Acts 15:36-41 Sharp Disagreement

36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Sharp Disagreement

I actually like the fact the Luke reports Barnabas and Paul’s sharp disagreement over John Mark.  It shows authenticity in the reporting of Luke.  He doesn’t just adopt a censored perspective of showing everything as wonderful.  Some people resist showing their heroes in a negative light, but the current trend toward vulnerability is a good one.  The twentysomethings that Kelli and I meet with are often transparent but are looking for others with whom they can feel secure.  Security does not come for others when we protect ourselves from looking bad.  They just feel like they have to live up to the perfection which we project.

Families and churches that I have been close to have often had sharp disagreements.  That is a part of their story.  A story becomes rich when it shows the contrast of light and darkness.  Even Jesus’ story is made richer by revealing the failure of the disciples to understand him and follow him during his life and death.

In a fallen world sharp disagreements will happen.  Paul and Barnabas were both leaders who would be unafraid to voice their opinions.  Barnabas gives John Mark another chance and in his later writings Paul is reconciled to John Mark as well.

God used this disagreement for his good, though.  He sent out two missionary teams rather than one.  Even sharp disagreements can work for good without any one side of the argument having to ‘win’.  God uses all things for good.  He allows evil to happen so that good may result.


May we be prepared for conflict, but may we not lose love and respect for each other.  When there is disagreement, may we see how you can possibly use even uncomfortable situations for good.


  1. Who was in disagreement?
  2. Why?
  3. What was the outcome?
  4. With whom are you in disagreement?
  5. How can God use that for his own glory?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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