Discuss this article.
[Note from the Site Publisher: Part of the goal of SharperIron is to publish news and ideas from a broad range within fundamentalism.]
Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 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. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. (Acts 15:37-39, NKJV)
There is much we don’t know about this conversation between Paul and Barnabas. But we know it didn’t end in shrugs and placid smiles. The word for “contention” (paroxusmos.) suggests feverish intensity,1 and the two men found it impossible to work together.
We also know something else. Neither Paul nor Barnabas had any direct revelation from God on the question. If the Spirit had said to either of them “take Mark” or “don’t take Mark,” there would have been no dispute. They were both deeply committed to obedience.
Biblical unity is a gift of God flowing from the Cross to sinful humanity as He brings people into relationship with Himself by the sovereign grace of God found in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:13–18; John 17:6). Fellowship among believers is rooted in the truth of the gospel of Christ (Ephesians 4:3–6) as they participate within the life of individual local churches. Unity is expressed as believers agree regarding the truth of the gospel of Christ (1 Timothy 1:3–5; 6:1–5; 2 John 1, 2, 9, 10). This fellowship functions at the level of individuals, individuals within a local church, and local churches with other local churches. The outworking of this fellowship may vary in these unique relationships. However, belief in the truth of God brings the resulting joy of fellowship with God and other believers (1 John 1:1–7).
Fellowship with God and with His children (both within a church and a church association) brings us to greater love for God and for one another. Further, fellowship with God—in our churches and among our churches—brings the joy of common pursuits guided by God’s truth.