Posts Tagged Acts 15: 39

Barnabas and Paul

Acts 15: 39

And there arose such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another.

This is such a tragic story. It is an early New Testament example of a church split. Barnabas and Paul were preaching partners. They travelled together spreading the good news of Christ. In fact, it was Barnabas who, we could say, sponsored Paul.  

Do you remember that Paul’s name had been Saul? He was well known in the region for persecuting Christians. He was even there when Stephen was stoned to death. Then he had that remarkable conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). After his conversion he began to preach about Jesus. He went to Jerusalem and tried to associate with the disciples but they didn’t trust him and so wouldn’t have anything to do with him. It was Barnabas who vouched for him. The scripture says “But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles” (Acts 9: 27).  

Barnabas was already established in the church but Paul was a newcomer and an outsider. It appears to me that Barnabas took Paul under his wing and helped him. No doubt Barnabas was Paul’s best friend and probably his mentor. Something has gone very wrong by Acts 15 though. They had a bitter disagreement and it split up the team. Neither one, it would seem, was willing to concede the point so they, quite literally, went their separate ways.

What was at the base of this split, do you think? A conflict arose over whether or not to take John Mark with them on their trip. It seems to me, though, that the argument really isn’t over this issue. There is something deeper going on here. I found another scripture recently which may shed some light on this situation. It is Proverb 139: 18 and it reads, “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”  

I wonder if pride had crept into their relationship. Perhaps Barnabas still perceived himself as the leader and expected to make decisions and to advise Paul. Paul clearly did not wish to defer to Barnabas’ wishes. Neither man would give in so they were forced to separate. It’s sad.

We are faced with the same situations today and it is my theory that pride is at the root. Face it. Few of us have the humility to receive advice. We all want to pretend that we have all of the answers. Pride is our calling card. This is why we quarrel and why we lack wisdom. We are unwilling to receive wisdom from those who would willingly share it with us. There are people with great wisdom and experience who keep it all to themselves because they have learned that most people would rather blindly stumble along in their own strength. And that is a shame. We should be learning from the learned. We should be sitting at the feet of the elderly, gleaning information and experience from them. But alas . . . .

Perhaps if we could learn something from this story of Barnabas and Paul we would have fewer church splits and fewer relationship splits. We’ve learned a few things about pride and humility. Wisdom is found in those who take advice and pride breeds quarrels (Proverb 139: 18). When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom (Proverb 11: 2). “Pride precedes a disaster, and an arrogant attitude precedes a fall” (Proverb 16: 18). Up ‘til now, though, all of this knowledge is just in our heads. It will only transform us and our lives when it makes its way to our hearts. For that we need at least enough humility to pray to our God and ask Him for help and for wisdom. The problem is that the people who need this most are the one’s least likely to receive this into their hearts. Those of you who are nodding your heads as you read this have already come to appreciate the truth of these verses. Perhaps, then, if you would pray for the rest of us, maybe, just maybe, those of us who have a greater challenge in this area could find a measure of humility such that we could humble themselves before the Lord. We must go before the Lord and ask Him whether we are the humble or the proud and ask Him to soften our hearts. “While you are in there, Father, remove the prideful attitude and arrogance and remake us into the image of your dear son.”

Truly, if we will allow the father to remake our hearts so that arrogance and pride are not central cast members on the stage of our lives, we will live a much better existence and the peace of God will surround us at all times. Hallelujah.