God Over Our Disagreements

Posted: February 3, 2019 in Acts, Uncategorized

Acts 15:30-41, “God Over Our Disagreements”

How do you deal with disagreements? At some point, arguments are inevitable, and some situations seem more prone to them than others. The person in the office always burning popcorn in the microwave? Headed for an argument. Thanksgiving dinner, surrounded by political activists on either side? Headed for an argument. On the road, stuck in traffic? You bet there’s gonna be an argument!

Of course we expect disagreements in the workplace and at family dinners, but what about at church gatherings? Some people get the idea that no matter what happens elsewhere, the church is a safe-haven from disagreement and dispute. Disagreements happen just as much in the church as they do outside of it. Why? Because the church is filled with humans! Disagreements only take place between people, so whenever people are gathered, the potential for argument is as well. Just because we’re saved doesn’t mean that we’re sinless. And even the best of Christians still sometimes butt heads. That’s just life.

The question is: what do we do about it? How do we deal with these problems when they arise? Do we just get mad, hold grudges, and refuse to work together? Or, to take it to the opposite end, do we just put on a happy face and pretend the problem doesn’t exist? Obviously, the individual issues vary from place to place – what solves a problem in one situation won’t necessarily to the same across the board. There are some principles that remain the same (always maintain humility, be quick to both seek and extend forgiveness – all of which are commanded of us as born-again believers), but when it comes to actual strategies, things are different in different scenarios. Yet if there’s one thing true in all disagreements, it is this: God is still God. God is still sovereign & still in control. God’s children may have problems from time to time, but we can trust God to be over our problems, and to guide us through them. God can even use our disagreements for His glory…and that is exactly what we see on display at the end of Acts 15.

Remember the background: When Paul and Barnabas completed their 1st missionary journey & returned to Antioch, the church initially rejoiced, but was soon thrown into turmoil. What had happened? The Judaizers. Although the church was overjoyed to hear what God had done among the Gentiles through the ministry of Paul & Barnabas, once the Judaizers arrived, the entire mission had been called into question. These new teachers claimed to have the authority of the church of Jerusalem and said that any Gentile who came to faith in Jesus had to convert to Judaism through circumcision and obedience to the law of Moses. They were legalists in the truest sense, preaching law in addition to grace, which makes grace of no effect. (This is true not only of the ancient Judaizers but modern legalists today. They preach a gospel that is not gospel, because they preach “Jesus-plus.” Jesus + good deeds, Jesus + tithing, Jesus + gifts, etc. The gospel is Jesus + nothing! We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Any other message is not the true gospel of God!)

Understandably, the church in Antioch took the news like a punch to the gut, as it undermined everything they had sought to do through the missionary journey, and it called the salvation of many of their own into question. There was only one thing to be done: send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to get to the bottom line with the rest of the apostles. A decision needed to be made, as terrible division had come to the church through this legalistic teaching.

Once in Jerusalem, the whole church (including all the remaining apostles and the elders of the church) gathered for the first major doctrinal council. All sides of the debate were heard, but the convincing arguments were made by both Peter and James. Peter reminded everyone how God had already answered the Gentile question 10 years earlier when He saved the household of Cornelius the centurion without requiring the Roman family to convert to Judaism. Afterward, James (the half-brother of Jesus) agreed with Peter and pointed the church back to the Scriptures. What God was doing among the Gentiles was what He always said He would do: save them by grace through faith alone. James’ recommendation was for the church to write to these Gentile believers, affirming their freedom while calling them to live lives of holiness. And that was exactly what the church did.

So now what? Now the message had to be delivered, and the mission was free to carry forward. With that came good news and bad news. The good news was that God had guided the church through one major problem of disagreement, bringing unity to His people. The bad news was that with the mission free to start again, Paul and Barnabas now disagreed on how to proceed. God would have to guide the men through their own personal argument…and He did. Although the two apostles parted ways, it was not true division among them; it was a multiplication of the missionary team – and in time, even their arguments were solved in peace.

Trust God in your disagreements! He will guide us through all these things, if we simply trust Him to do so and obey His word. We can disagree temporarily without dividing permanently.

Acts 15:30–41

  • Celebration in Antioch (30-35). God unified the church.

30 So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. 31 When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement.

