Acts: Day 24

Start of the Second Missionary Journey


Today's Text: Acts 15:36-41, Acts 16:1-15, John 15:26, 1 Corinthians 9:19-21

Text: Acts 15:36-41, Acts 16:1-15, John 15:26, 1 Corinthians 9:19-21

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve probably heard countless stories of rifts, splits, and politics in the Church. Maybe you or someone close to you has been really hurt by the way the imperfect people of the Church handled certain situations. It’s devastating when God’s people let their flaws get in the way of ministry, doing more harm than good.

However, the Church is sometimes so afraid of discord that it swings too far the other way. Trying to maintain the unity Christians are called to (1 Peter 3:8), we can unintentionally create cultures that stifle any questioning or difference of opinion. The push for unity can be taken so far that it seems sinful to disagree at all. There must be a better solution to preventing the type of pain that church conflict is known to cause.

The struggle of Christians to balance unity with uniqueness is nothing new. In Acts, we read about the ministry of Paul and Barnabas, two exceptional men who gave their lives to preaching the gospel. But even these god-fearing men had a sharp disagreement. Barnabas wanted to bring Mark with them on their journey, but Paul didn’t think it would be wise, given that Mark had ditched them on a past journey.

There doesn’t seem to be a moral issue here, just a difference of opinion or perhaps a difference in what these men felt God was calling them to do. Barnabas was thinking about his cousin, and Paul was thinking about the dangers ahead. Even though the men decided to part ways, this story doesn’t paint either man as a villain.

It is so rare for us to view a disagreement like this without assigning blame to one party or the other. Surely someone is in the wrong! That was my reaction when I first read this story of Paul and Barnabas. But the more I dug, the more I found that most scholars don’t see a moral issue in the way these two godly men disagreed and parted.

While it might not have been ideal for Paul and Barnabas to be on different pages, God used their parting of ways to reach more people and spread the gospel. In the end, their disagreement does not lead to a damaged relationship, nor do they appear to hold any ill will toward one another. In fact, Paul goes on to later speak very respectfully of Mark, calling him a fellow worker who had brought him comfort (Colossians 4:10-11).

Sometimes there is unavoidable pain from conflict because one or both parties are in the wrong, acting out of sin. Those situations are distinctly different in nature from the disagreement we here see between Paul and Barnabas.

Their conflict affirms that we can disagree and even be angry without sinning (Ephesians 4:26), if we do it with a gentle and humble spirit. We can part ways when needed without hurting others, if we understand that there does not always have to be a villain. Conflict can feel yucky, but in non-moral issues such as this, God can use it for His good purposes.


Kaitie Stoddard is a professional counselor who recently relocated from Chicago to Colorado with her husband. She has her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about helping couples and families find healing in their relationships. Jesus dramatically changed her life in high school, giving her a heart for those who don’t yet know the love of Christ. On any given weekend you’re likely to find Katie snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains, checking out new restaurants with friends, or catching up on her favorite Netflix and podcast series.

  • ed shearan

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  • JJ Smith

    how timely as my church is having an intense conflict… I love how God uses where we are, even being behind in the already behind schedule, to show us He cares.

  • A while back, I’ve had to pray and ask God for understanding over Saul and Barnabas tiff as i did not understand how these prominent leaders could end up abandoning each other after a disagreement. I believe God revealed the answer to me though in Acts 12:25-13:3. It appears the root cause of their disagreement was disobedience to the instructions the Holy Spirit gave them in Acts 13:2. In this verse, the Holy Spirit says “…Now separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them”. The Holy Spirit is clear and specific on who He wants working together, Saul and Barnabas, and for some reason, not Mark. However, in verse 5, we see John still tags along with them as their assistant as he did in Acts 12:25. Perhaps, the only assistance Barnabas and Saul should have relied more heavily on, was the assistance giving to them by the Holy Spirit? 1 Corinth 3:3 asserts that the bickering, strife, division that may exist amongst some of the members of the body of Christ is a result of carnality, so perhaps, Barnabas desire to continue to bring John along with them in missionary (Acts 15:37) is more a reflection of his carnelness against the Holy Spirit than a mere disagreement between himself and Saul. I guess at the end of the day the best way to address any dispute between another believer is to first evaluate SELF through the eyes of God and seeking His council if I am pursuing anything outside HIS WILL.

