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A Winnable War We Must Not Ignore.

by Larry Cory


(Can even godly people divide from each other?)

     Can even godly people become divided from each other?  If this has happened in the past, it can also happen today.  That means, then, that division can be caused by those who have godly ambitions as well as by people who have selfish ambitions.  Sadly, this war between godly people is also part of the Silent War in the Church.
     The Bible gives us a classic case of two very godly men who did become divided from each other.  Paul and Barnabas strongly divided from each other over an issue concerning a young man named John Mark.  Paul and Barnabas had gone on a missionary journey together, and began to talk of going back and visiting those they had ministered to.  We read about what happened as they discussed returning to the mission field in Acts 15.  "Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, 'Let us go back and visit the brothers 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," (Acts 15:36-39)
     We already know much about Paul from what is said about him in the rest of the book of Acts and by what he wrote in the thirteen books in the New Testament that he authored.  He was clearly a godly man.  We learn the following about Barnabas in the book of Acts:  His name Barnabas "means Son of Encouragement." (Acts 4:36)  When Paul, the one-time persecutor of the church, tried to go to the Christians in Jerusalem and was rejected, it was Barnabas who "took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul [Paul] on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord." (Acts 9:26-28)  So, Barnabas stood with Paul (Saul) when others would not.  When a Gentile church began in Antioch, it was Barnabas who was chosen to teach and watch over the new believers there.  The church at Jerusalem "sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." (Acts 11:22-26)
     So it is clear that both Paul and Barnabas were godly men, yet "they had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company."  Why did they divide over Mark?  We read in Acts 13 that John Mark went with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey.  "The two of them [Barnabas and Paul], sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John [Mark] was with them as their helper." (Acts 13:4-5)  But, for reasons not given in the book of Acts, John Mark deserted them in the middle of the missionary journey.  "From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem." (Acts 13:13)
     Here in Acts 15, we learn that Mark wants to go on their second missionary journey, even though he had deserted them on their first missionary journey.  It was one of the those types of decisions where there was no way to compromise and to reach some middle ground.  They either took Mark or they did not.  Barnabas, the encourager appears to have believed that it would be an encouragement to Mark if they took him along.  Paul the apostle to the Gentiles appears to have seen Mark as a danger to their mission—for Mark might once again desert them when the going got rough.  One appears to have been concerned about Mark the person and the other was concerned about the work of starting churches.  Both Paul and Barnabas were passionate about their differing concerns.  Who was right?  That is a hard question to answer, but we can answer the question that is the title of this chapter: "Can even godly people divide from each other?"  The answer is, "Yes."
     It appears that Barnabas was right about not abandoning Mark.  Later, even Paul agreed that Mark was helpful in the ministry.  He said these words about Mark in the very last book he wrote in the New Testament:  "Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." (II Timothy 4:11)  In the book of Colossians, Paul tells us that Mark was with him while he was in prison.  We also learn in Colossians that Mark was the cousin of Barnabas:  "My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)" (Colossians 4:10)   Peter also wrote warmly of Mark in I Peter.  "She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark." (I Peter 5:13)  And, of course, God and Peter trusted Mark to write the Gospel of Mark.  Bible scholars believe that Mark recorded Peter's version of Jesus' life and ministry in his Gospel. 
     It also appears the Paul and Barnabas reconciled and were once again in ministry with each other.  Paul says the following about Barnabas in I Corinthians:  "Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?" (I Corinthians 9:6)  It appears that Paul, at the time when he wrote I Corinthians, once again saw Barnabas as a fellow Christian worker.  Luke wrote the following about Barnabas after Paul and Barnabas had their sharp division: "He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith." (Acts 11:24) (The book of Acts was written after their sharp division.)
     So, godly people can divide.  We each are human and limited in our vision—so, we can get tunnel vision in some areas.  Paul saw one part of God's work and Barnabas saw another part of God's work.  Probably, they were both right; but they were not able, at first, to work out and resolve their differences.  They did later.  Godly Christians, today, can also divide when we see our part of God's work clearly, but do not see as clearly the value of another Christian's ministry.  This can happen between those who have different spiritual gifts.
     Does that mean that sharp disagreements resulting in divisions are God's will?  John Stott gives this answer to that question: "God certainly overruled this melancholy disagreement, since as a result of it 'out of one pair two were made', as Bengel commented.  But this example of God's providence may not be used as an excuse for Christian quarrelling."  (The Spirit and the Church and the World by John Stott. Copyright 1990 by Intervarsity Press.) 
     What happened between Paul and Barnabas is given to us in the narrative part of the Bible.  It describes what did happen, but not what should happen.  It also describes what does happen today, but not what should happen today.  The unity that Paul, Barnabas, and Mark experienced later is what should happen between Christians.  May we seek to experience the unity and not the "sharp disagreement" and the parting of "company."

The Silent War In The Church

Table of Contents and Brief Intro Table of Contents
Introduction Introduction
The Silent War Inside our Churches - Part 1 Part 1a
The Silent War Inside our Churches - Part 2 Part 1b
The Silent War between Churches Part 2
The Silent War with Satan and his Demons Part 3
The Silent War can be Won by God's Love in us Part 4
The Silent War can be like the Wars in the World Part 5
The Silent War between a False and Coerced Unity and a True Unity Part 6
An Essential Requirement Needed for Ending the Silent War Between Christians Part 7
The Silent War Caused by Turning the Church into the Kingdom of Man and not the Kingdom of God Part 8
The Silent War inside of Each Christian Part 9
The Silent War in the Church with the World Part 10
The Silent War Over Divisive Issues Part 11
The Silent War caused by a Mysterious Invading Army Part 12
The Silent War Caused by Seeking Worldly Success Part 13
The Silent War Always Results in Persecution Part 14
The Silent War Caused when Godly People Divide Part 15
The Silent War Caused when Godly People Cause Divisions Part 16
The Silent War Caused by the Church or a Church Dividing over an Important Issue Part 17
When the Church is Winning - Part 1 Part 18a
When the Church is Winning - Part 2 Part 18a
The Bible's Description of Victorious Soldiers in the Silent War Part 19
How Victory in the Silent War can Lead to Revival in the Church Part 20
Conclusion Conclusion
Addendum: The Silent War caused by "the onlys" "The Onlys"
Addendum: A Pastor's Authority by Ray Stedman A Pastor's Authority
Addendum: Galatians 6:1-3 (my commentary on these verses) Galatians 6:1-3
Addendum: John Wesley's sermon at George Whitefield's funeral George Whitefield