Day 24

Start of the Second Missionary Journey

from the Acts of the Apostles reading plan


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

BY Guest Writer

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.

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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.

Post Comments (54)

54 thoughts on "Start of the Second Missionary Journey"

  1. ed shearan says:

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  2. JJ Smith says:

    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.

  3. Zaurina says:

    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.

    1. Dara Adeeyo says:

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

  4. Taylor says:

    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.

    1. Stephanie says:

      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.

  5. Christine says:

    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.

    1. Gema says:

      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.

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