At this time the church at Antioch began to experience some disunity. Some started teaching that the keeping of the law was a prerequisite for salvation amongst the gentiles. Specifically circumcision was being pushed. Legalism always seeks ways to disqualify people. Paul and Barnabas opposed this and were sent to Jerusalem with the delegates from the church to get an answer from the leaders of the church. There was a disagreement that caused disunity but the church went to authority to get clarity. When we are confused, or conflicted the path to answers is authority. Who can we go to when we disagree?
Upon arrival they explain what God was doing and the disagreement continued. The Pharisees among the believers pushed for circumcision and the following of the laws of Moses. Peter objected and shared his experience with Cornelius. James speaks up and agrees and says the only things they should hold the Gentile believers to is to not eating animals offered to idols, avoid sexual immorality, not eat strangled animals or consume blood. They wrote letters to the churches confirming this decision.
This message was sent by delegates and was received with joy. This brought encouragement to the believers. Paul and Barnabas returned also to Antioch. They and others taught the people in the church. Eventually they felt the leading to go back into the mission field. They wanted to return to the places they had already been to check on the believers. Barnabas wanted to bring John Mark and Paul disagreed because John Mark abandoned them earlier in their need. They couldn’t come to agreement so here they split. Paul takes Silas and Barnabas takes John Mark. They head their separate ways. Barnabas isn’t mentioned again in scripture. There’s no mention of who is wrong or right. Barnabas obviously did good work without Paul and Paul did amazing work without Barnabas.
Sometimes we can amicably part ways and God still use us. I like being right but there’s no mention that Barnabas was wrong even if he never shows up again. John Mark is later called by Paul to be helpful to him years later in 1 Timothy 4:11. We can interpret this a couple of ways:
- Paul was wrong at the split. He couldn’t forgive John Mark and didn’t see what Barnabas saw in him.
- Something change Paul’s mind. Perhaps happened since then to make John Mark “helpful”. Maybe he matured or had fruit of repentance in his life.
Either way this shows us people change in their leadership stances.