More Open Doors

Series: Fired Up

July 22, 2018 | Bob Moore
Passage: Acts 15:36-41

A lot has happened to advance the gospel. Taylor preached last week about the Jerusalem council and how the Holy Spirit used Paul and Barnabas in this meeting to report the salvation of the gentiles. We know it is true that all are saved by grace through faith. All people are saved through the blood of Christ and nothing else regardless of our different backgrounds, culture or nationalities.

When this summer preaching series was discussed, I suggested this text and requested to use it. Our text this morning has always interested me and makes me a little sad. I know Scripture includes a lot of sad and disturbing stories—The Fall of man, the Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the 40-year wilderness journey of the Israelites, the entire book of Judges is really disturbing and even Peter’s denial of Jesus.

This story is sad to me because one of the best-known teams in Scripture separate. Scripture includes some impressive teams and relationships.

Moses and Aaron were brothers that led the children of Israel out of Egypt.

Joshua and Caleb were the two spies who believed God’s promise that Israel could inhabit Canaan—the Promised Land. And were the only two adults who left Egypt and entered the Promised Land. Joshua was successor of Moses. Caleb, at age 85. declared give me this hill country in Joshua 14:12.

Jonathan and David were not necessarily a team, but were close friends and an example of commitment and dedication through difficult times.

Aqulia and Priscilla were the husband and wife team who ministered in the early church, were fellow tentmakers like Paul and were close friends of Paul.

Paul and Barnabas were a great church planting team. The adventures they had together! The Jerusalem council sent them back to Antioch to report the acceptance of the gentile believers’ salvation through faith alone. That was a big deal. "But Paul and Barnabas, along with many others, remained in Antioch, teaching and proclaiming the word of the Lord." (Acts 15:35)

A Second Visit Planned.

"After some time had passed, Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let’s go back and visit the brothers and sisters in every town where we have preached the word of the Lord and see how they’re doing.'” — Acts 15:36

Our text begins with “After some time had passed . . .” Paul and Barnabas had been preaching, teaching and ministry was going well. There was unity among the believers and after some time had passed, Paul was ready for another mission trip. Paul must have had a traveling bug. Paul was an adventurer, or at least I hope he was, to endure all the experiences he had. Even before he was saved he traveled.

God gave Paul a desire to travel and his passion for the gentile world to spread the gospel.

John MacArthur said whenever Paul saw a ship ready to sail that he wanted to get on board and take the Gospel to its destination. He also said that when Paul saw a mountain, he thought, "I ought to cross that mountain and find the people on the other side and share the Gospel." He was a passionate man. He was a man driven by a desire to communicate Christ. He was a tremendously motivated man.

Paul suggested returning to the new churches to visit the believers. Discipleship is very important. Paul understood that. We understand this principle. We understand the importance of follow up, enjoy the ongoing relationships with new believers and our partners in ministry. We understand this within our church family and within our small groups.

Our Care Effect leaders understand the importance of discipleship and follow up. I enjoy reading their weekly reports. I enjoy seeing Steve Barnett's Facebook pictures each week at the Elysian Field feeding and preaching site. We have teams going to The Oz led by Terry Arceneux, Orleans Parish Prison led by Sim Diano and Pat Keenan, Rivarde by Frank Catalanotto, Inward Ministry led by Denise Diano, Jefferson Heath Care led by Wanda Gregg, and a new ministry began this year at VA Hospital led by Taylor Rutland and Don Banks. Meals will be delivered again on Wednesday afternoons through our Community Care ministry next month. Our leaders are dedicated and excited as they go to their ministry sites each week. Relationships are developed as the different teams learn of the challenges and struggles people are experiencing. Leaders pray with the the different groups as they minister and teach God’s truth.

Not only do we have teams involved in local ministry, but teams have traveled internationally to do missions and ministry. We as a church family have sent teams to China, Ghana and Zimbabwe.

Andrew Crosby, our missions minister just returned from Zimbabwe. The team shared their experiences with us a few weeks ago. Our church has a strong relationship with Brett and Allison Barnhill with Reclaimed Ministries. Andrew has led three groups from our church to work with Brett and Allison. When you talk to Andrew, you see his excitement for missions.

Discussions about returning to Zimbabwe in 2019 have already begun. We know the importance of doing missions. The Holy Spirit changes the heart that hears gospel and He strengthens the heart of the missionary—both locally and internationally.

