|Vol. 16 No. 2 February 2014||
Gary C. Hampton
Paul, knowing the importance of continued teaching and encouragement, approached Barnabas about visiting the brethren in all the cities in which they had previously preached. Barnabas strongly desired to take his cousin (Colossians 4:10 NKJV, ASV, NIV, ESV), John Mark, on the journey. Paul did not want to go with the man who had left them at Perga (Acts 15:36-38; 13:13). Paul and Barnabas were so firm in their opinions, even to the point of being provoked to anger, that they had to separate.
God used the disagreement between these two great men of faith to produce two teams to go preach the Gospel. Barnabas went with John Mark to Cyprus, his homeland (Acts 15:39; 4:36). Paul took Silas, one of the leading men among the brethren at Jerusalem (Acts 15:22). They went through Syria and Cilicia to southern Galatia, strengthening the churches along the way (Acts 15:40-41).
“The one redeeming note in this otherwise unhappy and regrettable episode is that neither party to the dispute permitted it to hinder the work of God” (James Burton Coffman, Commentary on Acts 305). Paul later referred to Barnabas as a good example of one who worked to support himself while preaching. He also described John Mark as one who was useful in ministry (1 Corinthians 9:6; 2 Timothy 4:11).
Disagreements between brethren can be the devil’s tool to bring good works to a standstill. The Christian who allows some painful incident to become his/her excuse for sitting on the stool of do-nothing gives Satan the victory. The one who presses on in service to the King can see bad situations work out to the furtherance of the Gospel (Philippians 1:12).
There are two motivations for preaching the Gospel—selfish ambition and love. Our job is not to be heart inspectors seeking to correct every improper motive. Instead, like Paul, we should say, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached: and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice” (Philippians 1:15-18).
Have you ever been disappointed in someone? Have you ever realized too late that you have been taken advantage of? Have you ever helped someone and never received even a “thank you” in return? I’m sure most, if not all of us, can answer yes to at least one of those questions. The tendency is for us to become coldhearted and declare, “I will never be in that situation again!” Most of us would also feel that we are perfectly right to have such an attitude after the way we have been treated.
While the above attitude is certainly understandable, it is not necessarily what God would have us to do. Remember that Jesus could also answer yes to all the above questions, many times over, yet His reaction was quite different from ours. In Luke 17:11-17, Jesus came upon ten lepers. They lived a miserable existence, and they earnestly pled for mercy from Jesus. He extended mercy, healed them and told them to show themselves to the priest. Somewhere along the way, they were healed, but only one returned to thank Jesus for such a wonderful blessing. Luke emphasized that this one was a Samaritan, one that most Jews would look upon with great disfavor. In verse 17, Jesus asked a pointed question, which may indicate the sadness in his heart, “Where are the nine?” Yes, Jesus was disappointed many times over, especially by the Jewish leaders, but he never quit showing kindness.
What about ourselves? Have we ever disappointed God? Have we ever overlooked thanking Him for some great blessing? Again, I’m sure all of us could answer those questions in the affirmative. However, God has not and will not turn His back on us. He loves us in spite of our weaknesses. He will continually forgive, even though we continue to make mistakes. If God will do that for us, maybe we need to rethink our declaration, “I will never help anyone again!” “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you”(Matthew 7:2).