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The Scriptorium

Agreeing to Disagree

Paul and Barnabas set off again.

Acts (14)

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Luke 24.27

This week’s video is presentation 14 in our study of Acts, and completes the introduction to disciple-making from presentation 13. You can view it by clicking here (scroll down to Lesson 14).

Read and meditate on Acts 15.36-41.
Who was right in this sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas? Or is that even really the issue?

For reflection
1.  John Mark obviously showed some potential for missionary work – perhaps even some skills as a writer? – and Barnabas was probably hoping to encourage his further growth and development by some on-the-job training. After all, the Church would need leaders in the next generation, and sound leadership doesn’t just happen. Leaders have to be trained. What does your church do to train leaders for the future?

2.  Paul, on the other hand, remembered Mark’s failure during the first mission. He could not know what troubles they might encounter on this return journey, and he did not think it wise either to expose John Mark to such uncertainty or to risk being hindered by his failing again in some way. Was Paul acting in a reasonable manner? Was he condemning John Mark, or simply acting prudently? Explain.

3.  So Paul and Barnabas argued with one another. Is that so bad? Not necessarily. Sometimes believers have to argue, even to disagree sharply, in order to discern the Lord’s will in a situation. As it turns out, both men were right in this dispute, but for different reasons. Paul was right to expect more difficulty on this second journey. Can we imagine John Mark in the dungeon of that Philippian jail? But Barnabas was right, too. His investment in John Mark’s development helped to prepare him as a useful servant (2 Tim. 4.11) in the Lord’s work. How does it help, when disagreements arise, to realize that there may be two right answers in any situation?

4.  Agreeing to disagree, Paul and Barnabas set off on their different, but complementary, missions. The Lord, Who does all things well as He prosecutes His ongoing work, oversaw the dispute, kept it from becoming a cause of perpetual division between the two friends, and used the sense of calling of each man to accomplish a greater work than they together might have been able to perform. That is why He is Lord, and we are not. How can keeping this in mind help to prevent disagreements from becoming sources of division?

5.  The book of Acts is real history. It shows us real human beings doing a work of total reality – advancing the rule of Jesus Christ from heaven, on earth, through the Church. Gospel work is spiritual work, to be sure. But it is also human work, and that means it can be messy, confusing, inefficient, and even, at times, astonishingly beautiful. What would you suggest as some “ground rules” for people to keep in mind when they find themselves in disagreement over some matter?

People can’t always agree on courses of action, but this doesn’t mean they have to end up divided in their pursuit of the ongoing work of the Lord. We simply need a larger perspective – the sovereign rule of King Jesus – and the patience to see how He works all things together for our good. How do your church’s leaders handle disagreements that arise between them? Ask one of two.

Closing Prayer
Examine me, O LORD, and prove me;
Try my mind and my heart.
For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
And I have walked in Your truth.
I have not sat with idolatrous mortals,
Nor will I go in with hypocrites.
I have hated the assembly of evildoers,
And will not sit with the wicked.
I will wash my hands in innocence;
So I will go about Your altar, O LORD,
That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving,
And tell of all Your wondrous works.

Psalm 26.2-7

T. M. Moore

Each week’s studies in Acts are bound together into a free PDF that you can download for personal or group use (click here). Each week also features a video related to the studies of the week, which you may find helpful as you work through our studies in Acts.

Acts is the record of Christ’s ongoing work as King and Lord. This is the work of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven. Read more about the implications of this work in our new book,
The Kingdom Turn (click here).

Please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452. Or, you can click here to donate online through credit card or PayPal.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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