An Unlikely Duo
Read Acts 15:30-41. Paul and Barnabas were truly an interesting team among the early believers. We first met Barnabas back in Acts 4 by his given name, Joseph. He was called Barnabas by the apostles, which meant son of encouragement, probably because he was one of those people that always built others up. He was a Levite, a native of Cyprus and Scripture tells us that he sold a field that belongs to him, brought the money and laid it at the apostle's feet. Barnabas was a man who leveraged everything he had for the building up of the kingdom of God. Paul, on the other hand, was quite different. As you remember we are first introduced to Paul in chapter 7 by another name; Saul. Saul was present during Stephen's defense and was said to be in hearty agreement with his execution. Scripture says that Saul ravaged the church, going from house to house dragging people off and placing them in prison. Acts chapter 9 records that Saul "breathed threats and murder" against the disciples of Jesus. He even went so far as to go to the high priest asking for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found people belonging to "the Way" he could bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. Saul was a man who leveraged everything that he had to tear down the church. Needless to say, Paul was an intimidating man, at least to those he persecuted. And although Paul would've ultimately fulfilled the purpose for which God chose him (Acts 9:15) it seems Barnabas played a key role in his being welcomed by the church. (Acts 9:27) Although redeemed and marked by the Spirit of God Paul's past caused many to fear him. But through the encouraging words and loving heart of Barnabas the church accepted Paul and he became one of them. Oddly enough after Saul's miraculous conversion both he, the one bent on destroying the church and Barnabas, the one determined to build it up became partners for the sake of the Gospel. On their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas together visited some 10 cities; Antioch, Seleucia, Salamis, Paphos, Perga, Attalia, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. And in each of these cities, they proclaimed Jesus and his resurrection with boldness and clarity, even in the midst of opposition. Scripture tells us that many people came to believe in Jesus, evidenced by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel mission of this unlikely duo. Now in Antioch (Acts 15) Paul and Barnabas have been preaching the word of the Lord for days. Here Paul speaks to Barnabas, suggesting that they return and visit all the believers in every city where they had proclaimed the word, to see how they were. Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark. But Paul thought it best not to, for Mark had "withdrawn" from them back in Pamphylia and not gone with them for the rest of their work. A sharp disagreement about Mark ensued and caused them to separated from one another. Paul, who was not accepted by the church but shown grace because of the love of Barnabas doesn't want to accept Mark in the same way. (A grace that forgives ones past.) This dynamic yet unlikely pair has now parted company because of one person's opinion of another. Paul and Barnabas do eventually reconcile their relationship as do Paul and Mark. (1 Cor. 9:6, Col.4:10, 2 Tim 4:11 & Philemon 1:24) But what I find interesting is that even in the first century, fierce disagreements created a division that possibly hindered the Gospel. So here's my question; Who has God put in the life that has shown you grace, that may be an unlikely partner with you for the sake of the Gospel? Will you be like Paul and Barnabas once were, an unlikely and dynamic duo that put their past behind them, looking forward to the mission of God? Or will you be like Paul and Barnabas who disagree with one person, part company and potentially hinder the gospel? We're called to be a people who bear with one another. Who encourage one another, spurring one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us always remember what it's like to be Paul and Barnabas as they were and as they were reconciled to be; two people, saved by grace, joining together for the sake of God's mission.