Friday, January 1, 2010

The Barnabas Debacle

Scripture not only teaches us by the things that did happen but also by the things that did not. One important lesson can be learned from the situation with the apostle Paul & his ministry partner, Barnabas.

In Acts 15:36-42 we see the subject of this article:

Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

This is no small matter. Not only was Barnabas the one who convinced the disciples to accept into the Church, Paul the persecutor turned convert (Acts 9:26-28) but Paul & Barnabas then went on to perform a whirlwind evangelism of the Gentiles (Acts 9-15), with Barnabas apparently having had a head start in the ministry (Acts 4:36-37).

Now, by modern standards of what Christians assume is properly “Christ-like” behavior it seems Paul was insulting Barnabas. I mean, after all Barnabas had done for Paul, after all they had been through Paul was going to divide over a “personal” matter??? It doesn’t even appear to be doctrinal in nature, Paul just seemed upset because Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them – apparently John Mark skipped out on Paul & Barnabas during a trip to Pamphylia & Paul hadn’t “forgiven” John Mark over it. According to the thinking of some modern Christians, Paul should be condemned for his unwillingness to reconcile with John Mark & for his parting from Barnabas. There should be a dark cloud over the rest of Paul’s ministry until he reconciled with his brothers. How dare Paul spend any time writing to the Corinthians, the Ephesians, & the others until he settled this matter! – At least that is how some modern Christians would play this out.

Further, Barnabas & John Mark apparently went about their way witnessing of Christ but they could have turned on Paul. They could have sided with the Judaizers in an attempt to stick it to Paul. I mean, Barnabas could have claimed he was pushed into siding with the Judaizers or even the Pharisees because of Paul’s casting him away like some used cloth. Barnabas could have felt justified in siding with not only enemies of Paul but enemies of the Church. Barnabas could have sat with the Judaizers & the Pharisees, not in an attempt to convert them, but in an egotistical & spiteful attempt to disparage a fellow historical Christian by using enemies of the Church against him. That would have truly been dishonorable & unchristian.

Fortunately, it appears Barnabas was wiser than that. He understood that there were no hard feelings & that it was simply time for he & Paul to part ways BUT still be on the same side. Barnabas didn’t spend his time trying to tear down Paul & we don’t see Paul spending his time trying to “reconcile” with Barnabas over something that appears to have not impeded the ministry of either men.

So, when a time comes when your ministry path takes you to some other place than perhaps the one you were on with fellows, do not seek to harm fellow historic Christians by siding up with those who oppose historic Christianity – be honorable, be humble & see that the Sovereign God may have other plans for you. If you become bitter & take the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” approach, then you destroy your testimony & make a debacle of your witness & give cause for the enemies of Christ to mock the faith.

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