Paul and Barnabas Disagree About John Mark

I was having a disagreement with my commander one day over a policy issue. Believing God can change people’s minds, I smiled and said, “Sir—I guess I’ll have to go over your head…and pray about this.” He replied, “Chaplain that is not fa … More

Disagreement

A contingent from Jerusalem, along with Paul and Barnabas, took the good news to Antioch (v. 30). Two of this group, Judas and Silas, are noted as especially being appreciated for their ministry by the saints in Antioch (v. 31). They remained in this dynamic church to minister the Word of God (vv. 32-35). An important doctrinal matter had been settled, and a split in the church had been averted. We do not know what had happened to the Judaizers. Perhaps they had already left, knowing full well that their phony credentials would soon be exposed. Or maybe they were still there, hoping that the strong Judaistic sentiment in the Jerusalem church would prevail. In any case, the letter exposed and discredited them. This doesn’t mean that they changed their minds or gave up their goals. Such men rarely do. But for the time being at least, they were effectively suppressed.

For Paul and Barnabas, the triumph of Jerusalem was soon followed by a disagreement (vv. 36-39). When Paul and Barnabas decided they wanted to return to the churches founded on the first missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them. Apparently Paul thought the young man had not measured up before, and he probably would do no better a second time. Barnabas was determined to take him and Paul just as determined not to take him (v. 37).

Because a sharp contention developed between these two missionaries, (who had just won a battle together for faith and love for the Gentiles), they decided to part company and go in different directions. Many have asked: did God intend for Paul and Barnabas to split up? My opinion is that this was not His intended will, but in spite of the circumstances He made “even the wrath of man to praise Him” (Psalm 76:10). Paul chose Silas to go with him, and they went north through Syria into Cilicia. Barnabas took John Mark, and they went back to Cyprus. A positive result was that instead of one missionary team, now there were two.

Application

Warren Wiersbe says, “If God had to depend on perfect people to accomplish His work, He would never get anything done.” I need to remember that, even when I fail, God wants to use me.

Acts 15:30-41 (English Standard Version)

So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are." Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

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