  1. Question: Who were the “they”? Although the immediately preceding verses quote the contents of the letter from Jerusalem, we have to go back to verse 22 for the carriers of the letter. Paul and Barnabas were obviously sent back home, carrying the decree from the Jerusalem council, but along with them were sent Judas and Silas as eyewitnesses direct from Jerusalem. So a minimum of these four men went back to Antioch with the letter to read it aloud in a gathering of the entire church.
  2. What happened when the letter was read? The people “rejoiced!” There was all kind of joy over the Jerusalem decree. And no wonder why! Remember that the church had been thrown into turmoil by the arrival of the Judaizers. Back in verse 2, Luke wrote that there was “no small dissension and dispute” with those false teachers, primarily because it called the missionary journey and the gospel itself into question. If Gentiles had to believe in Jesus and keep the law, then what hope did they have? Not even lifelong Jews could truly keep the law. If someone breaks even just one of the 613 laws only once in his/her life, he/she is guilty of the entire thing (Jas 2:10). Think about it: how many people does someone have to kill before he’s labeled a murderer? It only takes one. Even with lesser crimes – how often does someone have to lie to you before you think of him/her as a liar? One breech of trust is all it takes. Now magnify the standard to the perfect standard of God’s holiness. How much imperfection does it take for someone to be imperfect? How much sin does it take for someone to be a sinner? Once is all it takes. This is the problem with the Judaizers, and with all legalistic teaching. Ultimately, it never relies on the grace of God; it relies on the works of men…and our works (or lack thereof) are precisely why we need Jesus in the first place!
  3. This was why the church in Antioch had so much joy when listening to the letter. It encouraged them, because it affirmed the gospel. All the things they had been teaching, were true. All of the freedom they preached in Christ, was truly available. Obviously, it would have been true whether the apostles in Jerusalem affirmed it or not, but how wonderful it was to have the church united on this! There is no more important issue for Christians than the gospel (which includes the deity of Christ, His resurrection from the dead, and the forgiveness available in His name). When Christians are united on the essentials of the gospel, we can have differences on all sorts of other things – but the gospel is preeminent in importance!
    1. Thinking of the evangelical church-at-large, there are many reasons we might not be able to worship on a weekly basis with certain people of other groups or denominations. We might have legitimate theological disagreements with them on important (but non-essential) issues. We might have differences of opinions about church government, the use (or non-use) of spiritual gifts, about the order of salvation, how to worship, etc. But despite those differences, we can still be united in Jesus! If they preach Jesus as God the Son, crucified for our sin, risen from the dead, freely inviting people to be saved by His grace alone…on that, we can be gloriously united!
    2. And when we are, there is joy! We should be able to rejoice over the agreed upon gospel of Jesus. After all, we might differ on minor issues today, but we’ll be standing side-by-side in heaven…and most likely, all of us will discover we were wrong on some point! So if another Christian differs from you, ask yourself at least this: does he/she believe the Biblical gospel? If so, rejoice!

32 Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.

  1. Again, Judas & Silas were the two witnesses/messengers sent from the Jerusalem church to help deliver the letter to Antioch, and Luke tells us that they were not random choices. They were “” Interestingly, although we’re told they were prophets, but we are not told what they said. Luke generalizes their prophecies without providing a quote. Some well-meaning Christians make the mistake of believing that prophecy is on par with Scripture, and should be treated the same way. They believe that if a word is truly given by God in the form of prophecy, it ought to be recorded as Scripture and given to all of God’s people for all time. Yet that is plainly not the case in the Scripture! There are many instances where people are said to prophesy, but the prophecy is not recorded – Judas and Silas providing just one example.
  2. We aren’t told the content of their prophecy, but we are told the context/purpose of it. They “exhorted and strengthened the brethren” in the church. Their prophecies were an encouragement and blessing to the other believers (not unlike the letter they delivered!). We typically think of prophecy as predicting the future, and although that can (and does) happen in the Scripture, that’s only part of the picture. Prophecy is more often “forth-telling” as it is “fore-telling.” Quite often, that’s still the case today. Paul specifically wrote to the Corinthians about the purpose of prophecy, saying that “he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation to men,” (1 Cor 14:3). Quite often the prophet is moved by God the Holy Spirit to bring conviction to believers regarding sin, or encouragement to Christians regarding difficulties. Sometimes there are specific people empowered by God as prophets (Eph 4:11), while other times God empowers Christians with a special gift of prophecy (1 Cor 12:10). However God decides to give it, it ought to be rightly recognized (judged) and welcomed (1 Cor 14:1). After all, it is a word from the Lord to His people, and who wouldn’t want that?

