Acts 15:36-41 “Some time 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.” 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 brothers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”
Whenever you bring two human beings together there will be the difference of opinions or a clash between two wills. This is a good definition of a conflict.
Here in this passage of Scripture in Acts we see a conflict that came up between two godly men – the apostle Paul and Barnabas. What caused this conflict? It was a difference in opinion between these two men over another man by the name of John Mark.
One question that we might ask is: in this conflict between Paul and Barnabas who was right and who was wrong? There are probably many arguments we could bring to buttress up the sides of both men to prove their side of the argument. I believe that they were both right and in one sense they were both wrong.
A conflict will be a normal thing. Whenever you bring two people together there will always be the difference of opinions, ideas, etc. A conflict, however, must be worked out and if it is, it can result in greater spiritual growth. We will see this as we continue on with our weekly letters.
Take for example Paul and Barnabas. Paul’s temperament is choleric. He is out going and one to take over. Barnabas, is a good example of a phlegmatic temperament. He would be willing to sit back, take it easy and let the choleric take over. The question is: is that what God wants? I don’t believe so.
Barnabas was the one to find and disciple Paul. In the beginning it was Barnabas and Saul, but later it changes to Paul and Barnabas. It seems that Paul takes the lead and Barnabas with the gifts that God has given him takes a back seat.
Barnabas has much to offer, but he seems unwilling to exert himself.
A conflict over John Mark takes place between Barnabas and Paul and they part company. Barnabas takes John Mark and goes in another direction. Although Scripture is silent about Barnabas from then on and concentrates more on Paul we know that God used Barnabas with John Mark, because Paul later on says: ‘send me John Mark because he is profitable for the ministry.’
In Hebrews 10:24 (“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”) I think it is interesting that the word used for spurring one another on is the same word used in Acts 15 where it says that Paul and Barnabas had a ‘sharp’ disagreement. Here we see the word ‘spur’ and ‘sharp’ are the same Greek word.
What this shows me is that conflicts are not necessarily bad. However, they do need to be worked out and when they are – it can result in spiritual growth.