Reflections on Scripture

by Wayne Bandy

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Reflections for July 28, 2016

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Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
Acts 13
Acts 14
Acts 15

The Outcome of Our Mistakes

A prominent individual shows up in Acts 13-15 by the name of John Mark. No, he wasn't prominent at the time, but he is known now as the writer of the gospel of Mark. He didn't seem so prominent at the time of his appearance in Acts, though. Chapter 13 tells of him assisting Paul and Barnabas in their missionary efforts. But then he abruptly left them when they arrived in Perga and returned home to Jerusalem.

While there are various ideas as to why John Mark abandoned Paul and Barnabas, we don't really know the reason. We do know from Paul's strong feelings toward Mark over this that he felt Mark showed lack of character and judgment in leaving them. In chapter 15 John Mark shows up again when Paul and Barnabas make plans to revisit the churches they had started. Something had changed for John Mark to return, but again we don't know the reason. Barnabas, however, felt he should be allowed to rejoin them, while Paul strongly disagreed, evidently feeling either that he was unworthy to accompany them in their ministry or that he would be a detriment to it, or both. So strong were the differences of opinion between Paul and Barnabas that they parted ways, Barnabas taking John Mark with him, and Paul taking Silas.

Was Barnabas foolish for taking the fickle John Mark with him or was Paul wrong for not giving him another chance? The answer may not be that clear cut. For one thing, John Mark may not have been fickle. He may have left the pair due to conviction as some suggest, stating that he disagreed with their position on salvation for the Gentiles based on faith alone. Should this be the case, John Mark had a change of heart.

Without declaring Barnabas right and Paul wrong, later circumstances show that God used these circumstances for good. John Mark became a man of strong faith eventually delivering to us the gospel bearing his name. Furthermore, splitting apart Paul and Barnabas into two teams rather than one proved also to be a good thing. Would they have ever split up without the dispute between them?

Was John Mark wrong for leaving Paul and Barnabas or Paul and Barnabas wrong for having such a divisive dispute? It really doesn't matter. Despite the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, none of us will avoid making mistakes. What matters is what we do following those mistakes.

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