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Paul, Mark, and Barnabas

In Acts 15:36-40, Luke writes:

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 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.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.

Luke records that a sharp disagreement took place between Paul and Barnabas. Luke’s intent in this passage is to show the good that came out of this disagreement. Because of this disagreement and separation the missionary efforts of the early church now doubled and the result was that the gospel was going to reach more people (Barnabas and Mark sailed to Cyprus and Silas accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey). However, in God’s providence, perhaps there is another reason for this story: to provide for the church a witness to the power of forgiveness. The word here for “sharp disagreement” gets at the idea that there was anger, irritation, and exasperation. Certainly this disagreement and separation brought feelings of pain, hurt, disappointment, and maybe even bitterness; but Paul makes note of Mark later in the New Testament and how he is a fellow worker and a comfort to him (Col 4:10; Phlm 24; 2 Tim 4:11). Paul also calls Barnabas his colleague in the ministry (1 Cor 9:6). Somewhere along the line Paul, Mark, and Barnabas had been reconciled. There is great encouragement to be found here.

1.) Even when sharp disagreements take place and friends in ministry separate, God may use it to spread his kingdom.

2.) Even though sharp disagreements take place among men in the ministry, there is always the hope of reconciliation.

Paul practiced what he preached; may we do the same (Col 3:13):

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

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