One of the most amazing passages of Scripture involves the break up of the missionary team of Paul and Barnabas. These men who had supported one another and done so much for the Kingdom of God could not agree about taking John Mark with them on their second missionary journey.
Mark had deserted them on the first journey, and Paul and Barnabas could not agree about taking Mark on the second journey. Paul believed the mission required sold-out people who wouldn’t quit while Barnabas believed in second chances. They could not agree, and they had a “strong contention” (Acts 15:39).
God gives His Word for a reason. None of it is without significance. What does this sad story teach us?
First, these events show us the truthfulness of Scripture. Isn’t this somewhat embarrassing and deflating? Isn’t it something you wouldn’t put in a story showing the power of God and the needs of human being?
The fact that this is in Scripture testifies to the absolute truthfulness of Scripture. This passage (Acts 15:36-41) shows that the Scripture is true and that it is true to life as we know it.
Second, there are times when it seems everybody’s right and everybody’s wrong. When you look at the motives of Paul and Barnabas, you feel that both were right. Many times in life we have the same kinds of disagreements.
Third, hurt feelings and disagreements are not permanent. Acts 15 happened shortly after AD 50. Within 15 years Paul was executed. Before his execution, Paul spoke of both Barnabas and Mark with affection and appreciation. Though there had been disagreements, they all followed the teaching of Jesus to mend broken relationships. Paul talked about what Mark meant to him and how he wanted Mark to visit him in prison (2 Timothy 4:11), and he used Barnabas as a positive example (1 Corinthians 9:6).
Finally, this painful event shows how God can redeem the brokenness. God can and will overrule our mistakes. God does not want broken relationships, but he even uses those for good. Both men continued to take the gospel. Barnabas went to Cyprus and Paul went to Derbe and Lystra. The result was that “the churches were strengthened in the faith and were increased in number daily” (Acts 16:5).
Disagreements will arise. Let us make sure to keep God’s will far above our desires and feelings. He must be first in our lives and above all else.