Real Talk with Roderick
To The End of the Earth: Irreconcilable Differences (Acts 15:36-41)
Some days have passed (Μετὰ δέ τινας ἡμέρας) since the conflict concerning circumcision was resolved with a word from Jerusalem (Acts 15:30-31). The contention was settled with a letter from leadership delivered by four men: Barsabas, Silas, Barnabas, and Paul. The former two, Barsabas and Silas, are leading men from among the disciples of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:22); they were selected by the Jerusalem apostles, elders, and brethren to accompany the letter. The latter two, Barnabas and Paul, are leading men from among the brethren of the church in Antioch (Acts 13:1-3; 14:26). They had been sent earlier to Jerusalem to get clarification concerning the circumcision question (Acts 15:1-2).
The letter revealed that the commotion-causing men who came trying to compel the Gentiles to be circumcised were not official. They had not been sent - they just went (Acts 15:24).
Not Sent, Just Went (Acts 15:24, NKJV) — 24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”—to whom we gave no such commandment
Sent vs Went (Deuteronomy 13:13; Acts 15:24; 1 John 2:19)
More important than the going is the order to go (Matthew 28:18-20). Those that went because they were sent were apostles and the effect of the Spirit through them was apostolic; foundation was laid through their labors. Those that went without being sent were authors of confusion, antagonists of the faith, and always advancing an agenda that ultimately did not bring the kingdom.
And so it is today. There are some whose going is an obedient response to the mission given by the Master. They are surrendered to the Spirit and examine everything in light of His word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Their program is not their own; They are sent.
And there are some who have not been called or dispatched. For all their fine-sounding words they are false prophets. There is no anointing on their preaching and no power in their service. Though they use many self-given titles they are without authority and work assiduously to undermine the will of God in favor of their own program. Who are they? Those that just went.
Just Went (1 John 2:19, NKJV) — 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
But now the commotion has been removed and thoughts of missions and discipleship begin to take precedence again.
Missing / Not Missing Mark (Acts 15:36-38)
Having fought successfully against the false doctrine that threatened their fellowship Paul now proposes something in line with the mandate to make disciples: "Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing." After all of the distraction brought on by the legalists, the trip required to quell the trouble, and the glad resolution to have the Gentiles remain as they are in Christ, the idea of going on a plain old missionary journey sounds pretty good. Barnabas is in support of this idea and was determined to take with them John called Mark (Acts 15:37). He is a young man that had accompanied them on their first missionary journey out of Antioch on the Orontes; Mark is Barnabas' cousin (Colossians 4:10).
Paul's determination to not take Mark is as strong as Barnabas resolve to have him in their company. I can imagine Paul's words:
"When we were in Pamphylia this young man left us. He did not continue beyond the island of Cyprus for the real work that would lay ahead. Don't want him on the trip. Can't use a man like that." (Acts 13:13)
Luke is careful not to give his readership a side in the relating of the history. No indication is given that he favored Barnabas' position or Paul's position.
The Better Plan (Acts 15:39-41, NKJV)
39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Although Barnabas is characterized as being Spirit-filled and meek he is not week. The suggestion that Mark not make the trip was not okay with him and the old friend of Paul stuck to his position - Mark should go! The former pharisee was not a weak-willed man either; even stoning could not break his commitment to preaching the word of God. He stuck to his position - Mark should not go! And the disagreement (παροξυσμὸς) between godly men became discord. And at last it led to a decision to part ways.
The story of the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas does not make pleasant reading, but Luke’s realism in recording it helps us to remember that the two men, as they themselves said to the people of Lystra, were “human beings with feelings like” any other. Luke does not relate the dispute in such a way as to put Paul in the right and Barnabas in the wrong. In view of Luke’s restraint, it is idle for the reader to try to apportion the blame.
Bruce, F. F. (1988). The Book of the Acts (p. 301). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Barnabas would take Mark and go back to Cyprus. He would hold on to Mark return to the place where formerly the young man had not been able to hold up. Paul would choose someone else to travel with him in the work of strengthening the churches: Silas. His traveling companion would preach with him, be beaten for doing right with him, go to jail with him, and sing songs with him as they sat in the shackles of a jail in Philippi.
But who was right? The fellowship that heard the matter did not have a problem supporting Paul and Silas on another journey. And Barnabas' decision to keep discipling Mark would later become a blessing to the body of Christ.
Mark was probably not ready for the rigors of another journey with Paul. It was the right decision, in light of recent history (Acts 13:13) and subsequent trials (Acts 16:16-24), for the Pharisee-turned-Jesus-follower to cut him from the team. And yet John Mark was not a lost cause; he was a young man who was yet to bear much fruit. Under the encouraging tutelage of Barnabas and Peter the apostle he would eventually be used by God to make the gospel of Jesus Christ easier to share. Mark's reoccurring name in the New Testament is an ongoing reminder of what can happen when we stay the course in walking with someone who has fallen short.
The differences between Paul and Barnabas concerning John Mark could not be resolved. But if I learn anything from this passage I am made to see this: The irreconcilable differences of important individuals cannot derail discipleship, dispense with disciples, or distract from the mission of making Jesus known. And we must not overlook the fact that when Barnabas and Paul went their separate ways the number of experienced missionary teams going out of Antioch was doubled. What looked at first like a setback was actually a setup for the springing forward of Christian mission. In the irreconcilable differences of Paul and Barnabas was birthed the indisputable benefit of a division of labor for a vast harvest (Matthew 9:37).