33 And after they had stayed there for a time, they were sent back with greetings from the brethren to the apostles. [34 However, it seemed good to Silas to remain there.]

  1. With the letter/decree delivered and the ministry having taken place, the two prophets were free to return to Jerusalem, so they made the journey home. The overall trip had been a success! Paul and Barnabas were originally sent during a time of trouble and division, and God had brought unity. The Christians who submitted themselves to God, desiring to know His will from His word and being led by God the Holy Spirit learned His will, obeyed His will, and communicated His will to others…and the church was strengthened as a whole. Praise God! No one would have desired the trouble of the Judaizers (and they weren’t gone, by any stretch of the imagination!), but God brought some wonderful good out of it in how He unified the believing church.
  2. What will God bring out of our disagreements with others? When people are submitted to God, there can be wonderful healing & unity! It doesn’t often seem like it at the time. At the time, it seems like our world is rocked & there is no way out – that what we face is just the way things are going to be. But we’re forgetting something in that moment: we serve a God of miracles! God can work wonders within people…including people as stubborn as us! For born-again believers, the same Holy Spirit who lives in you, lives in me, and He lives in every other Christian on the planet. If you’re submitted to Him & I’m submitted to Him, then it ought to be no wonder that He can bring us to a place of unity in our disagreements. After all, God doesn’t want us divided; He wants us one! This was one of Jesus’ major prayers for His church: John 17:20–21, “(20) “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; (21) that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” Our unity is a witness to the world around us that Jesus is Lord. When Christians actually act like Christ Jesus is alive and is our Lord & King, then others can see that Jesus was sent by the Father as the Savior of the world. Christian unity is evangelistic.
    1. This is part of the problem with our arguments and grudges: it harms our witness. We see it in the way some churches split over petty things. One faction in the church hates the new carpet color, so they band together to form a new church…people on the outside see that sort of ridiculousness & wonder why they would ever want to be a part of it! When people on the inside of the church are bickering with each other & holding grudges against one another, people on the outside are content to stay on the outside.
    2. Question: Does that mean that we never have a reason for disagreement? The problem brought up by the Judaizers was a legitimate reason for division within the church because it affected the gospel itself. Areas of essential doctrine require discussion, and sometimes it leads to vehement debate, and even some division. When Martin Luther, Jan Hus, John Wycliffe, and others tried to reform the church in the 1400-1500s, the established Catholic church refused to be corrected by the Scriptures, and there was no other choice except to divide. But even here, the church itself was not divided; just the formal organization. Those who held fast to essentials of the gospel were united in those essentials.
  3. FYI – verse 34 is not included in all Bible translations because there is very good reason to believe it is not original. It’s neither in the oldest manuscripts, nor is it is in the majority of manuscripts. Of the few manuscripts in which it exists, one of these was used in the compilation of the Textus Receptus (the basis for the KJV), which is why we have it in many Bibles today, but it really seems to have been added by a late copyist to explain why Silas was able to be recruited by Paul for the mission field. Yet the explanation is unnecessary. The text is clear that Silas returned to Jerusalem (the plural “they were sent back”). At any point afterward, Silas could have gone back to Antioch, either of his own accord, or being summoned by Paul.
    1. Bottom line: Don’t worry about it. Some people make a fuss about modern translations “subtracting” verses from the Bible, when no such thing has happened. The 22,000+ copies we have of the New Testament only serve to give us greater confidence as to what was originally written; by no means does it give us less.
  4. That was Judas and Silas. What happened with Paul and Barnabas? 

35 Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

  1. Paul and Barnabas got back to work! These men did not minister only on the international mission field; they had a mission field right there at home. They had taught and preached before ever launching out to global missions (Acts 11:26), and they had done the same thing when they returned from the field. The Judaizers had interrupted them for a time, but they quickly got back to the work given them by God.
  2. Not that things would always remain easy for Paul and Barnabas…
  • Disagreement among the apostles (36-41). God used the church.

36 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.”

