Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

Stalemated differences
Acts 15:36-41

warm up

Have you ever had what you thought was a good idea but found that few, if any, agreed that it was good? Were you determined to do it anyway? If objections and resistance continued, what did you do?
Can the determination to do what you want to do, regardless of the objections of others create a uncomfortable situation? Can it escalate to the point of conflict? If it does, then what? You have to ask, "Was it really worth it?"
wise up

    Yielding to the wishes of another in a matter of personal judgment is easy to do when the issue is not something that one feels strongly about anyway. But what about those times when it is important to you? What about those times when we lock horns with someone just as determined as we are to have their way? In this text we have two strong willed personalities clashing over a matter of judgment. Both had a point. But neither refused to yield to the other. It can happen. And when it does, we can either handle it well as Christians should or we can sin with our words and attitudes. All in all, Paul and Barnabas handled it well. But don't you wish that someone would have yielded? Perhaps we should chose our battle grounds more carefully.

I. Disagreement Vs. 36-38

    1.  What are some specific things that Paul proposed that he and Barnabas do as they continued their work together? What was the difference of opinion about in this text? List and discuss some of the practical reasons that Paul might have argued in refusing to let Mark go with them again. List and discuss some of the reasons Barnabas might have presented in suggesting that they give Mark another chance. 
2. Perhaps Paul was being "logical" but Barnabas was "emotionally" attached to his nephew (Acts 4:10). What sometimes happens to our ability to reason when a discussion involves "family?"

II. Determination Vs. 37

    1.  Barnabas was "determined" (resolved, firm, uncompromising.) If they were going again, they would take John Mark with them. In some circles, that might be called "hard headed." But obviously Paul was just as stubborn on this issue.
2. Being "determined" about important things is a virtue. We need people with the "conviction," backbone, and resolve to stand their ground on the really important issues of life and faith. 

    Earlier in chapter 15, we read where Paul was opposed to a false doctrine that attempted to bind the law of Moses upon Christians. How did Paul respond to that situation according to Galatians 2:5?  
    Then later, while Paul and Barnabas preached in Antioch (vs 35), Peter had evidently come there for a visit. Paul later wrote about what turned out to be an unpleasant event. According to Galatians 2:11-12, Paul rebuked Peter to his face. Again the issue was not a matter of judgment but doctrine. Paul was right to stand his ground. 

But the matter of taking Mark with them was not on par with those matters. It seems almost frivolous from our point of view. Here we might wonder why Paul did not yield to the preference of Barnabas for the sake of peace. Some battles we have no choice about. In defense of truth and honor we should stand strong. But for the sake of peace we should learn to yield where yielding is possible. Again, chose your battles carefully!

III. Division Vs. 39-41

    1. The disagreement and inability to yield by both men was so "sharp" that it cut apart their working relationship at least temporarily. They had reached a stalemate. There seemed to be only one practical solution. They chose to work separately. Barnabas and Mark would edify the brethren they had taught in Cyprus while Mark had traveled with them. Paul and Silas would "confirm" or edify the brethren in Asia Minor (the area where Mark had not gone.) 
2. Do faithful Christians today ever disagree over matters of judgment as they work together? Can unresolved disagreements create bitterness and strife? How can such be avoided? Discuss how a "time out" or cool off period and a time apart can often help to mend relationships. Can that solution work today when friends or family or Christians find that they cannot agree nor yield on some personal issue? 
3.  Later we find that Paul had a high regard for Mark as his fellow worker who had comforted him while he was in prison (Col 4:10-11), and he even requested that Timothy bring Mark to Rome to work with him there. (2 Tim 4:11). Evidently, if there were any hard feelings toward Barnabas and Mark, they did not last long. But isn't it possible that there never were any "hard feelings?" Can't two strong willed Christian people disagree without being bitter or hurt? Is it possible that while Paul and Barnabas parted ways, when it came to their work, they remained life long friends and allies in the good fight? I want to think so, don't you?

wrap up

   1.  Good people can disagree without being ugly about it. The solutions may be difficult but solutions are always possible. 


  Please read Acts 16:1-15 for next week    copyright 2001