Daily Reading: (Acts 15:36-41):
“Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 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. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”
It has been between two to three years since Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey. Paul and Barnabas are back in Antioch teaching and preaching, and Paul is convinced that the time is right for a return to that first same missionary field to strengthen the saints. This is where Acts 15:36 picks up . . . “Let’s visit” (episkeptomai): to look upon in order to help or to benefit (Acts 15:36). Let’s go and visit and find out how we might be of some aid. With the little bit of missionary experience that I have, I have found this to be a wise course of action. Don’t head into a different culture with a pre-conceived notion that you know what aid they need better than they do.
Barnabas by his very name is the son of encouragement (Acts 4:36). His gifting is that he is an encourager. He did it for Paul and he wants to encourage John Mark along in the faith even though he severely let the team down. We also learn from Colossians 4:10 that Mark and Barnabas are cousins. Barnabas has a chance to use his spiritual gifting to encourage his own family member and that is why he wants to take him with them.
“They had such a sharp disagreement” (paroxysmos)- dispute in anger, passion, violent anger. This was a heated argument. It is important to note that based upon the word usage (dispute in anger) this was not God’s desire for how they handled this. Still despite the wounded friendship, God still works a miracle through Barnabas and Mark and Paul and Silas (Acts 15:40).
Years later, Paul finds the formerly useless Mark “useful,” as revealed in the apostle’s concluding epistle. “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministering” (2 Tim. 4:11). And in Colossians 4:10, the once-rejected young worker was commended, and the Colossian saints were asked to be receptive to him. Peter will take him under his wing and call him “My son.” (1 Peter 5:14). I don’t believe John Mark would have become useful if not for Barnabas. John Mark needed an encourager, someone to take a chance on him and so I am thankful that Barnabas did not give up on him.
Barnabas seemed to focus on the need and potential of Mark. Paul seemed to focus on the demands and potential of the larger cause of the gospel and the honor of the mission. I am of the belief that they were both right in what they were supposed to do moving forward, with Barnabas taking John Mark and Paul going with Silas, but they were wrong in how they handled the situation.
“Sons of encouragement” as Barnabas was called are vulnerable to minimizing the importance of truth for the sake of relationships see Galatians 2. There is a weak spot for every strength that one might have. Paul could pass by an opportunity to encourage because of risk avoidance to the mission at hand. There is a need for a diversity of strengths in the church body.
So, I love Acts 15 because it shows us the cause of God, will triumph through all the weaknesses and failures of his people. We learn that ultimately God knows what’s best and communication in prayer gives us direction and prevents angry disagreements from damaging our relationships.