Acts 15:36-41 Paul and Barnabas Disagreement

36 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.” 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 believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches


On preparing for my talk this morning reading the text of Paul and Barnabas disagreement, it got me thinking on a time when I had a disagreement with my two brothers. We were deciding who to dress up as for Halloween so after reading the latest D.C comic we decided to dress up as the comic duo Batman and Robin. But this became problematic as there were three of us and no-one wanted to play the side kick of Robin the boy wonder as Batman was the caped crusader hero.

I thought that I should be Batman as I was the oldest but my younger brothers thought they should to be Batman because they were more agile and could climb trees to get to a higher point and attack the villains such as penguin, the joker or the notorious Riddler from above. This done or parents head in so with no resolution we all went as Batman.

But we soon realised how wrong we were when people kept looking for Robin Batman’s side kick. Through all our bickering we had lost sight of the fact Batman and Robin were a team we did need a Robin after all as the side kick is there to learn support and develop the skills necessary for the mission. In life we learn that we cannot succeed on our own it’s about being part of a team but within a team disagreements can arise which need to be resolved for the benefit of the team and overall moral.  

As we continue to journey through Acts we see that team work is a critical factor for spreading the Gospel and sometimes there is disagreement amongst its members as we read In today’s passage of Acts (15:36-41), the text speaks of Paul and Barnabas disagreeing about John Mark. On Paul’s first missionary journey in (Acts 13:13), Luke tells us that John Mark abandoned the evangelising team at Perga, and returned to Jerusalem.

Perhaps the journey had proved too difficult or he may have dealt with some kind of illness or injury or did he disagree with Paul’s ministry methods or got homesick and wanted to return home to Jerusalem, all of these have been suggested as reasons for John Mark’s departure from the team. John Mark’s decision to leave will become a crucial development in the ministries of both Paul and Barnabas.

Acts 15:36-41, begins by describing Paul’s second missionary journey and the purpose was to revisit the churches Paul and Barnabas had established. Both these men made a fantastic missionary team in mission, ministry and evangelism.

In verse 36 we read, Sometime 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”.

Paul wanted to go back to the church congregations to check on the people in which both he and Barnabas led to the good Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wanted to see them he wanted to follow up the missionary work in which they had begun. This is a good pastoral care example for all of us to follow, to make time to check on each other, and our neighbour and to see how everyone is doing especially in these difficult times we are facing.

An important theme that stands out in this verse concerning Paul is his understanding that his mission through the power of the Holy Spirit was to continue the mission of Jesus by bringing people to faith in Christ. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ did his work through Paul.

The Apostle Paul explains the Holy Spirit this way in Thessalonians 1:4-5, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our Gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction”. You see what Paul is saying with confidence is that the news of Christ’s death and resurrection was preached through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ and his salvation. We glorify God by living lives that honour him, and we can only do this in the power of the Holy Spirit. But we also glorify God as we serve him and we can only do that in the power of the Holy Spirit also.

I would like to share with you this morning how the Holy Spirit worked in my life to bring me here today. You know God works in mysterious ways and I am a man who can honestly say that this statement is true. I wrestled with faith for a long part of my life, I felt like the Old Testament prophet Jonah who went the complete opposite way to escape God, but there is no escaping no matter how far we try to go, on a boat run or hide. When God calls you (Jonah 1:1-17), it is like a burning feeling in your heart, it just eats away, making you more determined to serve Jesus.

I began to reread my Bible absorbing the scriptures. I could not get enough, but each day I felt my faith getting stronger. I knew in my heart that Jesus loved me and was inviting me into the kingdom through faith. I kept saying to myself why does God want me to be part of the Kingdom; I am nothing special and I can honestly tell you that this feeling would not go away. My life was changing and I could not ignore God’s call in my life any longer and I had to talk to someone. I felt God urging me to call my minister. I made the call and explained how I felt and the impact God was having on my life we talked and prayed. I can tell you all this morning that call was the best call I have made in my life. I give my life to Christ to let him choose the path he had planned for me.

