We're continuing our series on the book of Acts. I like the book of Acts. I hope you do too. I would like to study today with you in Acts, chapter 15. The title of the sermon is Unsaintly Saints. Are you married to one of those? Are your parents like that?
You know, good Christians won't argue forever. They just separate and start up a new church. No argument there. Just do it. In the last part of Acts 15, it shows Paul and Barnabas encouraging and strengthening the brethren. And then, unfortunately, these two leaders get into a hot argument, and they split up. Did you know that? Unsaintly saints. Look at Acts 15, verse 39. It says, “They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.” They just split up. The word disagreement, the Greek word is ‘paroxysm’, which means a violent, bitter, hostile disagreement. And the verb is in the imperfect tense, which means that this went on and on and on, a continual, nonstop, unending deep quarrel. That's what they were in. And you would think, “Well, I thought all these people in the Bible were saints.” Well, they were. Paul was a saint. Saint Paul. Saint Barnabas. But they were not acting very saintly. Paul knew that he was right and Barnabas knew that he was right. The schism was so deep that it split them up. And if that happened today we would probably see two different brand-new denominations start up. Two of these great leaders. Two more denominations.
I want you to notice some council that Paul gives in First Corinthians chapter 1 and verse 10. He says here, First Corinthians 1, verse 10. “I beg you brothers and sisters by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that all of you would” do what? “Agree with each other.” This is Paul giving the advice. He's the unsaintly saint. He says, “Please agree with each other and not be split into groups.” N. C. V. says that. Paul, please practice what you preach. You like a preacher that practices what he preaches? Paul split up.
Do you like to get on Wikipedia? Get on Wikipedia some time and look up all the different churches today here in America. When we disagree, we tend to split off and just form a brand-new church. And I found a list of Baptists in America. Now I'm not picking on Baptists. They're good people, but they have more than anybody, and my list is 2 feet long, of the different churches in America. There are Southern Baptists. Seventh Day Baptists. Interstate Baptists. I’d kind of be interested in what that is. Foreign Landmark Missionary Baptists. Independent Baptists. Cooperative Baptists. Free Baptists. I guess the others are not free. Mainstream Baptists. Regular Baptists. Old Regular Baptists. And Old Baptists. I wonder if I qualify yet. Old-time Missionary Baptists. Separate Baptists. United Baptists. Strict Baptists. Progressive Baptists. Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. And listen to this one. You know what a seed is that you plant. Two Seed In The Spirit Predestinarian Baptists.
Now, I think Baptists are fine Christian people. I have no problem with that. Now I'm not jumping on them, but this illustrates that we Christians have a problem. We get into hot arguments like Paul and Barnabas and we split up. When you can't get along, apparently, according to this, just separate. And this might be preferable to continual quarreling and bickering. Barnabas took John Mark and went off and sailed west and Paul got ahold of Silas and they went north. And so they separated. And God creates each human being with a different motherboard than any other human being and so we have to realize that none of us think alike.
I'm afraid that a lot of Christians are like porcupines. We’re brothers and sisters in the church, but we, like porcupines, needle each other. We do that occasionally. And we are sharp-witted and we know how to get our point across at the board meeting. We all have diverse opinions and people can’t even get close to us. I don't know how two porcupines can even hug each other. And we have different opinions, don’t we?
In our church, some people love a loud organ. They love it. But other people think that a loud organ makes granola out of their mind. Out of their brain cells. We take strong sides on the saxophone and on different songs and if it's live or recorded accompaniment. Some people homeschool. Others don't homeschool. The main thing is that we live in love and harmony with each other. That's the main thing. In our church, there are celebrationists and stiff shirt legalists. There are some who applaud in church and others never applaud when they're in the pew. Some come in blue jeans and others wear, almost, like a tuxedo to church. A black tie and white shirt. Some preachers preach in Hawaiian shirts with no tie, and others preach in the high liturgical robes with all the tassels and all this stuff. We have a hard time agreeing on our worship styles, some of us. And right here in Collegedale, Tennessee, we have a huge variety. You can choose from almost any church.