  1. How much time passed? We don’t really know. It’s likely that the first missionary journey took place in 48AD, with the Jerusalem council following in 49AD and the second missionary journey beginning later that year. Exactly when that year is unknown. Whatever the case, what we do know is that Paul and Barnabas were ministering in Antioch just like they had done many times before, and at some point, something started tugging at Paul’s heart to go back to the foreign mission field.
    1. Question: Was this of the Lord, or of Paul? Back in Acts 13, the Holy Spirit specifically spoke to the church at Antioch calling Paul and Barnabas to the mission field (Acts 13:2), but we don’t read any of that here. Was this not a true calling? It was – we just need to remember that God can call us in different ways. Sometimes He speaks to our hearts in prayer, sometimes He speaks to us through the Bible, sometimes He might even speak to us through prophecy – but at other times, He moves us through our hearts and desires. Maybe you have a special love for the people of Mexico, or India, or Cuba, etc., and then an opportunity opens up for you to go – perhaps that itself is God’s leading and call. Just because you don’t see writing in the sky doesn’t mean that God isn’t calling you to go; sometimes you just go because you can.
    2. We know this much: God’s will and call to us has already been given through the Great Commission! Jesus has already told us to make disciples of the nations…we don’t need “additional” permission to go do it! Whether we have an opportunity to do it overseas or in our own backyard of East Texas, we have been called. All we need to do now is to follow through on it!
  2. Paul’s plan for the mission was a good one. Basically, his thought was to follow up with the churches he and Barnabas planted for discipleship. At the time, he wasn’t necessarily thinking of breaking new ground (although he would); he just wanted to go back to the places they had been before. Again, even though God would expand Paul’s ministry beyond his initial idea, the idea was itself good & necessary. Remember that the Great Commission is to make disciples; not converts. Paul and Barnabas had done as much as they could in a short period of time to establish vibrant churches, but they had no way of knowing how those churches were doing. (It’s not as if they could send a quick text to the people of Lystra for an update!) If these new Christians were going to grow, then they needed to be taught God’s word & discipled by mature believers…and to new converts, Paul and Barnabas were the only mature believers they knew!
    1. By all means, share the gospel & share it often…but after people come to faith in Christ, they need more than a single gospel tract; they need discipleship. That’s when we encourage people to get involved in a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church (whether CC Tyler, or elsewhere). The only way Christian converts become Christian disciples is through the consistent teaching of the word of God.

37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.

  1. To understand the disagreement, we need to remember what happened. When Paul and Barnabas first went to the field, they took with them Barnabas’ cousin John Mark. Things apparently went great at the beginning when Barnabas led the mission through the island of Cyprus, but the situation with Mark changed once Paul took the lead. Once the missionary group reached the mainland, John Mark left, departing for Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Why he left is unknown. Some have theorized that he was displeased with how Paul so freely gave the gospel to Gentiles, and John Mark was actually the one who originally stirred up the Judaizers in Jerusalem. That seems to be a bit too unkind in assumption, and is really nothing but conjecture. John Mark was originally from Jerusalem, so it makes sense that he returned home…we just don’t know the reason why he did. Whatever the reason, it left Paul and Barnabas in a bit of a bad spot. Every hand was needed on the mission field as laborers in the harvest, and Mark’s departure simply made more work for Paul and Barnabas to do on their own. (Which they did, by the power of the Holy Spirit.)
  2. When it came time to go on the second trip, Barnabas wanted to give John Mark another chance; Paul did not. Both had good arguments on their side. From Barnabas’ perspective, not only was John Mark a relative & a friend, but he was a young man who could benefit from some solid discipleship. Yes, Mark had failed on the mission field, but we can learn from our failures. How would he ever learn if he was never given another opportunity? Barnabas, as was his tendency from his nickname (“Son of Encouragement,” Acts 4:36) knew he had a great platform to encourage his cousin & help him mature in the faith. Why wouldn’t Barnabas want to take him along? On the other hand, Paul had “been there, done that.” Paul knew the dangers that existed on the mission field (as did Barnabas), having been persecuted and almost killed (Acts 14:19). He didn’t want to take another chance with someone so uncertain in his faith and faithfulness to the gospel mission. Paul had enough to keep his mind occupied without having to wonder when a vital team member was going to leave him again or get into trouble. In Paul’s mind, the place for training was at home; not with him on the field.
    1. Question: Which was right? Depending on your perspective, both! They both had good arguments for their position, and could back it up with Scripture, if need be. We are supposed to build up one another & disciple one another, and the only way to do that is through time spent together. And we are supposed to take the gospel to the nations, entrusting faithful people to do the work of evangelism. 
    2. So what do we do? We make the best decision we can, based off the information we have, the conviction of the Scripture, and our submission to the Holy Spirit. There are times that godly people come to different conclusions on a matter, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that either one is wrong or in sin. There are churches here is town that are godly, Jesus-loving churches, churches that preach the gospel & teach the Bible – and they disagree with us and others about certain Biblical doctrines not essential to the gospel. Does it mean they’re wrong? We certainly believe so (just as Paul believed Barnabas was wrong & vice-versa), but just like we have our Scriptural reason for our beliefs, so do they in theirs. We might get to heaven and find that we are all wrong on some point! All we can do in the meantime is love one another, affirm one another in Christ, and rejoice over the things in which we do agree.
    3. That’s not just with churches – that’s with us as people, too. We can disagree with each other on minor things without holding those things as grudges. We can still love one another while acknowledging our differences. By all means, stay humble & stay in the Scriptures (rather than letting your ego get in the way) – just know that because you come to one conclusion doesn’t mean that everyone has to come to the same conclusion. As Paul later wrote to the Romans, “Who are you to judge another’s servant?” (Rom 14:4) Let them answer to God, and you be mindful to do the same. Instead, Romans 14:19, “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”  Seek those things, the things of peace.
  3. In the end, the two apostles could not agree…

