Introduction: Last week we discussed the conflict over circumcision.
The church resolved the conflict, put its resolution in writing, and
Paul and Barnabas delivered the resolution to the believers in
Antioch. Almost immediately after that conflict was resolved, another
conflict arose between Paul and Barnabas. This was not a theological
dispute, but a conflict over personnel. What happens when you have
conflict among the leadership of the church? Is this a failure of
faith? Does it mean that someone is unqualified to be a leader? Or,
is conflict to be expected? Can it be a good thing for the church?
This week our study of the Bible includes a major conflict among
church leaders. Let’s dive into our study of the Bible and learn
- Return From Conflict
- Read Acts 15:30-31. How does the church in Antioch react
to the resolution of the controversy over circumcision?
(The members are encouraged. Undoubtedly, a large number
of them were Gentiles.)
- What is your normal reaction to the resolution of a
controversy? (It is natural to want it to end and to
be encouraged when it does.)
- Read Acts 15:22 and Acts 15:32-33. This is our first
introduction to Silas. What do we learn about him? (He is
a leader, he is able to encourage the believers, and has
the gift of prophecy.)
- Read Acts 15:35-38. What is Paul’s concern about taking
John Mark with them? (Read Acts 13:13. John Mark had
traveled with them before, but he decided he did not want
to continue. It appears he did not enjoy the hardship.)
- Do you have sympathy for John Mark? (Just after John
Mark left, we learn in Acts 14:19 that Paul was
stoned – and the people thought that he had died from
the stoning! No doubt most readers would like to
- Read Acts 15:39. Commentators say that Barnabas was the
uncle of John Mark. Who do you think is right in this
dispute? Is Barnabas biased because of the family
relationship? Is Paul forgetting that God gave humans a
- Read Proverbs 25:19. What does this counsel about
taking John Mark?
- Read Colossians 4:10 and 2 Timothy 4:11. Who does
this tell us was right in this dispute between Paul
and Barnabas? (It turns out that John Mark becomes a
reliable worker, so much so that Paul even asks for
- What good things come out of this dispute? (We now
have two missionary teams instead of just one. John
Mark is “rehabilitated” and proves to be a dependable
- What bad things come out of this dispute? (We cannot
say for sure, but Paul and Barnabas are a powerhouse
pair. That is lost. Perhaps splitting them up is good
because it allows them to train new missionary
- Read Acts 15:40-41. Is the church taking sides in this
dispute or does it condemn the dispute? (We don’t have
enough information to know. When Paul leaves with Silas,
the members give them their support.)
- We never again read anything about Barnabas in Acts.
Why does the story follow Paul instead of Barnabas?
Is that proof of the church taking Paul’s side?
- Holy Compromise?
- Read Acts 16:1-3. The Church just resolved the
circumcision issue. Paul was one of the strong voices
against circumcision. Why does Paul circumcise Timothy?
(If you review our study of Acts 15, the issue was about
circumcising Gentiles. Nothing in Acts 15 suggests that
circumcision is a bad thing.)
- Is Timothy a Gentile? (The Mishna (230 AD)says that
your status as a Jew depends on your mother, but your
tribal affiliation depends on your father. How far
this rule goes back in time is not clear. Leviticus
24:10-11 mentions such a situation. On the one hand,
Leviticus refers to this “mixed” son as being “among
the Israelites.” On the other hand, it distinguishes
between “him and an Israelite.” Of course, Timothy’s
mother should not have married a Gentile. Deuteronomy
- Look again at Acts 16:3. What reason does this suggest for
circumcising Timothy? (Peer pressure! “The Jews” caused
Paul to do this.)
- Is Paul someone with no spine? Has he no principles
for which he will stand? (Read 1 Corinthians 9:20-21.
Paul’s highest principle (among those he mentions)is
to win converts to the gospel.)
- The Willow Creek Church in the United States is
famous for evangelizing people who are outside of any
church structure. Yet, I often read criticism of
those who would study its evangelistic methods. What
would Paul say about the Willow Creek methods?
- Human Trafficking
- Read Acts 16:6-10. On two occasions the Holy Spirit seems
to physically prevent Paul and his fellow travelers from
going in a certain direction, but another time He sends a
vision to Paul? Why do you think the Holy Spirit operates
in these different ways? Why not just send a vision?
(Perhaps Paul is like us, we don’t always listen carefully
to the Holy Spirit.)
- Read Acts 16:13-14. Paul normally seeks out the town
synagogue as a starting point for sharing the gospel. Why
does he start with a “place of prayer” by the river? (Paul
observes Sabbath as a special day of worship apart from
his seeking out the local synagogue. It also suggests
that Philippi might not have had a synagogue.)
- What lesson do we find in the way Paul approaches a
new city? (He looks for people who are already
attuned to God. He has additional light, and he
believes (no doubt led by the Holy Spirit), that it
is best to start with those who already have some
sort of relationship with God.)
- Human Trafficking
- Read Acts 16:16-18. This raises at least two troubling
- Why does an evil spirit advertise salvation?
- Does this mean that Satan will sometimes use a
method to undermine the gospel that seems
positive on its face?
- Why does Paul cast out the evil spirit only when he
becomes annoyed? Why not help the girl immediately?
- Read Acts 16:19-22. This system of “justice” is troubling.
Is the charge against Paul and Silas true? (It is not the
actual complaint of the slave owners. However, to the
extent that Christianity is not an approved religion, it
- Read Acts 16:23-25. If you were severely beaten, and then
had your feet put in stocks, would you be singing hymns?
- Read Acts 16:26-28. How is Paul able to control the other
prisoners? (Something seems to be left out of the story.
We are told that the other prisoners are listening to his
singing. There must have been some dialog between Paul and
Silas and the other prisoners.)
- Read Acts 16:29-31. Who else has been listening to Paul
and Silas? (The jailer.)
- When Paul told the jailer what he must do to be
saved, why didn’t he add in to treat the wounds of
those who are beaten and not put their feet in
stocks? (Belief in Jesus is the gospel message.)
- Read Acts 16:32-34. What does the jailer do as a result of
his conversion? (He washes their wounds, feeds them, and
is baptized. Joy fills his life.)
- Read Acts 16:35-40 and Matthew 5:39-40. Is Paul violating
Jesus’ command in the Sermon on the Mount? (Read John
18:22-23. We see that both Jesus and Paul assert their
legal rights. How we should understand Jesus’ teaching
about turning the other cheek is not clear to me if we
assume that Paul and Jesus followed this teaching.)
- Friend, conflict is sometimes hard to avoid. Paul faced it
in the church, he faced it in his relationship with
Barnabas, and he faced with the local human traffickers
and authorities. Will you ask the Holy Spirit to turn the
conflicts you face into something that advances the
- Next week: The Third Missionary Journey.