Disagreement

When Godly Brothers Disagree: Lessons from the Division of Paul and Barnabas (Part 2)

Read Part 1.

What Should We Think?

If I polled my readers at this point, there’d probably be some who’d say, “I’m of Paul,” and others, “I am of Barnabas.” Whose side do you take? Before you decide, consider two things:

1. The disagreement wasn’t a matter of heresy or immorality.

Neither Paul nor Barnabas accused Mark or one another of heresy. This wasn’t a disagreement over the fundamentals of the faith, such as the deity of Christ or justification by faith or the hope of the resurrection. Nor was this a disagreement over a black-and-white moral issue. They weren’t debating whether it’s appropriate for a minister to live in adultery or to steal or to commit murder.

Instead, we have two men fully committed to Christ. Both are seeking to live and labor in accord with biblical principle. The problem is that Paul is putting greater emphasis on one principle, whereas Barnabas is placing greater emphasis on another. The argument boils down to this: which way are the scales tipping?

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When Godly Brothers Disagree: Lessons from the Division of Paul and Barnabas

The apostle Paul appealed to the church in Corinth: “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” (1:10). But Paul did not always attain to that ideal himself. In Acts 15:36-41, we read the sad story of a sharp disagreement between Paul and his companion, Barnabas. What makes their disagreement so disheartening is the division that resulted.  

We can think of modern examples of disagreements among true believers. Sometimes these disagreements are so sharp that brothers who hold the same creed go separate ways. And it pains our heart to see believers in the faith divided. What should we make of such disagreements and divisions? How should we respond to them? What counsel would we give to others who may be caught up in such disagreements and divisions? 

I’d like to address these questions in the post below. The Bible not only presents ideal Christianity. It portrays real Christianity. It deals honestly and frankly with the reality of disagreements and divisions among true believers—even godly church leaders! But the Bible’s purpose is not like the gossip magazine.  Its design is not to make us disillusioned and cynical.  Rather, the Bible reveals these things for our instruction and edification. So let’s draw some lessons from the division between Paul and Barnabas.1

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