Acts 15:36-41; 16:1-5

Now Barnabas wanted to take with them rJohn called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them.

Sermon Transcript:

I invite you today to turn in your Bibles to Book of Acts once again, as we return there. Again, we’re gonna be looking at chapter 15 verses 36 to 41. If you’re watching online or if you’re joining us here in Mount Laurel or here in Collingswood, great heavy here and look forward to looking at this great passage, challenging passage, but a great one where there are people.

there will be conflicts whether in a marriage or a family or a job site or an office or a school or a church. There will be stuff at times between people. From the moment sin entered the world, humans began blaming each other for their problems. We see this in Adam’s classic boneheaded defense of his eating of the forbidden fruit, where he simply says, The woman, God, you gave to me, she gave me fruit of the tree and I ate.

We find ourselves passionately shifting the blame relentlessly defending our positions loudly, proving where someone else is wrong. It’s all part of living as fallen, broken folks. Political disagreements are louder than at any time in any of our lifetimes. civility and respectful speech has increasingly been replaced by mockery, disrespect, and just plain nastiness in the public forum.

Fortunately, as we all know, being members of God’s family through Jesus means there are never any disagreements among us until we open our mouth actually among missionaries, those who have left behind potential, much more affluent and comfortable lives here in the States to go over to other countries to serve Jesus with in many cases their entire adult lives.

The number one problem on the field for missionaries is getting along with other missionaries. There actually is no number two in the listing. Others are so far behind conflicts, disagreements. That is true among pastors and churchs folks here in the US of course, as well. Disagreements happen among Christians just as they do with everyone else, even to the best of Christians.

Guys like Paul and Barnabas. Our passage this morning is about just such a moment. It, it is an incident that is so earthy and understandable that it really sort of makes you wonder, how in the heck do any of us get along? But it is also an incident that God’s fingerprints are all over, and it gives us great hope in the face of our own disagreements and differences.

I’d like to read about here in Acts 15, verse 36 to 41, and here’s what we read. And after some days, Paul said to Barnabas, Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaim 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 them with, take with them.

One who had withdrawn from them in Pam Philia 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 over to Cypress. But Paul chose Silas and departed having been commended by the, by the brothers to the grace of the Lord, and he went through Syria and Silesia strengthening the churches.

When we come to this passage, We find a disagreement, a sharp disagreement, and I’d like to look at four qualities of disagreements that are manifested in this passage. And then at the end, basically what I’m gonna do in going through these four qualities, the presence of disagreements, the production of disagreements, the pain of disagreements, and God’s providence in disagreements.

I’m gonna basically tell the story of the disagreement and those elements of it, and then at the end, I’d like to just share what I think are some suggestions related to disagreements out of this passage, the presence of disagreement. As we come to this passage, we need context because there’s history involved in this, as there usually are in disagreements.

There’s. the first missionary journey. And if we bring up the map, we see the reminder of that Paul and Barnabas and a guy named John Mark, a younger man have gone and they’ve left Antioch, which is about 80 miles north of Jerusalem, where, where you see, uh, down at the bottom there and they’ve left Antioch, they’ve gone on them, what is called the first missionary journey.

They went to the island of Cyprus, um, and which is actually where Barnabas is from. And then they’ve traveled up into southern modern day Turkey, and before they arrive, John Mark leaves and bags the trip and goes home. Paul and Barnabas continue. We, if you remember in Lira, Paul is stoned and left for dead.

I mean, they went through some hard things. Then they traveled their way back, strengthening the disciples, got all the way back to Antioch after that for a year. they spend together, Paul and Barnabas serving in Antioch. They’re back there. During that time that year’s ministry, some other speakers have entered the scene, troublemakers.

Paul calls them in Galatians and James refers to them. Uh, in that way. In earlier part of Acts 15, these were new individuals that went out from Jerusalem and basically went to Antioch where Paul and Barnabas were serving, and to those cities where Paul and Barnabas had led people to Jesus and tells them.

The only way that you can actually be a Christ follower as a pagan Gentile, is you first have to be a Jew. And as I quoted Pastor Josiah, um, basically their statement was, You have to become one of us to become one of his. It was a very, um, discordant message contrary to what Paul and Barnabas had been saying to these, these gentile pagans, uh, who had been with no Jewish background whatsoever.

And so eventually what happened, and this is what the beginning of Acts 15 is about, there was this thing called the Jerusalem Council. And Paul and Barnabas were invited down the 80 miles to ju to Jerusalem, and they’re in Jerusalem. They presented the case, which was endorsed by the whole council of leaders that, no, you don’t have to become a Jew in order to be a Jesus follower.

