Learning from the tragic breakup of Paul and Barnabas

The question that comes up is why God chooses to have certain unpleasant incidents recorded in His Word. There must be something of extreme importance involved or logic would dictate that such unpleasant encounters should have been left unwritten. One of those incidents deals with Barnabas and Paul.

In Acts 13:1-3 we read:

"Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away."

Barnabas and Saul (Paul) were chosen to be together by the Holy Spirit. They didn't just start hanging out together and decided to take a trip. Their union was ordained by the Holy Spirit Himself.

Barnabas and Paul traveled throughout Asia Minor starting and establishing churches. After their trip, they ended up back in Antioch and abode there a long time with the disciples according to Acts 14:28.

After the emergency conference held in Acts 15, Barnabas and Saul returned to Antioch and continued teaching and preaching the Gospel according to Acts 15:35. But, then an incident took place which forever changed Paul and Barnabas. In Acts 15:36-40:

"And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the LORD, and see how they do.

And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.

But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.

And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;

And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God."

John Mark was Barnabas' nephew. He obviously had traveled with Paul and Barnabas earlier and suddenly left them when in Pamphylia. When Barnabas wanted to invite his nephew along on the next trip, Paul thought it not wise considering what had previously happened. The ensuing argument must have been intense and heated for it literally split asunder the union between Paul and Barnabas.

Just as in marriage, what God joins together let no man divide asunder. Barnabas allowed family pride to rule over spiritual insight. He assumed that since John Mark was a relative, he would be allowed special privileges, as in not being held accountable for previous behavior. Barnabas took Paul's lack of excitement personally, and the inevitable result was a separation of chief friends.

It is interesting to note that after this incident, Paul is of course mentioned prominently throughout the rest of the New Testament. It also is interesting to note that John Mark not only ended up being profitable to Paul at the end of his life as mentioned in 2 Timothy; he wrote the second Gospel. The thing most tragic in all this is the utter and total disappearance of Barnabas from the scriptures after his split with Paul. Barnabas allowed pride to cloud his judgment and destroy his ministry.

There is no question that Paul did the right thing and Barnabas was wrong. Because Barnabas allowed personal feelings to overrule the truth, he stormed off into the sunset never to be heard from again. May we all learn from the tragic breakup of two of the most important men recorded in the Book of Acts.

May we learn that family preferences and personal feelings CANNOT BE ALLOWED to take precedence over the truth. Jesus Himself asked the question "Who is my mother, brother sister€" This was done to show that there are times when standing upon the truth is of the paramount importance even if it means offending a blood relative.

I am quite sure it must have deeply hurt Paul when Barnabas stormed off with John Mark to Cyprus. But, Paul didn't sit around moping either. He chose Silas and immediately took off to go visit the believers he had met in earlier journeys. May we learn from Paul's example that there are times when we simply must wipe the dust off our feet and move on down the road. It may hurt, but if it is what God so desires, He will take care of the healing in His due time.


Many painful and damaging church splits have been caused by pride, the enemy's chief tool for disunity in the Body of Christ.
If only we have the sense and the willingness to hear the Spirit's Voice on sensitive issues which cause disunity in the Body and to in Christ's love accept the things we are not to change, change the things that should be changed and wisdom to know the difference.
Let us pray that not too many splits will occur on CB and that the Word will be the foundation of our faith in Christ as the Holy Spirit guides us.


Andrew Luckhaupt @luckyone ·

Would you please stay out of my house. You have a tremendous knock for writing about things that pertain to my life. I will reread and digest with the spirit. God bless you!

K Reynolds @kreynolds ·

Yes, it undoubtedly was quite painful for both Paul and Barnabas. Paul could have allowed this to take up his time but instead, he came to the point where he had to do what God wanted him to do regardless of how his friend felt about it.


K :princess:


Peter was another who eventually came to Christ by shedding the desire to allow the doctrines of men to "guide" him. I just recently had a splitting with a family member over following God. Thank you for sharing this. It is painful and I pray that our Heavenly Father move her and the rest of us in love wisdom and understanding! Amen! Too bad about Barnabas! Galatians 2:13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrate with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. Pick up your cross and follow Him! God Bless you! Amen! Dave

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