    • Dara Adeeyo

      That’s good. Thank you for your evaluation of the scripture. Really helped me understand better.

  • I needed to hear some of this as this gives some light and resolution to a situation I went through with my small group. Brand new to my faith journey I joined a small group, which became very cliquey and full of gossip. Because a couple of the other members had conflict and couldn’t get past, our small group fell apart and members even left the church, some of the girls don’t even talk or look at each other anymore. This devastated me. I was on fire for God and ga-ga over my new relationship with Christ… How could this be happening? I couldn’t understand why we all just couldn’t get along, as we all had the same goals to come together and grow with Christ. Is this how all small groups are? Oh, the human in us. I love the passage “their conflict confirms that we can disagree and even be angry without sinning, if we do it with a gentle and humble spirit. We can part ways when needed without hurting others, if we understand that there does not always have to be a villain. Conflict can feel yucky, but in non-moral issues such as this, God can use it for His good purposes.” How I wish we could have invited God into the situation more and shed His light on our group.

    • Stephanie

      So sad :( I’m sorry you witnessed that especially as a new Christian. Not all small groups are like that. I’ve been part of a few and have never seen that happen. Keep pursuing the Lord and He will use you to reveal himself to others.

  • Christine

    A timely word for me today. Dealing with some church conflict and it has left me feeling adrift. Thinking that God can take this conflict, this ‘split’ and use it for His good purposes is encouraging. There are no villains in our situation either, just a growing apart, some differences of doctrine, but there are hurt feelings on my end at least. I need to take them to God and figure out what is my emotional reaction and what is truth. I just want the Lord to use me, and He does – just not at my home church. I want a church that allows women to be in ministry that doesn’t involve children (and I’m not saying anything against children’s ministries!). It feels like the work I do and pour my heart out for has no place in my home church. Women can’t be leaders there.

    • Gema

      Christine I urge you to seek God and ask him where he wants to use. I had a similar situation with my previoys church. I wanted to do more for God and i felt like my church wasnt allowing me to do that. I prayed and God provided. Dont loose faith sister God bless.

  • “To agree to disagree ” is a very hard thing to do!
    As Christians we should strive to “agree to disagree”.
    Paul and Barnabas butted heads so disagreeing isn’t a new thing in our churches but they left with not only 2 teams but not mad at each other.

    Paul might not have picked up Timothy if all had stayed together and we know how Timothy was used in helping spread the gospel.

    My take away is
    ” agree to disagree if at all possible”

  • The last 2 verses in 1 Corinthians bothers me. It seems to be saying to pretend to be someone you are not with different people. This doesn’t feel very Christian to me. Thoughts?

    • Shirley

      Candy: I think what Paul is saying in these verses is not that he pretended to be someone he was not, but that he tried to think as those different groups of people would think, and adapt to their belief system, so that he could minister to them more effectively.
      That passage has been difficult for me in the past, also, but I began to realize that Paul was sincere in his faith and grounded because of his amazing conversion experience. I think he found it necessary to think like the Jews, those under the law, those who were weak, in order to share the Gospel. As he says in verse 19: “Though I am free and belong to no man, I become a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.

      • Carissa

        Good point. So many times, I have found the best way to lead someone to God is to first meet them where they are at.

    • Meghan Tietze

      I believe that these verses are less about trying to be someone different than yourself and more about trying to be accepting and respectful of all other cultures and customs. Paul knew that he could more easily relate and connect with people if he was similar to them, so he adapted himself into a role in order to more tactically serve God and spread the gospel. I hope this helps!

      • Mary Beth

        It reminded me of a missionary going into a different cultures. As long as they don’t sin, they are going to follow the customs of that region in order to fit in, be accepted and therefore be heard by the people there. Shows they aren’t being judgmental.

    • Leesha

      I think it also says that is also pointing out that we shouldn’t focus on the differences. You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not, but don’t let those differences become something that prevents you from disciplining and witnessing to others. Like the idea of refraining from certain things so as to avoid causing people to stumble in their faith or walk with God

    • Candy

      Thank you Shirley! I was thinking too literally!

