When Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.
After some days Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the Word of the Lord, and see how they are.' Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another...
Acts Chapter 15 focuses on two conflicts within the early church:
1) Jewish Pharisee believers said new Gentile believers must be circumcised 'To observe the Law of Moses' (v.5). Paul and Barnabas disagreed. They took it to the elders with 'Much debate' (v.7). Peter agreed with Paul and Barnabas. James settled the matter. Peace was restored with a letter to summarize their decision.
2) A more personal conflict arose within the friendship of Paul and Barnabas. It concerned John Mark, the nephew of Barnabas. Apparently, Mark deserted them on an earlier trip. Paul saw him with justified skepticism. Barnabas saw him with heartfelt hope. They split and went separate ways. Who was right? Perhaps both.
Paul was a relentless worker with a passionate disposition who never backed down or quit. The only time he surrendered his cause was to Jesus Himself, Who became His new Cause.
Barnabas, the son of encouragement, gave his life and fortune to early church. He saw through Mark's mistake to the potential of a young man who would write the second Gospel. Later, Paul reconciled with Mark, and peace was restored.
Actors, models and talent for Christ: God gives us examples of church conflicts to show us proper paths to follow: 1) Take it to the elders and heed their counsel; 2) Take separate paths to the same Goal, Jesus.
But under no circumstances should conflicts remain unaddressed: 'If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector' (Matthew 18:15-17).
In the kindness of tough love, an unrepentant sinner should receive a temporary eviction notice with the hope of future restoration.*
In addition, don't make church conflicts public: 'If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord's people?' (1 Corinthians 6:1). When we criticize or sue our brethren in the courts of public opinion, we harm this cause of Christ.
'That they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me' (John 17:23). Finally, don't avoid conflicts, but do 'Live in peace with one another' (1 Thessalonians 5:13).
To Be Continued...
* Additional reading on treating a church member as an outsider, because it must be done in kindness, respect and the possibility of future repentance. http://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/18-17.htm
P.S. To read the other devotions in this series, please see the Fellowship series.