39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another.

  1. This was no small thing for Paul and Barnabas! The word for “contention” comes from a word that refers to sour wine, and in some contexts could refer to a severe fever or disease. We actually have a word in English transliterated from the Greek (παροξυσμός): paroxysm, which means “a sudden attack or spasm” – “a violent expression of a particular motion or activity.” This was a terrible disagreement between Paul & Barnabas.
    1. Can two God-fearing Christians really come to this level of severe disagreement? Can two apostles really get so irritated with each other that they have to part ways? Don’t forget that as much as Paul and Barnabas were filled with the Holy Spirit, they were still human. Paul may have been used many times by God to write perfectly inspired Scripture, but it didn’t mean that Paul was always perfect. Both Paul and Barnabas had their issues, just like all of us. Paul needed the ongoing forgiveness of Jesus, just like you & me.
    2. Have you ever had a fight with another believer? Perhaps the better question is: when was the last time you had a fight with another believer? These things happen. Even among the best of friends, it can happen. The question is what you do with it. We can either take these things to the Lord and trust Him, or we can dig in our heels in stubborn pride stoking our egos. One leads to eventual healing; the other simply leads to a grudge.
  2. As for Paul & Barnabas, what was the solution? The two men parted ways. No doubt it was sad for both men at the time, as they had such a rich history together & love for one another. But there was no other way. Again, even though they might have had a terribly sharp verbal argument with one another, they each had Biblical reasons for their firm conviction. In the end, they realized they would not be able to work together. Often, we summarize the event as division. Even the editorial titles in our Bibles might label this as “Division over John Mark.” But was it? From another perspective, this wasn’t so much division, as it was multiplication. After all, look at what happened: instead of one mission team, now there were two. Instead of one group of churches being reached at a time, now all kinds of churches in different directions could be discipled at once. The disagreement between Paul and Barnabas was painful, but between these two men submitted to God, God brought something wonderful from it! God can bring beauty out of ashes, and that’s what He did here. (And that’s what He can do with us, too!)

…And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus;

  1. Remember that the 1st missionary journey had begun in Cyprus (which also happened to be the home region for Barnabas), so it seems that Paul and Barnabas simply split the churches between them, and Barnabas went to the island while Paul remained on the mainland.
  2. Barnabas continued in discipleship – not just of the Christians in Cyprus, but also of his cousin John Mark. — We need men and women like Barnabas! We need godly Christians willing to invest in other younger Christians who struggle. Think of all the boneheaded things you did when you were younger (either as a Christian, or just in your youth). Weren’t you grateful whenever someone older & more mature took time to give you advice & take you under his/her wing for a bit? Some young people search for those sorts of people & never find them…and it’s no wonder they sometimes end up where they do. Christian, if you’ve been saved for any length of time, there is someone who can benefit from your counsel & experience. Give it! You might be the Barnabas to another John Mark, helping someone else get established in the faith.

