When Christians Disagree – Acts 15:36-41

By John Bellingham on October 6, 2013
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When Christians Disagree

Acts 15:36-41

– Church history and personal experience bear witness to the fact that born again Christians sometimes come into conflict with one another

– Today we will learn three truths from a conflict that confronted Paul and Barnabus


I. Conflict is Unavoidable

1)     We live in a fallen world which is tainted by sin

  • Conflict is as old as the Garden of Eden
  • So long as we have a sinful nature, and live in a sin-cursed world we will all experience conflict

2)     Even the Apostles encountered conflict!

  • Don’t be naïve about the Early Church – they had many problems too!
  • Luke’s honesty adds credibility to his book


II. Conflict is often Complex

1)     Not all conflicts are created equal:

  • Disagreements over doctrinal issues
  • Disagreements over moral issues
  • Disagreements over opinions

2)     The sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabus was an ‘opinion’ issue!

  • John Mark had abandoned his mission (cf. 13:13-14)
  • Barnabus’ concern was for the spiritual wellbeing of his cousin (John Mark)
  • Paul’s concern was for the interest of the missionary enterprise as a whole

3)     Who was right??

  • No definitive answer given in the Scripture!
    • Luke’s word choice in v. 38 may reveal a certain sympathy for Paul’s position
    • Church in Antioch put their support behind Paul and Silas (v. 40)
  •  Your instinctual response to this incident probably unmasks your personality
    • ‘Task oriented’ (Paul) vs. ‘People oriented’ (Barnabus).
    • The Church of Jesus Christ needs both kinds to thrive, so learn to appreciate those who think differently than you!


III. God’s Providence Rules over Conflict

1)     God is able to use our conflicts and human failings to advance His Kingdom purposes

  • Growth in John Mark’s life – “This strife was good for Mark.  Paul’s sternness helped change his mind and Barnabus’ kindness encouraged him.” – John Chrysostom
  • Development of a new leader – Silas
  • Expansion of the missionary enterprise

2)     God’s Providence is no excuse for pettiness and sin among the redeemed people of God.


IV. Application

1) Discern the nature of the conflict and carefully examine your own motives

2) Don’t allow conflict to fester or to explode

3) Don’t allow a conflict to poison your relationship with another brother or sister in Christ

  • Paul continued to hold Barnabus in high esteem (1 Corinthians 9:6)
  • Paul was willing to forgive John Mark       (Col 4:10; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11)

4)     Always give other Christians the benefit of the doubt when you come into conflict.


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