Acts 15: 36-41

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 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.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

Understanding And Applying the Text

Paul had a concern about the people and churches he planted. Paul was an apostle. He was not called as a pastor to serve a single congregation. He had great success in Antioch. But he needed to encourage the other churches as well. Congregations or churches degenerate without careful guidance.

Paul and Barnabas had traveled, worked, and suffered together. There was a tight bond. This was a bond ordained in heaven. Yet they broke their union over a trivial matter. Perhaps Barnabas should have heeded Paul’s counsel. Or Paul should have forgiven John Mark. Neither happened, As a result, a great missionary team dissolved. It did not break up over doctrine. Rather it broke up over something trifle.

Paul rejected John Mark because he left them in Pamphylia. But he did not fall away from Christ. John Mark was a young man. He did not understand the demands. So, he left the team and returned home. Now, he returns. His return is evidence of his repentance.

John Mark’s home was well known. ( Act_12:12;) The faithful found refuge there during persecution from Herod. Now John Mark repents and his actions are evidence. Barnabas was willing to forgive. Yet Paul was not.

We have a tendency to side with Paul because we know Paul better. Yet the probability is there was fault on both sides. Paul’s lack of forgiveness. Barnabas’ overindulgence of his nephew.

The church commissioned both Paul and Barnabas. We may consider the break up of the team as a tragedy. And it was. But in the providence of God, there are two missionary teams rather than one. The effort to spread the Gospel doubled.

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