40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

  1. As for Paul, he chose a new ministry companion: Silas. Apparently the two men hit it off between the journey from Jerusalem to Antioch & during Silas’ initial stay in the city. They would work together for many years to come, enduring sufferings, sharing the gospel, and rejoicing in the Lord.
    1. BTW – Silas is also known by the name Silvanus, and he not only worked with Paul, but also with Peter (1 Peter 5:12). Silas was a wonderful minister in his own right, and he played a vital role in the preaching of the gospel.
  2. With the blessing of the church to continue his ministry, Paul and Silas started retracing the steps of the original journey. (This time, traveling by land.)
  3. Just like we need people like Barnabas, we also need men & women like Paul & Silas! We need godly Christians who step forward into service with the single focus of preaching the gospel. Who is willing to go? May we be those who (like Isaiah) say, “Here am I, Lord – send me!”

Follow up:

So was that it? Did Paul and Barnabas simply agree to disagree & go their separate ways remaining angry with one another? No. When Paul first wrote to the Corinthians (Corinth being a city he didn’t visit until after he and Barnabas parted ways – Acts 18), he mentioned Barnabas as a fellow apostle who labored to support himself in bi-vocational ministry (1 Cor 9:6). Also, to the Colossians, Paul asked them to welcome Barnabas kindly (Col 4:10). Paul and Barnabas may have realized they needed to part ways in ministry, but they didn’t hold hard feelings toward each other. 

Neither did Paul hold a grudge against John Mark. Paul may not have trusted Mark to be a reliable ministry partner at the time, but by the time Barnabas poured into him and discipled him, John Mark became a powerful evangelist for the gospel. Mark became a protégé for Peter & basically recorded Peter’s memoirs for the written Gospel of Mark, and Mark was also eventually trusted by Paul for all kinds of work. In the very last letter ever written by Paul, Paul asked Timothy to come visit him one last time in prison and to “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful for me for ministry,” (2 Tim 4:11).

The point? Paul and Barnabas had a major disagreement, but they did not truly divide. Nothing had taken place that was so severe that their relationship was forever severed & could no longer stand side-by-side in ministry for the gospel. Even John Mark, who had failed so badly, was not forever separated from Paul & shoved off into the corner away from the ministry. Whatever disagreements that had happened in the past, God brought healing to everyone involved, and God was glorified in the end.

Conclusion:

God is God, even over our disagreements! We are bound to have disagreements, but we don’t have to let disagreements divide us. Two major disagreements were seen in Chapter 15: one that affected the whole church, and the other that affected individual Christians. In the first, God brought unity. Division had come, due to the Judaizers, but when the people of God listened to God & were guided by God the Holy Spirit, they were healed and united together again in the gospel. In the second, God brought usefulness. Whereas it seemed that Paul and Barnabas were at odds, unable to work together, it was that very parting that God used to expand and multiply the gospel mission around the Roman empire. Instead of one missionary team, now there were two – and from those two would come even more as John Mark, Silas, and others along the way were discipled by Paul and Barnabas & launched their own individual ministries.

When we have differences and disagreements with one another, it hurts & it’s hard, no doubt. But as long as all parties involved are personally submitted to God, God does wonderful things! Sometimes God unites us – other times, He uses our disagreements for His glory. For our part, we need to trust Him, no matter what He decides to do.

There’s a key ingredient here: the Christians in disagreement have to each be humbly submitted to God. The reason the church was unified over the Jerusalem letter was because all the apostles and elders in Jerusalem had been led by the Holy Spirit; no doubt, the Judaizers weren’t pleased at all. Back in Antioch, if either Barnabas or Paul had been led by their ego rather than their desire for ministry, surely one (or both) would have ended in failure. But for those seeking God, they are led by God, and used by God for His glory.

What was the last major fight you had with another Christian? Maybe it was a friend, perhaps a family member, maybe a co-worker. Maybe it was over something important; maybe not. Whatever it was, how are you handling it? Have you:

  1. Surrendered yourself to God, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal any wicked way in you so that you might personally repent? (Ps 139:24)
  2. Sought to be reconciled with one another? In the case of having offended someone else, you need to seek their forgiveness (even leave your gift at the altar! Mt 5:24). In the case of having been offended, you need to forgive (lest your own sins not be forgiven, Mt 6:15).
  3. Surrendered the situation to God? Maybe He will bring grand reconciliation and unity, and if so, praise God! Maybe He has something else in mind, and will use different way for His own glorious purposes. Again, if so, praise God! 

We say we believe that God is sovereign…trust that He is! For those surrendered to God, we can trust He will guide us through all our disagreements.

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