You know, we need to live at peace with each other and Paul and Barnabas were just knockdown drag out. And Paul preached more about unity than anybody else in the Bible, that I know of. Paul said, and I'm going to quote different portions. “Live in harmony.” That's what he said. “Have brotherly affection.” Romans, chapter 12. “Live peaceably with all.” “Be in accord with each other.” “Forgive one another.” “Be of one mind to each other.” He said all these things, and you know, if saint Paul and saint Barnabas acted unsaintly, what can we expect from ourselves?
None of us are angels, but we can be pleasant. We can be nice about our differences. We are different. Let's be nice about it. Let's suppose that you voted for Barak Obama. And you voted for McCain. Can you be friends? Yeah, we can be friends. Let's suppose that you're against women ordination and you're for it. Can we still be friends? Yeah, we can be friends. We can. Ask God to keep you from crossing the line from a justifiable variance from your brother to hating your brother. You don't want to cross that line. You know, if you focus more on your hobby horse, and you're constantly riding that hobby horse, you focus more on that than you do on Jesus Christ, you cross the line.
Our church here at McDonald Road, if you were comparing churches to restaurants. Our church is probably more like a vegan restaurant. Right here. We have everything green and healthy. And there is a church down the street and over the way that is like the Olive Garden where everything is tasty and nice and predictable. And there's another church over that way that's like a Pizza Hut. And I know there's one church that's like a Mexican restaurant. I know that because they speak Spanish. There’s a church for every preference. There’s a church for every style. Personally I think that our church is the best.
What do you think about your church? Now of course I want you to know that in every church, regardless of what style it is, whether it’s macaroni or spaghetti, every church, they teach all 28 fundamental beliefs. In every church. Every Seventh-day Adventist church. It's just the flavor that varies. Each one is real ice cream. Just a different flavor.
One thing I really appreciate about Paul and Barnabas here is that they didn't go out and they didn't start up a new church. Paul's might've been called Paul-ism. You know, the Lutherans call theirs Lutheranism, and Barnabas, his name means ‘encouragement’. His might've been The Church of the Encourager's or something. The amazing thing is here that these two men were at loggerheads with each other, but eventually they did make up. They were at peace. They were friends again. Just a short time after this, in a few more verses.
And the mark of a true Christian is that he's willing to do whatever to maintain the relationship. And that's the mark of a good marriage. If you're married to somebody, you may think differently than they do. You may be a night owl and they may be an early bird. But you can preserve the relationship if you have your mind set to it. When an irresistible force meets an immovable object you need an omnipotent God to save you from that mess. And God is willing. Never mind when somebody has a disagreement with you. Just be agreeable.
Did you know that disagreements can be a good thing? Was this disagreement good or bad? The unsaintly saints. Paul and Barnabas. Was this good or bad? Well God made something good out of it. Romans chapter 8 and verse 28 says all things work together for the good to certain people in certain circumstances. And in the sovereignty of God, this argument between Paul and Barnabas doubled the impact of their ministry, because now instead of one team, Paul and Barnabas, now they have two teams. Two different teams. Barnabas takes Mark and Paul takes Silas and the Antioch Church is not a parking lot. It's a launching pad. It's a good church to have, and now they have two simultaneous launches. One going west and one going north and the Gospel was going with twice the momentum that it did before, so something good did happen out of this.
What was the basis of their argument? Well look now. Come over to Acts, chapter 15 and verse 37. “Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them, but he,” John Mark, “had left them in Pamphylia and he did not continue with them in the work.” So Paul did not think it was a good idea to take him and try him again. Just let him go. Let him stay. He's a deserter. And you can read Luke's account of this in Acts 13:13. John was a quitter. He had left the team. He returned home. He went back to Jerusalem and Paul was convinced that a defector, A. W. O. L., has no business in the kingdom, in preaching the gospel. What do you think? Do you agree with Paul? So, he did not continue on the first missionary journey. He went home. He was a deserter. And if he was to do it again it would cast a shadow on the work, so don't let him join.