You can accept the Messiah. Simply by faith and grace. And we talked all about that in the last couple of Sundays. Now they’ve returned back to Antioch. Paul and Barnas are back in Antioch, and they’re about to partake, par, participate, and embark on what’s called the second missionary journey. And it’s Paul’s idea.

And if you look at the map one more time, what happens is they go and Paul goes north from Antioch, travels along the land, goes back to Lira and to those cities, and goes all the way over to modern, uh, to ancient Troy or Troy ass. And he’ll continue on the journey. The problem is in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas have a falling out.

In our passage this morning, there’s conflict and it’s all over. A young guy named John Mark who had accompanied them on their first journey. And the problem is,

Whether or not he should be taken with them. And in the passage in verse 39, Luke, in recording it says There was a sharp disagreement. The word is actually the word that we formed. The modern word parx is, which means a sudden or sharp attack. It, it can have an pars of feelings, a pars of hunger, a pars of, of, of violent pain.

But it was intense. It was an intense disagreement. Barnabas will sail west to the island of Cyprus with Mark, and he sails out of the record of the book of Acts. We don’t hear of him. Paul will go north, as I just showed on the picture with a guy named Silas, who actually was one of the guys that came with them from Jerusalem to share the letter with all of the churches from the Jerusalem Council.

There is a divide here. There’s disagreement, disagreements happen in the family of God among our best folks. The second thing we find is the production of Dick’s agreements, and it’s striking as we put all this together, how this happened. There were personal experiences. I mean, Paul is concerned about past experiences, right?

He’s concerned about John Mark. Basically what happened when they had gotten to the island of Cyprus and were about to actually go up into Turkey and, and, and begin the missionary. . John Mark didn’t go. He left. He bagged it and left the threesome down. A man. It worked out. Overall, Paul and Barnabas had been able to pull it off, but it left a sour taste in Paul’s mouth.

There were others now with more experience, more track record. For instance, this guy Silas or Salves, who has come up as one of the twosome that have joined Paul and Barnabas and gone back up to Antioch with the letter from the Jerusalem council. He’s an experienced leader. Paul says, What about him? Why don’t we take him as a, as our third guy?

I can imagine Paul said something like this. Look, Barnabas, I understand your, your concern for, for your nephew John Mark, and, and, and wanting, but, but honestly, When the church in Jerusalem chose two guys to accompany us, John Mark wasn’t one of the ones who lived in in Jerusalem. Si. Silas was. Why don’t we take him?

He has his own questions. I can hear him saying, Look, he’s a, he’s a good kid, but he’s not trustworthy. He’s a bli. He’s a little flaky. We need people who have our backs, right? I mean, I don’t know if you remember, but the last trip I was left stoned for dead. I’d like to know the guy that’s there, you know, in, in the, in, in the battlefield with me.

They’re in the trenches that he’s is gonna be there when I turn around and I need support. Paul also may have had concerns about Barnabas after Paul and Barnabas had returned from their first missionary journey. And come back to Antioch for that year. As I mentioned it before, the Jerusalem Council, something very interesting happened.

Peter had come up to Jeru to, to Antioch, and while he was there, you know, he, he was eating with the Gentile, formerly Pagan Christians, doing life with them in a way that a Jew would never have done in the past be. But then some of these troublemakers came from Jerusalem and they said to Peter, basically, What are you doing?

I mean, you can’t do this. And here’s what happened. Paul tells us about it in the book of Galatians chapter two verse verse 11 through 13. But when Sifi, that’s Peter came to Antioch, Paul says, I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned for before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles.

But when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party, and the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. Barnabas had been caught up in, in, in the fear of man and the, and the influence of these people that, that have infected Peter and Barnabas also pulled away, separating from the Gentile Christians.

I think Paul easily could have been feeling at this time. Barnabas, you’ve, you’ve shown poor judgment in the not too distant past. Paul and Barnes had worked through that had continued to work together. They had gone to Jerusalem for the council and spoken with one voice about the Gentile pagans who were becoming Christians.

But isn’t it possible that Paul’s trust. Barnabas judgment has been dealt a a blow, at least to a degree. Barnabas’s ability to encourage and find the best in people had been a blessing to Paul himself. But that positive, encouraging, helpful spirit had not helped him with the strong minded Judas when they came from Jerusalem.

I think Paul would’ve described Barnabas potentially this way. His heart is unquestionable, but his head, I’m not always sure about Barnabas. He’s wonderful with people, but in the tough scenes in the crisis moments, I just don’t know about his judgment all the time.