I would like to share how I believe The Holy Spirit can work in all our lives, the Holy Spirit leads us to Jesus, and then Jesus, leads us to God the Father so we can come to him. It is through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross we have access to God (Ephesians 2:18, 1 Peter 3:18). Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

We pick up the narrative again Acts 15:37, this tells us the crucial development in the ministries of both Paul and Barnabas as they were discussing their second missionary journey and Marks name comes up. Luke records for us what happened. “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 their missionary work”.

When we read into this text we learn two things firstly they agree on the missionary journey secondly they clashed over the travel companion John Mark. In the eyes of Paul, John Mark had not experienced the hardship and suffering for the Gospel, which Paul and Barnabas had endured during the mission in Lystra, he felt John Mark wasn’t suitable for hard missionary work as (Acts14:8-19) Mark did not have the same experience as both Paul and Barnabas. Paul did not want to take the chance on John Mark repeating his abandonment, (Acts 13:13).

The New Testament tells us (Col 4:10) that Barnabas and John Mark were actually cousins so Barnabas wanted to give his cousin a second chance to prove himself.

In the end, the solution was they decided to separate. Luke records the words “a sharp disagreement”, (Acts 15:39) and they parted company. This disagreement mentioned in Acts 15:36-41 was not a break of their relationship, but rather it was only a difference of opinion.

This disagreement reminds us that arguments can arise even between mature Christians causing separation. Paul and Barnabas were unable to work together; therefore the decision to go their separate ways was probably best for the sake of their missionary work.

 God works in mysterious ways one positive thing that came out of this disagreement was the fact there were now two missionary teams, this was not division but multiplication to spread the Gospel.

God’s Holy Spirit overcomes every obstacle and he kept the missionary teams on track to spread the Gospel message. So Barnabas and John Mark sailed for Cyprus, this is the last we hear of them in Acts, while Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord (Acts 15:40).He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches, while continuing his missionary work, (Acts 15:41).  

Who was right?

Who was acting according to the will of God in this disagreement? Was it Paul, who rebuked Mark or was it Barnabas who give Mark a second chance. It maybe that both men were right and both acted in accordance with the will of God playing the part God wanted each to play. Perhaps John Mark needed both the rebuke of Paul and the second chance offered by Barnabas that he might become the man God wanted him to be.

I believe in the Christian life that we need people like Paul and Barnabas, we need a Paul who can teach us God’s wisdom, and we need a Barnabas Son of encouragement, as he was called earlier in Acts (Acts 4:36) who will forgive us believe in us and give us a second chance.

So if you ever find yourself in a disagreement with a friend or a colleague pray for God’s wisdom for the ability to see both sides rather than just your own. Listen carefully to what the other person has to say and seek a wise compromise. Sometimes we can exhaust all measures and conflict goes unresolved. When no solution can be found what do we do: do we just simply walk away. Sometimes it can take weeks maybe years to make amends, but never give up or be discouraged love is patient love is kind (Cor 13:1). God’s Holy Spirit helped Paul and Barnabas to overcome their disagreement if we reach out to him in the power of his spirit he could help us also and give us that second chance.

Just to finish up what is really amazing is that John Mark got his second chance and continued to grow and mature. Paul never gave up on John Mark and eventually he was able to reconcile with Paul.

 Much later in Paul’s life he writes to the (Colossians 4:10) and tells them that John Mark maybe on his way and to receive him well. Then towards the end of Paul’s life he writes in 2nd Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” in due course John Mark proved himself to Paul indicated by these words from scripture.

Reflecting back to my personal story this morning I can relate to John Mark, he probably wasn’t mature enough in his faith just like the feelings people get when they are finding their way to cope in the Christian faith. To truly love Christ is not always an easy journey but worth it, sacrifices have to be made but doing the will of God is the most important thing in life and the most rewarding.



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