  • The commentary today by Katie was so timely (and needed) after some of the sharing of yesterday and in light of so many situations in the world today.

    BUT, I have some other more technical questions about this passage. Like why did Paul circumcise the Greek man when he was actually teaching about the decisions they had made in the passages yesterday… That circumcision was not necessary to be a Christian and follow God? Which brings me to my next question, how do they all know he is circumcised or not? Was it common to show the area to others so they knew if they were Jewish or not?
    Also, I found it really interesting that in chapter 16 between verses 8 and 10, it changes from third person to first person (they to we). Who is writing? I wish I had my study bible with me, but I’m on vacay right now.

    • Maggie

      Luke is writing. at this point I believe he started traveling with the apostles. hope that helps!! enjoy your vacation!!!

    • Kathy W

      I thought the same thing about the circumcision, like did they have to show it? I hope not. But I thinking he did it so that if someone asked he would not have to lie. This was definitely related to the 1 Corinthians passage where they knew the Jews would be more open, not about any legalism.

      • Hope

        Yes, the issue of circumcision is one of integrity. The Jewish people they encountered would ask if he had followed their important customs. With this question, they could easily say that the had indeed compiled. Further, the Jewish people would be more open to receive the good news from someone, whom they felt respected some of their highest tenets.

    • Christa

      I caught this change in person as well and wondered if it was Luke writing.

  • I find it interesting that Paul has Timothy circumcised before he can begin ministry with him…Paul is the one who fought hard against this with the church leaders claiming they shouldn’t give such a heavy burden to the gentile brothers!

    I’m sure there were some who saw this as being hypocritical (can you imagine today’s culture? Everyone would immediately be offended and leave the church), but they don’t have the full understanding of Paul’s actions.

    Paul was against FORCING the Gentiles to be circumcised, but if it could be used to edify the church in ministry, it was a choice of his (and Timothy’s) to do so. Paul knew that in order to reach other Jews, Timothy would need to be circumcised. Otherwise they would not listen to him and his ministry would be ineffective.

    Paul relied on the spirit to know what needed to be done. He was given wisdom about this situation and did it SO the Jews wouldn’t be offended!

    Lord, know you how I like ‘black and white’ and rules. Learning to rely on your spirit takes me out of my comfort zone into the grey areas of my life that others (and myself) don’t understand sometimes. Yet, you know all things that will edify your bride the church. May we learn to step out in obedience to your word!

    • churchmouse

      This is weird I know but does anyone else wonder how the Jews would find out whether Timothy was circumcised or not? Who wanted that job, the one who has to look for the proof?! Ugh!

      • Tiffany

        He knew if Timothy was circumcised he would be more accepted among the Jews. From my understanding, speaking for circumision would be like us asking if someone was baptized. Also public bath houses were common during those days, so you couldn’t lie because someone would find out the truth eventually.

      • Sarah

        Totally. I was wondering if it was common to ask others if they were circ unsized?

      • Sarah

        Sorry *circumsized that explanation makes sense.

    • Christa

      I wondered about this too in relationship to the last two verses of 1 Corinthians. I had a conversation with my pastor about this last night. It does not mean that we change ourselves, only that we become relatable, able to mingle and talk with people from all walks of life. If we put ourselves on a Christian pedestal and only associate with people like ourselves, who are we going to reach? In 1 Timothy it talks about how the law was made for the lawless. We have to bring the word to everyone, even those who may not be the folks we would generally hang out with. Bringing this back to Timothy’s circumcision. I wondered, could he have reached more of the “uncircumcised ” folk if he had remained the same? Would he not have been a walking testimony that everyone is eligible for grace and salvation?

  • In the spirit of Acts and SRT’s #theyalljoinedtogether, I would love to invite you to Somewhere Between Pizza Hut and Pinterest…

    • Krystle

      I love this Lesley! Thank you for sharing! ❤️

    • Hope

      Literally shed tears during my quiet time this week. I cried out about my loneliness and disconnected relationships as I am new to Houston. This is so cool that you are being hospitable. This is totally unrelated, well kinda, can we get a picture of the beautiful table?! Lastly, I’m so moved by Hebrews 13:2, that you listed. We must serve strangers for indeed we are likely to be serving angels.