And then we’ve got Barnabas DePaul in Acts chapter nine. Paul has become a Christian Paul, who had literally arrested Christians and thrown them into jail. Whole families, Paul, who literally had seen and been the reason for Christians being martyred and killed, has now come to Jesus and Paul is about to be stoned up north.

So he comes down to Jerusalem and he is all alone, and all of the Christians are like, Don’t go near that guy. Nobody trusted him. Even the apostles didn’t trust him. One guy took him under his wing and came up to him and said, Let me, let me take your round. Barnabas. Barnabas took him and took him to Peter, took him to the other apostles and say, On my rep with my creds.

I’m asking you to embrace this guy. Listen to his story. It’s real. Give him a chance. In Acts chapter 11, after Paul has gone back all the way to his hometown of Tarus in Southern Turkey and they hear some believers are coming to Christ way up in Antioch, They send Barnabas and Barnabas goes to Antioch and he says, Oh my goodness.

God is at work here. There are, there are Gentiles, former pagans that are receiving Jesus. I need help. He runs over to Tarus and says, Tar Paul, give me a hand. I trust you in this most intense, this most fragile of work. I need your help. I believe in you.

Barnabas, can’t you imagine him saying to Paul something like this? Paul, I know you’ve got concerns about John Mark. I know he is young. I know he’s screwed up in the past. He was fearful. But let me do with him what I did with you. Let me mentor him, encourage him, do it on my creds. Trust me with him the way the apostles trusted me with you.

Does this make sense? So here we are, these two guys who both love Jesus, but are both wrestling with personal experiences. There’s personal wiring at play here. Barnabas the encourager. He saw the best in people. Everybody’s friend, positive, welcoming. He’s the guy everybody wants to play golf with and have him in your foursome.

Sensitive people, nervous people, Insecure people feel safe with Barnabas. His sins of choice, fear of man, people pleasing, avoiding conflict. And then there’s Paul. Big picture, Always big picture Guy makes the tough calls, can deal with strong-minded people, can hold his ground, tends not to tolerate fools.

His sins of choice. Running over people controlling and intimidating people. Anger. Hey. This disagreement makes sense, right? We got two people with very different wiring, with their own experience with each other. No one knows Paul better than Barnabas. Nobody, no one has stood for Paul more than Barnabas.

So here we are. We see the, the, the production, the development of this disagreement. But now look at the pain of it. Both of them felt they were right. Barnabas, the encourager felt that Paul was being unreasonable, proud, forgetful of how he had been graced, unwilling to extend to mark that same grace. Paul, a bottom line leader, felt that Barnabas was being foolish.

adding unnecessary problems to the trip, had already shown himself to be run by emotion and to make hurtful decisions because of it. Here’s the question. Who was right? Huh? Who was right?

Both, neither from their perspective, I’m not sure we can say, Well, Paul was right, or Barnabas was right. I don’t, I don’t think that’s the intention of Luke telling us the story by the spirit. I think what we learn, it is likely that they would both regret the volatility of the disagreement. Paul writes a lot in his letters to come about the importance of things like gentleness and patience and forbearance, and we see him growing in those areas in his life.

but they really did see this thing differently. Both valued unity made it hard. Imagine the impact on the church at Antioch. This is where the argument took place. They’re in Antioch. This is the church where they were the two guys, the two founding fathers, the two heroes of the faith, and they’ve just come back from Jerusalem with a message of unity and cons.

Reconciliation to that is joyfully embraced by the Gentile Christians. And now here at Peter, here at Paul in Barnabas, you don’t think that was confusing, hurtful? I’m sure there was sorrow later on from Paul and Barnabas themselves. Now at this point in my message, you may be feeling a little sick to your stomach.

Okay, I get it. It all makes sense. . Where’s the hope man? What, what do you got for me? I mean, does this mean okay, we’re just gonna, we’re we’re, No, let me go to the the good news. Number four, God’s providence in disagreements, God preserved unity in the disagreement. The intensity of the disagreement may have been something they regretted later, but their disagreements did not destroy unity.

The unity was not built on one decision about one young missionary candidate. Their unity was built on a passionate, humble longing for the glory of God and the furtherance of his kingdom. Number of years ago, when I was on the board of a international mission, um, and I was on at the time a five member executive council that worked most closely with the president of the 20 board members.

and was a fairly new president. Uh, he was a friend. I, I, I believe he would say, We were, we were, we were good friends. And couple of things happened, and at a board meeting, um, in the evening, it was clear that some things had been done, that there was a, a strong feeling on members of the board that he should be removed.

