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#carmelprays – Acts 15:36-41

Opening Song: Come Behold The Wonderous Mystery

Read Scripture: Acts 15:36-41

Today’s passage recounts a sharp disagreement between two of the early church’s most prominent leaders, Paul and Barnabas, over whether to bring John Mark along on their upcoming mission trip. The two eventually split and went their separate ways. Barnabas decided to bring John Mark with him to Cyprus. Paul refused to bring John Mark as John Mark had deserted them on an earlier trip (Acts 13:13). Paul chose Silas to bring to Syria and Cilicia. Three reflections on this episode of conflict:

  1. It is not always clear what the right course of action is. Given our human limitations, we should not be surprised when believers do not arrive at the same conclusion about major life or ministry decisions. The Bible is also not always explicit on how best to apply biblical principles in specific situations, including this disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. Luke, the writer of Acts, was careful not to take sides – both men had valid, biblical concerns, and made a judgment call on what they thought was the best course of action in response to the case of John Mark. Paul felt that John Mark’s unreliability could pose a risk to the larger cause of the mission. But Barnabas thought John Mark deserved a second chance. 
  2. God uses disagreements for the good of the kingdom. We know from subsequent passages that the stinging split between Paul and Barnabas advanced the gospel further than they had intended. Paul earlier proposed to Barnabas to revisit churches they’d already planted (v36), but their split led to two missionary journeys that simultaneously (a) strengthened existing churches, and (b) spread the gospel to Macedonia and Greece. Can you see a trend in how God works through human choices, differences, and circumstances in the book of Acts?
  3. Judgment calls should be revised where appropriate. There are indications that Paul revised his opinion of John Mark’s usefulness for ministry years later (2 Tim 4:11), possibly because the latter had matured and proven his faithfulness, and / or Paul had grown in his capacity for grace and forgiveness. This is a reminder not to be too proud and inflexible in our assessments of people and plans, as they can develop and change over time. It is also an encouragement for those of us who feel like we’ve messed up in life or ministry – it is never too late to get back on track.

Pray in Response

Dear God, I marvel at Your mysterious and wondrous ways. You work in the most unexpected of methods to further Your kingdom, such as through Your Son Jesus who redeemed us from sin and death, as well as through the differences and failures of sinful human beings.

I rejoice because this gives me courage to make choices in faith that my failures are not beyond Your redemption. I also rest in the assurance that I am fully reconciled with You and the church through Christ’s work on the cross. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Response Song: Grace


By Anonymous Carmelite

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