December 8, 2019

When good men disagree

Passage: Acts 15:36-41
Service Type:


  • Different words for preaching
    • Including didactic preaching
  • Reading Acts 15:36-41
  • The church of Jesus Christ has come under pressure
    • Physical persecution - an attack from without
    • An attack from within - from Satan
      • Trying to make a division between Jew and Gentile
      • Another attack
  • Paul's desire is to return to the churches they established 
    • A significant disagreement - they end up going different ways
  • Title: 'when good men disagree'
    • Never once has God disagreed within Himself
    • Humans are fallen
    • Who was right / What are the causes
    • God overruled in the situation
  • Consider the relationship between Paul and Barnabas
    • Christian experience shows that good men and very good men will disagree
    • We should not be surprised at this
    • A sad fact of human nature
  • Questions:
    • The authority of apostleship
    • The nature of the disagreement - a person: John Mark
    • The question of who is right
  • Overview:
    • Factors that may have led to division between them
    • God's purpose in it all

Factors that may have led to division between them


  • Both very godly men dedicated to the cause of Jesus Christ
  • Barnabas:
    • Warm, empathetic, encouraging, inclusive
    • Son of encouragement
    • He believed in Saul
      • He brought him up
      • Because of him Paul had the right hand of fellowship
    • A man full of faith and the Holy Spirit
    • Happy for Paul to take the leading role
  • Paul:
    • Warm, tender
    • Strong, principles, a clear leader, withstood people to their face, bold preacher
    • Stood up to the authorities
  • Was the disagreement due to a personality clash? [no]
    • Barnabas was inclusive
      • John Mark had failed in the past
      • He needed a second opportunity
      • Time to be involved in the work of the gospel
    • Paul may have thought
      • He put his hand to the plow but turned back
      • Not mature enough yet
      • Not up to it
      • May be a liability
  • Do we know our strengths and weaknesses?
    • Be careful about stubbornness and lack of understanding
    • Be careful about being weak, over generous and naive
    • Be balanced

Family Connections

  • John Mark was Barnabas' cousin
    • We know how family connections can distort things
    • A very difficult thing to conclude
  • God uses family
    • The disciples
    • Several families in churches
  • We must always following biblical principles

Readiness to Serve

  • A difference in opinion
  • Paul:
    • May be concerned that John Mark might suffer
    • Not a moral failure but a personal one - not loyal, a desertion that could of hurt
    • Bitterness towards John Mark (very unlikely)
  • Barnabas:
    • Maybe an assistant and he will assist us again
    • Maybe a reminder of Peter and others who have been restored
  • Conjecture:
    • No facts
    • Not easy to make conclusions
  • Paul not bitter towards John Mark
    • 2 Tim 4:11
    • A sharp contention
  • No division in the church

Fallible Sinners

  • We are all sinners - we should not put anyone on a pedestal
    • For our encouragement

God's purpose in it all

  • God overruled in the situation of Joseph
  • God overrules in this situation
    • Barnabas takes John Mark to Cyprus
    • A new missionary team
    • Example
      • Sometimes separation is better than people continue at loggerheads
    • v38
    • Quote from Charles Spurgeon
  • Paul and Silas
    • Visited Galatia
    • Silas - a roman Jew
      • God had purposes in this
  • Barnabas and John Mark
    • Go to Cyprus
  • God's providence is working overall