And I went to bed smoking. Matt. I didn’t really go to bed. I just was smoking. Matt. I, I went back to my room. I spent time in the scriptures. I tried to get my own soul quiet and the next morning we had an executive council meeting. Um, and I came in Prime for bear. And I just, I just, laid into everybody there, and I just said, this is wrong.

There is, uh, I mean, I just feel we need to give grace and I mean, um, I don’t consider myself a Barnabas, but I probably played that role to some degree. Compassion care. We need to be be, but I was shook when the two guys on our council, on our little team, who I most respected on our whole board, and who had spent the most time propping up and caring for our president, disagreed with me.

And they both felt strongly, it’s, it’s too late. This is, this has gotta happen. We had the board meeting later that day, actually later that morning. After our early morning meeting and everybody was allowed to 20 on the board, everybody was allowed to share. There were only a handful of us that talked. I talked, I was the only one that argued for, and we had our vote, which was based on majority, and it was overwhelmingly to remove, I was one of the only ones.

Um, it was a real moment in my life and leadership because to this day, I don’t feel that my, my response was ungodly or wrong, but I knew as soon as that vote was taken that I was wholeheartedly behind the board. I trusted the board. I trusted the process. Most of all, I trusted God in the process. I felt bad for the individual.

I felt a little bad, honestly, that I hadn’t been able to sway people to my thinking. But I learned there that agreement is not always essential for unity. We moved past. We moved on. Interestingly, I found out not long after that that our president was actually relieved to be removed. And so how do we evaluate this was, was I wrong?

Were they wrong? I just feel that sometimes we get these Paul Barnabas moments and. There’s not going to be total clarity. And in this situation, it was a situation where majority, which I think was appropriate and right, and, but I felt, I felt strongly we are still united, and we were united after actually going through that process together.

Probably helped our board become even more united, even though it was very challenging for us. I don’t think the work of God was broken by this experience. God was even able to use disagreement to bring about his broader purposes. You see God intended good from the disagreement he did for Paul Barnabas and the missionary enterprise.

We read this in Acts 15, verse 39 to 41. Barnabas took mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. Paul chose Silas and departed having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord, and he went through Syria and Silesia strengthening the churches. The rest of the Book of Acts is about Paul and his missionary travels most of the New Testament.

It his letters written to those believers. On his travels, God broadened the missionary enterprise. We, we will see in a moment how God continued to use, uh, particularly John Mark and he took Paul and Silas and they continued the missionary journey, which enlister actually the town where Paul was stoned.

When they go there, he finds another young protege, a guy named Timothy that joins them and they’re threesome once again. It also was used by God in the life of John Mark. God developed him under the tutelage of Barnabas and also Peter later in his last letter while in prison in Rome. Paul had this request to Timothy.

It’s here in second Timothy four 11. Get mark and bring him with you for, he’s very useful to me for ministry. Now Peter the apostle Peter never wrote a gospel. The apostle Matthew did. The apostle John did. Peter never did, but Peter told his stories and his experiences with Jesus and they were compiled by a young man who did write a gospel.

And that guy, if we can bring up that slide, was John Mark. It was John Mark who bailed and bagged it on the missionary journey, who Paul said, I don’t trust the guy. I don’t want him covering my back. Would later say, . I only have Luke here with me and caring for me in prison in Rome. He said, Would you bring John Mark?

He’s profitable for me in ministry.

God is big enough to even work through disagreements and bring about good. So I want to close with this. Four quick principles, uh, that are important to remember about disagreements in our lives. Number one, God and His glory are our ultimate UniFi. God and His glory are our ultimate unifier. If we share that, we’ll get through disagreements because it will make us ask for forgiveness.

It will drive us to prayer. It will humble us. It will make us hold onto our own opinions loosely, as it will make the issue less important than the ultimate goal of Jesus’ glory. But it is foundationally important that God in His glory are seen as the ultimate unifier. Secondly, beware of pride in the face of disagreement.

This is the one thing that I don’t see in Paul and Barnabas. This was not a normative thing. You don’t sense these guys were always fighting for their own turf, or they had to be right, Or, or, or they. They view themselves as the sharpest knife in the draw. This is an outlier moment. I say that to say this.

Don’t be that guy or that woman who always take the contrary opinion. , especially if it derails the project. If my vote on the A B W B board would have derailed, what was the decision of most of the board? If we were everybody’s had to be a yes, I would have abstained or supported it. I probably would’ve abstained, but I would not have felt, sure enough, even with my own passion in this, and be careful.

