I’ve been reading through Acts again where Luke is telling us what The Apostle Paul encountered with regard to adversity, after his conversion. Paul didn’t have an easy time. There was adversity from within and from without. When reading through the New Testament we come face to face with the opposition that the early church encountered from outside the church, but we often overlook the adversity that was experienced from within. I don’t know about you but I’ve experienced a significant amount of adversity from within over the years. It takes a certain amount of maturity to get over that hurdle.
Human nature being what it is, and I am deliberately not elaborating, much of what Paul encountered could be expected. There was doubt about the reality of Paul’s conversion, for good reason, based on his previous zeal for the legalistic Jews. But Paul didn’t waste any time, after spending a few days with the disciples in Damascus, he went right out there and started preaching in the synagogues, that Jesus is the Son of God. Enter adversity from without …. so Paul went to Jerusalem. He tried to join the disciples in Jerusalem but they were afraid of him, they didn’t believe that he really was a disciple of Jesus. Understandable. Barnabus steps in and takes Paul to the Apostles. Barnabus tells the Apostles what Paul did in Damascus. They accept him and Paul preaches in Jerusalem. Enter adversity from without …. Paul goes to Tarsus. Barnabus goes to Tarsus to find Paul and the two of them go to Antioch. Paul and Barnabus spend a whole year in Antioch and teach great numbers of disciples.
A severe famine spreads over the Roman empire (predicted by a prophet from Jerusalem that came up to Antioch) and Barnabus and Paul take gifts to the brethren in Judea from the brethren in Antioch. Barnabus and Paul must return to Antioch because later we read that in Antioch the Holy Spirit directs that Barnabus and Paul have a work to do in Cyprus and Pamphylia. John was with them as their helper. John Mark is traditionally associated as Mark the Evangelist. When Paul and Barnabus get to Perga in Pamphylia, John Mark returns to Jerusalem. We aren’t told why but this information comes in handy a bit later. Paul and Barnabus continue on the mission to Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. Barnabus and Paul eventually return to Antioch, head out again to Perga and Attalia and then return to Antioch again and remain there a long time with the disciples.
Enter adversity from within. Acts 15 tells us that certain disciples from Judea went to Antioch and started teaching that Gentile believers must be circumcised in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabus dispute this teaching and the church in Antioch decides to send Paul and Barnabus along with some other believers to Jerusalem to settle the dispute. Short story – not necessary. They only impose minimal requirements as indicated in Acts 15:28-29. Paul and Barnabus, along with some from the church in Jerusalem return to Antioch with the decision in the form of a written letter. Paul and Barnabus remain in Antioch teaching and preaching.
I like the way the church in Antioch handled this dispute, they went to the authoritative Apostles for a decision. Today we would go to our Pastor or Minister etc. It took time, they crossed referenced the words of the prophets with their decision. We would go to our Bible. They obviously prayed about this because Acts 15:28 NIV states: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:”
But wait, there’s more …..
Acts 15: 36-41 NIV reads as follows: “Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”
We are talking about the early Christian church here, and the Apostle Paul no less. We aren’t provided with details on what brought about John Mark’s decision to desert them but whatever it was, Paul took note of it and it was a factor in who he wanted to go with them on his second missionary Journey. We aren’t told if John Mark acknowledged his mistake or if he asked for forgiveness.
Lessons To Be Learned:
1 – people (believers) sometimes make wrong decisions
2- disagreements between believers happen
3- sometimes they are not resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned
4- we’re all human, key word being ALL
5- if it can happen to the Apostle Paul, Barnabus or John Mark it can happen to us.
6. It didn’t stop John Mark and it didn’t stop Paul or Barnabus for doing the Lord’s work, don’t let it stop you.
7. Never be afraid to say you are sorry or to accept an “I’m sorry”
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!