Those of you who are involved in the Care Effect ministries have developed unique bonds with ministry partners. You have memories that you will remember for the rest of your lives. Small group co-teachers have special relationships as they minister together.

Partners in ministry share a special spiritual bond. Can you imagine the excitement Paul and Barnabas experienced as they planned to return to the new churches? Can you imagine how eager they were to see old friends and to meet new ones? Their excitement only increased as plans were made.

 A Second Chance Requested.

"Barnabas wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take along this man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone on with them to the work." — Acts 15:37-38

Plans were being made and suddenly something happened. Barnabas wanted to include John Mark. Who was John Mark or Mark?

  • In Acts 12:2, Mark’s mother, Mary, owned the house where the Jerusalem church met. This was the home where Peter went after the angel led him out of prison. Mark was very familiar with God’s work.
  • Mark was also Barnabas’ cousin.
  • Writer of the second gospel
  • Mark possibly includes himself in the Mark 14 as a young man that followed Jesus wearing a linen cloth. After Jesus was taken, the young man left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

 Mark was familiar with ministry. What was Paul’s issue with Mark? In Acts 13:13, “Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia, but John Mark left them and went back to Jerusalem.” That’s it—the text does not give any more details than this. He just left the team.

Commentators have speculated why Mark left the team—why he quit. One suggestion was that he had an illness—he got sick. That is understandable that he returned to Jerusalem for medical attention. No one would fault him for that.

Another idea was he was not just sick—he was homesick. Someone said that he returned home to mama. I can understand that also, if Mark was immature in his faith, an inexperienced missionary and possibly he was just not ready for the demanding travel and spiritual challenges of a mission trip. Those who have led mission trips understand the importance of every member being spiritually prepared.

A third speculation is that he was lazy. His commitment was not as strong as he thought. This young man looked ahead and saw that the easiest part of the journey was behind them. Ahead of them were long mountain trails into possibly unfriendly towns. Perhaps it was more than he bargained for. When they landed in Perga he experienced the humid region of Pamphylia, he may have looked at the steep mountains, all the supplies that he had to carry and just lost his motivation to continue. Plus, the roads in that area were known for bandits and robbers so the journey was not only physically demanding, but dangerous. Travel was hard. Mark’s departure was not only a personal disappointment, but a physical burden for the rest of of the missionary team.

A fourth suggestion is that there was tension between Barnabas and Paul. It was simply a trust issue. Some commentators record that there may have been issues at work beyond the disagreement over Mark. Galatians 2:11-14 recorded an event that might have created a bit of distance between Paul and Barnabas.  Peter had visited Antioch and had originally enjoyed table fellowship with the Gentile believers. However, when some men from the circumcision party had visited Antioch Peter declined to eat with the Gentiles because he feared the Jews. Paul called out Peter for his hypocritical behavior. “The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray” (Gal. 2:13). It is certainly possible that this event may have been in the back of their minds in which they never forgot.  

Regardless of all this speculation, the point is no one truly knows why Mark left the team.  Barnabas wanted to give Mark a second chance. After all, Barnabas was called the son of encouragement in Acts 4:36. It was Barnabas who believed in Paul and convinced the other believers to accept Paul after his conversion. Everyone was afraid of Paul, except for but Barnabas. It was Barnabas who convinced the other believers to accept Paul.

We may be tempted to say, “Come on Paul, give Mark a break. What’s the big deal?” There are always two sides to every argument. I can hear Paul ask, “Barnabas, are you sure Mark is ready for another mission trip?” “Is he truly ready?”

But this is not what happened.

A Second Team Formed.

"They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed off to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and departed, after being commended by the brothers and sisters to the grace of the Lord. He traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches." — Acts 15:39-41

 The Message Bible paraphrases verse 39 like this: “Tempers flared, and they ended up going their separate ways.”

The disagreement between the two missionaries was sharp. Chuck Swindell stated the word sharp disagreementcould be described as a strong disagreement or explosion. A modern-day interruption is "No way!" Both men had strong convictions, but neither would compromise or give in. It is fascinating that Luke included this event. I am puzzled why he didn’t include more details about the separation of these close friends and missionary partners—I need more details.

What can the Holy Spirit teach us this morning? Swindell also explained that:

  • Barnabas focused on people and Paul focused on principles.
  • Barnabas was concerned about his cousin. Paul was concerned about the mission.
  • Barnabas wanted to invest in the future of a promising minister. Paul wanted to invest in the salvation of souls and the future of Christianity.

Who was right? I don’t know. But I know this was a long time before Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs.