But, now remember Barnabas. Barnabas was what. The name Barnabas means ‘encourager’. So here's Barnabas, he’s an encourager and he saw potential in the kid. When you look at a teenager today, a 2 thousand and 9 teenager, dressed the way they are, with all of their different hairstyles and hair colors and skin colorings, and this and that and the other thing, do you see a lot of potential in our teenagers today? Are you a Paul or a Barnabas here? Paul says, “Forget that kid. He failed you once. He'll fail you again.” Barnabas says, “He can do it.” You've got to decide who you are. Barnabas wanted to give the young man a second chance.
Now, who was Mark? Mark and Barnabas had a relationship. Did you know that uncle Barnabas and nephew Mark were related. He said, “I want to take my nephew.” “No way.” Barnabas wanted to go, and just because a young person makes a mistake once, should you hold it against him the rest of his days. Please, let's have some forgiveness here. Barnabas was right. When teenagers make a mistake, don't hold that in your mind. “Well that guy failed.”
I was at Indiana Academy one time, and I worked on the farm. We baled hay all summer and candled eggs in the morning, and hauled milk, and ran a farm. And one day, they said, “Don, have you ever driven the tractor?” I said, “No.” “Would you like to drive the tractor?” “Yes, I would!” So they said, “Well get on there.” It was a Ford 8 N. So I got on there and they said, “You know how to do it?” “Oh yeah, I know how.” I had never done it in my life. So they said, “Well give it some gas.” So I gave it just a little bit of gas. “Let out on the clutch.” And I did and, UUUuuuuu. The engine died. “Oh you can do it. Do it again.” So I did it again and the engine died. “Get out of that seat. Don't want you to ever drive that tractor again.” And they never did let me. I went a total of 1 inch. Today I've got my own tractor. And I know how to drive it. But they held that against me the whole time at Indiana Academy. “He’s the one that can’t drive a tractor.” Aaww.
Forgive. Let's forgive each other. If we make a mistake, if you make one, if I make one, please, let's be forgiving. Let's do that.
You know, Barnabas encouraged the teenager and Paul judged him because of his past mistake and his young age, and what kids need is less of our judgemental attitude and more of our forgiveness. Amen? Let's do that for our young people. Kids need a second chance. Be a Barnabas.
Remember that Paul had been Saul. You remember that? Saul went out and he was killing Christians. He was putting them in jail and he was going to these different towns and getting all the Christians and rounding them up. Do you know who saw promise in him? Do you know who saw that Saul had promise and could be a Christian leader? Barnabas. Barnabas did that for Paul but Paul couldn't do it for Barnabas's nephew. That's a shame. Barnabas the encourager gave Paul his start.
Let me tell you a story about a teacher. Helen Mrosia. She had an unruly boy in the third grade. His name was Mark and he was so bad, and teachers should never do this, but she took a piece of tape and put it right over his mouth. Have you ever wanted to do that with your kids. She did that with him. In the school. Teachers don't do that.
Years later, she was teaching ninth grade math and Mark again was in her classroom. And nobody was getting this new math, and finally Helen stopped the class. She said, “Just close your books. Nobody's getting this today. Just take out a sheet of blank paper. I want everybody to get a sheet of paper and write on that paper the name of each student in this room right now.” So they all did. They wrote the names down and then she said, “I want you, beside each name, to put something positive that you appreciate, that you respect, about that person.” So they all did, and whenever anybody finished they could leave the room and be dismissed. So they all wrote something nice about each other.
Well, what she did that weekend, she took all the papers home and collated them all and wrote out for each person all the positive comments about that person. And then on Monday, she gave the papers to each of the kids.
Well several years later, Mark died in Vietnam. He was in Vietnam and lost his life. And Mark's father came to the funeral, of course, and Mark's teacher Helen. Helen Mrosia came to the funeral and Mark's father had his son’s billfold, and he opened it up, and he pulled out a piece of paper that had been folded and worn and unfolded and read many, many times, and it was that note, that Helen had written out when she collated all those things that day. It was the list of all of the encouraging words from his classmates. And many of his classmates were there and they began opening their billfolds and they began opening their purses and they each had the note. And one student said, “I think we all kept our notes and we still have them with us to this day. We all saved our list.” The handwriting on the paper was faded and worn but the words of encouragement became invaluable to each person.
