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

  1. Return From Conflict

    1. 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.)

      1. 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.)

    2. 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.)

    3. 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.)

      1. 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
        avoid that!)

    4. 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
      second chance?

      1. Read Proverbs 25:19. What does this counsel about
        taking John Mark?

      2. 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
        his help.)

      3. 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
        gospel worker.)

      4. 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

    5. 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.)

      1. 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?

  2. Holy Compromise?

    1. 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.)

      1. 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

    2. Look again at Acts 16:3. What reason does this suggest for
      circumcising Timothy? (Peer pressure! “The Jews” caused
      Paul to do this.)

      1. 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.)

      2. 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?

  3. Human Trafficking

    1. 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.)

    2. 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.)

      1. 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.)

  4. Human Trafficking

    1. Read Acts 16:16-18. This raises at least two troubling

      1. Why does an evil spirit advertise salvation?

        1. Does this mean that Satan will sometimes use a
          method to undermine the gospel that seems
          positive on its face?

      2. Why does Paul cast out the evil spirit only when he
        becomes annoyed? Why not help the girl immediately?

    2. 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
      is true.)

    3. Read Acts 16:23-25. If you were severely beaten, and then
      had your feet put in stocks, would you be singing hymns?

    4. 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.)

    5. Read Acts 16:29-31. Who else has been listening to Paul
      and Silas? (The jailer.)

      1. 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.)

    6. 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.)

    7. 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.)

    8. 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

  5. Next week: The Third Missionary Journey.