This chapter includes some good reminders for us.

First, the early church had problems both relational and spiritual problems.

Second, it is a comfort that Paul and Barnabas were human and forgave each other. The Holy Spirit gives us grace, mercy and hope to do that. The enemy tried to defeat this missionary team but what happened? Instead of one missionary team the conflict created two teams.

Ministry lessons from our text:


First, we are reminded that conflict happens even in ministry. After conflict happens—choose a resolution.

Choose an agreeable settlement. Focus on the positive details and move forward. It might even be to agree to disagree. That is what Paul and Barnabas did. For any positive action to continue, conflicts must be resolved. Unresolved conflict causes further division and disharmony. Concentrating or focusing on the conflict and negatives in the situation create the possibility for further problems.

Second, after conflict is resolved—continue in your ministry. Continue to be obedient and do what the Holy Spirit has called you to do. That’s what Paul and Barnabas did. We don’t read that they blamed each other, God, or the church. They didn’t feel sorry for themselves because they didn’t get their way. We do not read that they complained, grumbled, or even protested about the other.

We have all seen unhappy Christians because their joy in service has been disrupted. Our conflicts and disputes will not stop God’s work, but they will interrupt our obedience to Him.

If you are looking for an excuse to quit or become disconnected, you can find a reason. If we are not careful to follow Christ and remain obedient to Him, we will always stumble and fall.

Any sin can cause a spiritual disruption with our relationship with the Father—Cain was angry, Samson was lustful, Moses was insecure, David committed adultery and was murderer, the rich young ruler was selfish, Peter was scared, and Judas was prideful.

We must be faithful, we must make up our minds to continue no matter what is happening around us. Our main goal is to serve Christ. To serve Christ every hour of every day of every month. He must be our focus in life—our identity and our first love. We must not give up no matter what happens in our lives, in our churches, in this city, in our country or in the world. We are surrounded by conflict and problems and it is so easy to become discouraged and distracted. But we must not quit—we must continue. Paul and Barnabas worked through a major disappointment and continued in ministry—and we can too.

Third, after conflict is settled—forgiveness is necessary for reconciliation.

I mentioned at the beginning of this message, I thought this was a sad passage because of Paul and Barnabas’ separation. They were a powerful missionary team and I believe they had a special bond of friendship. They met because Barnabas saw Christ in Paul’s life before any body else did. The Son of Encouragement believed in people and his ministry was investing in lives one by one. Up to this point, Barnabas was investing in and encouraging Paul.

Is it possible that their partnership was temporary because their reasons for ministry and their spiritual gifts were different? Paul was called to worldwide missions; Barnabas was called to recognize and encourage individuals who needed it.

Eventually, their different purposes took them in different directions. Their dispute over the young disciple that became the occasion of their separation. Paul thought Mark had proven himself unreliable; Barnabas believed he was worth another chance. They settled their difference of opinion with a solution that allowed each of them to continue to pursue his calling from God. Something important would have been lost if either had given in to the other.

Events proved that Barnabas’ investment with Mark was successful. He became a dependable disciple. Paul later recognized Mark’s maturity. God does not give up on weak people. Christians ought not to give up on one another. Paul discovered that those who are weak today may become those we lean on tomorrow.

Paul mentioned Markin the closing of the Colossian letter and instructed the Colossian believers to welcome him when he is able to visit them.

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy he asked him to bring Markto visit him in prison, “because he is helpful to me in my ministry”. In Philemon 24, Paul described Markas his co-worker. As far as Paul’s relationship to Barnabas, Paul mentioned himself and Barnabas as missionary partners in 1 Corinthians 9:6.

Even though the two friends had a sharp disagreement, God worked through this event to expand His kingdom. Barnabas and Mark went to Cyprus while Paul and Silas traveled through Syria and Cilicia strengthening the churches. This is the last reference of Barnabas in the book of Acts, and Luke shifts his focus to Paul and his missionary team.

According to tradition, after their trip to Cyprus, the new missionary team, Barnabas and Mark, successfully planted churches in northern Africa. I am grateful that Mark had a second chance and finished strong.

Is there someone here this morning that has unfinished work for God? This is your reminder that you have a second chance. Only you know what needs to be done. Should you reengage in a ministry, become involved in a new work, forgive someone or ask for forgiveness? You have not been born again and you know that you need to repent and give your live to Christ. Today is your chance to do that. What is the Holy Spirit speaking to you about today?

Series Information

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