Acts 15:36-41 – Where Has All the Unity Gone?
Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 15:36-41
The title is drawn from how Paul & Barnabas were unable to find common ground about John Mark.
Ironic, since prior to this they took part in the Jerusalem Council which unified the church.
1) THE DISAGREEMENT
John Mark – His Actions the Source of the Disagreement:
Acts 12:25, Paul & Barnabas brought John Mark to Antioch after their charity run to Jerusalem.
Acts 13:4-5, at the beginning of their 1st journey, they brought John Mark along with them again.
Acts 13:13, however, tells us that after arriving at Pamphylia John Mark bailed on them and went back to Jerusalem.
A “Service Apostate” is how MacArthur characterizes John Mark.
Many speculate that the thought of traveling through the dangerous Tarsus Mountains scared him off.
How the Disagreement Unfolded:
Acts 15:36, Paul was compelled to return, visit and see “the brothers” where they proclaimed the word.
Acts 14:21, this would actually be the 3rd time Paul followed up on many of these new converts.
Paul’s example demonstrates that evangelizing as well as discipling are foundational to church growth and health.
Acts 15:37, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark, but Paul thought best not to take one who had withdrawn and had not gone to do the work of God
Acts 15:39, there arose a sharp disagreement which led to their separation.
Acts 15:39 ASV says arose a sharp contention and they parted asunder.
The Greek word for disagreement or contention means to stir up, provoke or incite.
This Greek word for separation or parted asunder appears only one other time in NT, Revelation 6:14.
There it is used to describe the way the sky vanished like a scroll being rolled up on the day of wrath.
The point here is that this was more than just a cordial disagreement.
So what is God trying to teach us here?
What differences are there between the subject of this sharp contention and the Judaizer disagreement?
Doctrinal vs. Personal Opinion and its scope is Church Body vs. Personal
So, it is doctrinally insignificant and personal.
But, Paul & Barnabas were in complete agreement about the importance of returning, visiting and seeing those where they proclaimed the word – this will help us understand what is going on here.
POI – This event did not signal the permanent end of any friendships or shared ministries.
Philemon 24, Paul and John Mark still had a working relationship.
2 Timothy 4:11, Paul describes John Mark’s work as very useful.
1 Peter 5:13, shows that John Mark also worked with the apostle Peter.
John Mark is also believed to be the author of the Gospel of Mark by most scholars.
Many believe Peter was his main source for the Gospel of Mark.
2) BARNABAS BEING BARNABAS
In Acts 4:36, we learned that Barnabas was the “son of encouragement.”
In Acts 9:27, it was Barnabas who believed Paul and testified on his behalf before the Jerusalem Apostles.
In Acts 11:22-23, it was Barnabas who was sent to the Church at Antioch to teach, exhort and encourage.
In Acts 11:25, it was Barnabas who took the time and effort to track down Paul in Tarsus and bring him to Antioch.
Throughout Paul’s 1st missionary journey, it was Barnabas who encouraged him along the way.
It was Barnabas who joined Paul in refuting the Judaizers in Acts 15:2.
And, to top it off, in Colossians 4:10, we learn that John Mark is Barnabas’ cousin.
In light of all this, what would you expect Barnabas to do with John Mark?
3) PAUL BEING PAUL
Paul has more patience for truth than compromise – agreed to Council letter but taught differently in his theology.
Acts 16:3-5 & Acts 18:18, he agreed, as we discovered, because he believed in not being a stumbling block.
Romans 14:20, Paul would do nothing that would destroy the work of God or forsake the Gospel.
Acts 21:13, Paul, with his words, made clear he would die for Jesus and thus for the Gospel.
Paul, with his actions, demonstrated he would die for Jesus – stoning at Lystra, shipwreck, beatings, etc.
1 Corinthians 9:16, Paul, with his words, revealed he must preach and woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel.
Paul, with his actions, demonstrated obedience by always going Acts 15:41, 16:6, 16:11, 17:1, 18:1, 18:18, 18:21, 19:1, 20:2, 21:17, etc.
In light of all this, what would you expect Paul to do with John Mark?
Here’s the thing:
1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul says, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
Philippians 2:2 and Ephesians 4:3 also express this same sentiment.
Ephesians 5:25-27, Paul raises the issue of church purity.
With these, Paul advocated the doctrine of church unity and purity.
With his actions, as revealed in our text, did Paul contradict himself?
Or maybe it was Barnabas who fell short.
Was church unity or purity, as defined biblically, compromised by these great men of God?
We will examine these questions next week.