us does not need a second chance, does not need to have a forgiving spirit exercised toward us, and the opportunity to try again? So Barnabas was willing to give Mark a second chance.
This indicates a very normal and proper procedure by which we may know the mind of the Spirit. There are times when there are differences of viewpoint which require a separation. The will of God was that Barnabas should take Mark and go to Cyprus, because Cyprus, his birthplace, had not been visited since the churches there had been founded. And it was the will of God for Paul to take Silas and go into Syria and Cilicia, because the churches there needed his particular ministry. But it was not the will of God that they should be sharp in their contention. Their quarreling was not right. It was the will of God to separate; it was not the will of God to quarrel. There are times when the Spirit of God does lead Christians to go separate ways. But they should do so with joy and with an agreeable understanding that the mind of the Spirit has been expressed in their divergent viewpoints.
Teach me, Father, how to apply this practical help. When I disagree with others, help me to do it in a way that neither compromises your truth or your love.
Life Application: What can we learn from the dispute between Paul and Barnabas? Do we receive others' opinions as ego threats? Do we honor God's work in others, even when we have divergent opinions?
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