36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers 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 brothers to the grace of the Lord.
41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
1. What is the issue.
Acts 15:36-41 tells the story of the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas.
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 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. It's a reference to an incident that took place on their first missionary journey.
13 From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.
14 From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down.
Luke tells the story this way in Acts 13:13-14, "Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia.
At a crucial moment, John Mark suddenly left the team. No one knows the exact reason. When the time came for the second trip Barnabas said, "Let's give him another chance." To which Paul replied,
"Forget it. We're not taking him." So they argued over whether to take John Mark with them on the second trip. 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 (vv. 39-41).
2. What was in the mind of Paul and Barnabas
We can say Paul was thinking about the ministry.
They were going into mountainous regions. They were going into places where they would face death every day. On the first missionary journey--the one John Mark had left--Paul was stoned and left for dead in Lystra. He couldn't take the risk of having John Mark walk out on him again. He needed someone he could depend on 100%.
Barnabas was thinking about the man.
When Barnabas looked at John Mark, he said "We serve a God of grace. He is the God of the second chance. Our God never gives up on anybody."
So who do you think was right? Both yes.
This text is both honest and very comforting because it tells us that men of the Bible were not angels. They were men with strong feelings and with strong convictions. We're different and that's okay. We don't agree on everything and that's okay.
But we do have to love one another. That's a non-negotiable command of Jesus Christ (John 13:35). No matter how much or how passionately we disagree, we still must love each other
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
3. How can we handle differences
Step # 1: Pray for guidance
Step # 2: Search the Scriptures
Step # 3: Seek godly counsel
Seeking advice is exactly what Paul and Barnabas did when they faced a tough situation. We can see in the early passage of Acts 15. Godly guidance can take us a long way to do what is right.
4. What happened later
1 Corinthians 9:6
Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?
In 1 Corinthians 9:6 he mentions Barnabas as a fellow apostle and a fellow worker in the cause of Jesus Christ. Ten years pass from the time of the argument and Paul is able to look at Barnabas and say, "My friend, my fellow apostle, my partner, my co-worker." Something had happened to bring about reconciliation and healing.
Paul thought John Mark was a quitter. Did he ever change his opinion. Fifteen years have passed and Paul is imprisoned in Rome. At the end of his letter to the Colossians, he adds these telling words: "My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas" (Colossians 4:10).
My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)
Paul is in jail for the last time. Soon he will be put to death. From his prison cell in Rome he writes to his young friend Timothy. These are his last recorded words in Scripture. In 2 Timothy 4, "Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry" (2 Timothy 4:11). In his last days Paul wanted John Mark by his side.
2 Timothy 4:11
Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.
5. What made the difference
We see the continuous focus and perseverance of Paul and Barnabas to preach God's word inspite of their differences. Before the trouble, there are two men (Paul, Barnabas) on one team going to one place (Asia Minor). After the argument is over, you have five men (Paul, Silas, Timothy, Barnabas, John Mark) in two teams going to two different places (Cyprus, Asia Minor). Thus the Gospel is now being spread by more people in more places than ever before. They never lost their purpose and they stayed close to a discipling relationship,and this is what I see that made a difference in their lives.
Let nothing take away our passion for the lost.