  • A great reminder that although Christ calls us to be united as one, it doesn’t mean that we can’t disagree or have different opinions as to how to carry out God’s calling. Rather when we disagree it is about checking our motives are they self driven or God driven and then as Katie said disagree with a gentle and humble spirit.

  • meredith

    I return to this quote from St Augustine again and again:
    “In essentials, unity.
    In non-essentials, liberty.
    In all things, charity.”

    This is so simple, yet so freeing for me.

  • As the good news was spread throughout europe, it seems some sought to become like others in order win them over. An interesting example of how to be politically correct shows up in 1 Cor 9:19-21 – something to keep in mind during today’s times perhaps. It is interesting that the time then was not right to spread the word into Asia or Bithynia – does anyone else wonder why?

    • Carissa

      Yes! I was definitely wondering…hoping for answers as we read more.

    • Christa

      I also questioned why the Holy Spirit forbade them to go there.

  • Keri Underwood

    I think this lesson is so vital to our Christian communities today. Like you say we are so eager to point out the differences or to avoid them all together. It’s not healthy. I think it’s so beautiful how God created us all so different. He did that for a purpose!!! I love this lesson today!

  • Caroline

    Whew! I love this Acts verse. Will definitely be reflecting on this more. Thank you for this truth!

  • churchmouse

    “We can part ways when needed without hurting others, if we understand that there does not always have to be a villain.” Paul in these Scriptures is obviously walking attuned to the leading of the Spirit. He has a vision(yes a real vision! A visible vision!) ; he knows the Spirit is opening and closing doors for his missionary work. Surely when Paul and Barnabas butted heads over John Mark as a traveling companion Paul could have pulled rank. But he didn’t. Paul and Barnabas indeed disagreed, went their separate ways and individually focused on the task at hand – the task that never changed – the sharing of the gospel of Jesus Christ. My prayer today is that I would not so seek to be ‘right’ in a disagreement that I lose sight of the mission. Indeed, usually in a strong disagreement there is a little villain in both parties. May I extend the right hand of fellowship, wish the other well and pray for us both to continue to walk in the Spirit, focused on what God has called us to do. May I not speak disparaging of the other but praise God for doing His work through us both. Amen.

  • Erin Cox

    There does not have to be a villain. – I absolutely love that. We always tend to place blame in order to feel justified in our position… To “win” the disagreement. However, there’s no winner when someone is villainized. Regardless of the disagreement, it always needs to come back around to the cross and the Grace of Jesus… That’s the only way anyone wins. Spot on today!

  • “So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily” Acts 16:5 In spite of disagreements in the leaders the Lord continues to do His work. The disagreements did not cause them to walk away so God used it because both were willing hearts that were steadfast in their messages. Sometimes we throw in the towel when things don’t go our way. We quit moving forward. We stop. God wants us to move past our disagreements and continue the work He has given us. He used their disagreement in a mighty way causing His word to move even further. Have we stopped in our tracks over disagreements or do we continue to move forward in His call in our lives? “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
    ‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭15:58‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

  • Amen Sarah-Joy!

  • Sarah_Joy

    I’ve walked with some friends through the pain of church conflict. Some friendships lasted and some didn’t. The need to seem justified in their position caused some to say unnecessary words to those who were not leaving the church. Oh God, why you left us sinful beings in charge I do not understand. Thank you that You love Your Bride, the Church, and You have redeemed her and CONTINUE to redeem her. Cover our sins by Your blood. May Your Church seek You above all else! May we not allow pride and power to rule, but focus our eyes on You. Bring unity with local churches and between denominations!

    To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. (Ephesians 3:21)

  • Karen Wood

    Such a great word today particularly in the current political climate in the UK!

    We don’t always have to agree to be united! We can have a difference of opinion and still be united!

    Our heart response is crucial, if we consider our opinion to be more important than Jesus then division is inevitable! However if we consider that the only opinion that is important is Jesus’ we can agree to disagree and continue to build His Kingdom and not our own!

    Come on Great Britain let’s build His Kingdom and pray for our political leaders that they will be united despite there differences!

    Thank you SRT for sharing this wisdom! Love you guys

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