Wherever you are in your work situation, don’t be that person. That’s always the one that sort of uses. I’ve got it. I see what nobody else sees. There are times when you’re gonna disagree. It happened with Paul and Barnabas, and I’ve tried to lay out this whole story to explain this makes sense. We understand they’re so different in perspective, but they were, I was an outlier moment for both of them.

These were humble men. . They were gentle men. They, they, they wanted oneness. They, they longed for it. They sought it. Don’t allow pride to have you think, Well, my role is to always be the, the clarifier of what is. There’s danger in that. Always danger in that. Number three,

remember we all have blind spots. I believe both Paul and Barnes Barnabas learned from this experience. For Paul, it’s obvious that Barnabas would’ve, Paul would’ve said this. Barnabas saw in John Mark what? I did not. I’m so grateful God used him to bring this young man alone. I think Barnabas would have said something like this, Paul’s big picture orientation.

Was so obviously used by God to expand the work of the gospel. I’m grateful for who Paul is and that he pushed forward with his vision and passion for the gospel. Again, humility and a teachable spirit are so essential in working through disagreements because so much of it just flows out of our own experiences, our own wiring, and so easily we can see this is the only way to look at it because it’s the way I look at it and I would guess if I said to you and made you ask before I told you, I don’t think there is a yes or no.

If I said, Who do you think was right in this? Those of you that are most like Paul, you know you. The big picture, we got ’em all. Well, you gotta, you gotta see what’s necessary. I mean, the Barnabas is too emotional in these kind of decisions. If you’re wired that way, you’ll tend to think Paul was right. If you’re like, No, relationships are everything.

Well, I mean, Paul was blessed by Barnabas and now he won’t even allow the same favorite to John Mark. And if, if you’re, if you’re ruled by heart, and thank God for those of you that really are, you’re gonna probably side with Barnabas. The issue was, I don’t know that there was a right or wrong guy in this.

It was different. Where the rightness was, is they met in a position of humility and honor each other and not wanting to do something that in any way derailed the work of the gospel going forward. The last thing is God’s purposes are not frustrated when we are God’s sovereign. He is not dependent on you getting it right.

disagreements are exhausting and frustrating. We need a bigger God with a bigger agenda than we understand. We can trust him to be at work and at all. God doesn’t waste experiences. He didn’t waste this one. He doubled the missionary enterprise. Now he sends two teams out. He uses it in a way that furthers the ministry of John Mark, who was ex extraordinarily influential in the days to come in the ministry of the gospel, certainly Paul and Silas and then Timothy were, God doesn’t waste experiences.

The disagreement is a chance to grow and trust and deepen in humility. A close with this, as you read through the book of Acts, you see God bringing cultures. It religious j who have lived their whole lives believing that it’s or of pr, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s doing things the right way. And now all of a sudden, he said, And that’s where our unity will be, is the people.

And now all the God says, God basically says, most of that practice is now unnecessary

and uniting those people with pagan gentiles who believe in multiple gods and saying, I want you guys to sit together in church and take communion together and even be willing to have your son marry their daughter as you both love Jesus. It’s an astonishing big task. We’re also reminded here in Acts 15 that there’s merging of personalities, people with different strengths and weaknesses.

Here’s the question, How in the world. Will this work? How in the world are these people going to go forward? Can these people make the work of church go forward? There is only one answer and it’s a three word answer, three letter answer. It is God, the spirit at work to the ends of the earth. He is able to bring very different people with very different processing.

If they are humble, if they are teachable, if they, if they are willing to listen and think, Okay, I have this perspective, but is not the only perspective. I just if, if we can go forward humbly dependent on the Lord, recognizing even our differences are allowed by God to grow us and to shape us and to make us value others more.

And also to not be as confident in ourselves. The spirit is at work to the ends of the earth. He doesn’t waste experiences. Some of you are in the midst of disagreements, conflicts, confusion, feeling the pain of that, and it is pain. But we serve a God who is able to bring true unity with very talented, but very different looking men, women, young people.

He’s able to do it because he’s who you are, not. He’s got, Lord. I don’t know where this sermon lands for anybody today. I know how it’s spoken into me, but Lord, I just pray that most of all, it would help us to live as humble people. Dependent people. Thank you for the way you’ve wired us. Thank you for the gifting you’ve given us.

You’ve made some of us more Paul, some of us more Barnes, some of us may be more. John Marks Lord, help us to value each other, but also help us to be humble. Not feeling that our perspective our way is the only way, but to walk with trust and dependence upon you that the work of the gospel, which is done in the most astonishingly diverse group of people, would go forward as we all lean into you.

In Jesus’ name I pray, amen. Now go in peace to love and serve and enjoy the Lord.