When Apostles Clash - The Warrior's Journey®

When Apostles Clash

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

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“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.” (Acts 15:37-41) 

Which of these men of God was right in the matter of John Mark? They were both such stellar saints that it’s impossible to choose sides. It’s true that the Book of Acts doesn’t mention Barnabas again, but follows the life and ministry of Paul. But this does not indicate that Paul was right and that Barnabas fell from favor with God and the church. For the Book of Acts doesn’t mention any of the Twelve Apostles again either. On the other hand, it is Paul whose attitude toward John Mark changes dramatically in later years (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11). 

But how could two men, each so close to God, have such opposing views and be so inflexible in their opinions? How could such towering figures of the church allow this disagreement to break up such a great team? Here are some possibilities. 

  • It’s very possible that both of these men were in tune with God over the issue of John Mark. Barnabas was correct that Mark had tremendous potential for good and would develop into a faithful soldier for Jesus – but only under Barnabas’ tutelage. Paul was correct that Mark’s previous desertion was wrong and that he might very well fail again – especially under Paul’s supervision. 
  • It’s also possible that these two men had simply outgrown each other. As they embarked on their first journey, neither Barnabas nor Paul was prepared to venture out on his own. No one but Barnabas trusted Paul with such a mission – since he had once been a fierce enemy. And Barnabas was probably uncomfortable going solo on such a mission without having such a capable man as Paul at his side.  But now things were different. They had both grown up. 
  • Both Barnabas and Paul had reached a new phase in their ministry – that of developing new leaders. Barnabas felt led to take John Mark under his wing and develop him. At the very onset of Acts 16, Paul does exactly the same thing with Timothy. They both continued to preach the Gospel. But now they focused more on preparing the next generation of Christian leaders. 


  • Have you ever seen a fierce disagreement between two stellar leaders in the military? Could it be that they both have perfectly valid ideas? 
  • Don’t leaders in the military reach a phase of leadership in which their focus moves more and more toward developing the next generation of leaders? 
  • Change and growth within us will inevitably lead to changes in our ideas and relationships. It’s not a matter of one being right and the other being wrong. 

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