35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
The New King James Version. (1982). (Matthew 9:35–38). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Real Talk with Roderick
Fulfill the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:1-5)
Galatians has a readily discernible approach to arguing against legalism and for faith-based living. Paul goes from simple truths about Christianity to the consequences of those truths in the conduct of Jesus followers. He goes from orthodoxy to orthopraxis, from principles of the Way to the practice of wayfaring, from learning about the Lord to living life in His service. He is not trying to merely refute false teachers he is also working with each word of the epistle to promote Christ-centered, Spirit-led living.
The point of Paul's preaching and penning of letters was always to move his reader into an attitude and understanding that would help in the day-to-day of actual Jesus following.
With this in mind our reading of Galatians must culminate in a practice of Christianity that honors God. There can be no half-hearted attempt to understand the truth in this book. Though it may take a while we should always be searching the Scriptures and seeking in earnest to understand the basis of our faith (Acts 17:11). Yes, in these Scriptures are some things hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16). But the Spirit of Truth will lead us into a right doctrine. Second, it must never be the case that we are content to camp around the doctrines of Galatians. If we just collect understandings and don't use them in following Jesus we are spiritual truth hoarders. Ultimately, having sat at the feet of the Lord (Luke 10:38-42), we must get up and follow Him in the truths we have been graciously given.
Let us get into this word daily. As individuals and in our gatherings let us study, meditate, and memorize Galatians. As individuals and in fellowship let us dialogue, discuss, debate, and even disagree about what it looks like to live the truth of Galatians. But then, in the power of the Holy Spirit, let us get off our duffs to do Galatians! May there be a parting of ways between our pants and our pews to practice what has been preached. Otherwise, brethren, we become hearers only (James 1:22). We are called to so much more.
It is best to regard the trespass in which a person may be overtaken as one of the works of the flesh enumerated earlier (Galatians 5:19-21). Why? That list is not orthogonal to the surrounding work and is certainly helpful to Paul's readership. They are equipped by the lineup of lusts of the flesh to identify the overtaken brother in their midst. Further assisting the saints to whom the missive was sent in recognizing regression into carnality is the second inventory. Whether or not they find someone in a sin specifically mentioned, if it is a trespass, it will certainly be inconsistent with the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
The general teaching of 5:13–26 is now given life application. Going beyond the renouncing of mutual envy and provocation (negative) there must be a move into the restoration of our fellow man (positive). We cannot be satisfied with seeing sin, saying it is sin, and endeavoring to cease from sinning. We are called to serve the Savior by helping the fallen brother, by helping the failing daughter to find their footing, by helping the overtaken to become the overcomers they have been called to be.
(Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 4:2; James 1:22)
The offender cannot be simply regarded as reprobate and rejected from the body. There must be an earnest and gentle attempt to see the one overtaken in a trespass come out of the sin: rehabilitated. Where it is so much easier to cast out the criminal we are then contrary to God's heart of saving flawed people (Luke 5:32; 15:10). Where it is so much easier to forsake the felon and stand against their return to fellowship it is inconsistent with the example and exhortation of Jesus. Peter was not put out because he was found failing in His faith. He was pushed to reaffirm his commitment (John 21:15-19) and given the larger purpose of using his own restoration for the strengthening of his brethren (Luke 22:32) and serving the Shepherd's sheep (John 21:17).
Habitual or Just Happened
A παράπτωμα is not a settled course of action but an isolated action which may make the person who does it feel guilty. The rehabilitation must be undertaken by those who are truly πνευματικοί, whose life and conduct alike are controlled by the Spirit of Christ. Paul uses the same verb (καταρτίζω) in an ethical sense when he begs the Corinthian Christians to be joined (κατηρτισμένοι) in unity of mind (1 Cor. 1:10) and, more generally, to mend their ways (καταρτίζεσθε, 2 Cor. 13:11).
Bruce, F. F. (1982). The Epistle to the Galatians: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 260). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.
Paul calls upon those that consider themselves spiritual to prove it out. "If you are spiritual, if you are walking in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, if you are letting the fruit of love and gentleness be produced in you through His Spirit, then do what Christ did and gently restore the fallen." This small verse matters much because with it we can examine ourselves. Using it as a plumb line we are able to assess the quality of our spiritual in relation to the people who need us most.
One way of validating of spirituality is a willingness to work with someone who has fallen by the wayside to see them regain their gait on the straight and narrow path. This is the mind of Christ and in doing this we are following Jesus.
While the “spiritual” do the work of restoring, all believers are to become involved by prayer and encouragement. This, wrote Paul, will fulfill (anaplērōsete) the law of Christ, that is, the principle of love (cf. 5:14; John 13:34).
Campbell, D. K. (1985). Galatians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 609). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Ephesians 4:2 (NKJV) — 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,
The Christian does in fact test himself by carrying his own load. This does not contradict verse 2 because the reference there is to heavy, crushing, loads (barē)—more than a man could carry without help. In this verse a different Greek word (phortion) is used to designate the pack usually carried by a marching soldier. It is the “burden” Jesus assigns to His followers (cf. Matt. 11:30). There are certain Christian responsibilities or burdens each believer must bear which cannot be shared with others. Jesus assured His disciples that such burdens were light.
Campbell, D. K. (1985). Galatians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 609–610). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.