And we need to be encourager's, don't you think? Let's not criticize our wife or our husband. Don't criticize your teenager. Encourage people. You can't go wrong encouraging somebody.
History proved that Paul was wrong and that Barnabas was right, because later Paul himself asked the church in Colossians, in Colossians 4 verse 10, to welcome Mark. Please welcome Mark. He's good. And look at Paul's last recorded words. Come over here to Second Timothy in your Bible. Second Timothy, chapter 4. The last recorded words of Paul. And I want you to notice verse 11. Okay? Verse 11 says, “Luke is the only one still with me. Get Mark, and bring him,” bring Mark, “with you when you come because he can help me.” Praise the Lord. Paul needed Mark. Paul depended on Mark in his last days. His last words here, “Bring Mark.” Can you see that he completely forgave him? He was his friend now, and that's the mark of a true Christian. Paul changed. Paul knew he was wrong. The sweet power of Jesus had changed Paul's heart.
And John Mark. Who was John Mark? He’s the person who wrote the book of Mark here in the Bible. He wrote that book. We wouldn't have the book of Mark in the Bible if it wasn't for appreciation showed to a young man, and here he is, his name in the Bible.
You know, in Acts 15, verse 39. Well, come back to Acts 15 in your Bible. I keep a little bookmark here because we’re preaching through the book of Acts, and we’re going to cover several chapters. We did last year. We did the year before. We're going to make it through the book of Acts again, someday, maybe. But look at verse 39. It says, “Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus, but Paul took Silas and left and the believers in Antioch put Paul into the Lord's care.” Now Paul walked and Barnabas sailed. Verse 41. “And he went through Syria and through Cilicia giving strength to the churches.” After the dust had settled they were able to leave and go about doing the Lord's work. Both were obstinately dug in by their heels. They did not switch sides. God has such imperfect tools, but He used Paul, He used Barnabas. As a pastor, I see a lot of people that are in the process of refinement.
Notice in verse 40 what the warm church believers did. It says they put Paul in, they commended Paul and Silas. They put Paul into the Lord's care. How did they do that? I can just picture that church getting Paul and Silas and laying hands on them and praying for them. Whenever you part, make sure that you pray. Ron and Marilyn Vallieres went over to Cleveland this week, had a terrible wreck, totaled their car. You never know when you will be in a bad situation. You never know. So don't part without prayer. Your kids go out, have prayer for them. Somebody leaves and you part one from another, even for just a little while, have prayer. Pray for that. Prayer is powerful. You need heaven’s watch care over your life.
The last verse here of Acts 15. He went through Syria and Cilicia doing what? What was he doing? He was strengthening the churches. That's what he did. They were still committed to God's church. We don't read that Paul went off telling how stupid Barnabas was. That's not what we see here. Paul didn't nurse his misfortune. Paul did not become a bitter purveyor of theological garbage. Offshoots do. Paul didn't. Paul focused on preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we need to focus on the positive in our life. Not the negative. Your job description ought to be uplifting Jesus in your home, in your church, in your neighborhood and in your community and in your world. Everybody makes mistakes. Encourage those who mess up. Help them find strength.
And maybe you're like Paul. Maybe you made an unwise choice. Maybe you criticized somebody when you should have forgiven them. Does Heaven reject you? No. God looks on you to see the potential inside of you. Jesus wants to give you another chance. He wants to live in your heart. He really does.
We’re going to sing our closing hymn and as we sing this, it's called Live Out Thy Life Within Me. You're going to see pictures of Paul, or what we think Paul and Barnabas might have looked like, and young Mark, and you're going to see different pictures, and as you sing this I want you to be using this as a prayer to the Lord to live out His life, where? In you. So let's sing our closing hymn at this time.
Dear Father in heaven. How great it is that both Paul and Barnabas will be in Your kingdom. Both men made peace. Help us to make peace in our homes. In our job places. In our school environments. With our neighbors. May we be godly people. Saintly saints. Dismiss us with Jesus living out His life in our words, our actions, our thoughts. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Hymn of Praise: #243, King of Glory, King of Peace Scripture: Ephesians 4:25-27 Hymn of Response: #316, Live Out Thy Life Within Me
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 7/29/09