Acts 14-15
(Divisiveness and Reconciliation)
November 17th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

“So why are you now trying to out-god God, loading these new believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too? Don’t we believe that we are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us just as he did those from beyond our nation? So what are we arguing about?”

- Acts 15:10:11 (MSG)

Summary of Chapters

These two chapters bridge the gap between Paul’s first missionary journey and his second. In between these journeys he participated in the Council of Jerusalem that makes an important declaration on the definition of Christianity.

Chapter 14 begins with Paul and Barnabas in Iconium, where they were having another successful mission – many in their audience became believers. This success angered the non-believers who began a plot to stone the evangelists, so Paul and Barnabas left and went to Lystra and Derbe.

In Lystra, Paul healed a crippled man. When he saw that the man had faith he said, “Stand up on your feet! (Acts 14:10 - NIV).” The man was immediately healed. This healing led to two reactions: One group began to praise Paul and Barnabas as if they were the gods Hermes and Zeus come to earth. The humble men tried to explain their position and the power of the one true God. The other extreme reaction came from a group who was so angry that they resorted to stoning. Then the people “dragged (Paul’s) body out of town, thinking he was dead (Acts 14:19 - NIV).” Paul revived himself and went back into town to preach.

Later Paul and Barnabas appointed elders at each of the churches that had risen up and encouraged the people there.

Chapter 15 records the debate leading to the Council of Jerusalem and describes the outcome. The central point of the debate was faith vs. works and external appearances (i.e. circumcision). Paul, Barnabas, and Peter testified regarding their work with the Gentiles and described the ways that the Holy Spirit had come upon the Gentiles – such as Cornelius, as described in chapter 10.

Peter said

    “God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

    - Acts 14:8-12 (NIV)

The Council agreed that salvation was for all people so they crafted a letter to be delivered to the churches by the team of Judas, Silas, Paul, and Barnabas. The message was received and all were encouraged.

The chapter ends with Paul preparing for his second missionary journey. However, he and Barnabas split up because Paul did not want to bring John Mark. Mark had deserted them during the first missionary journey (Acts 13:13), therefore Paul was not ready to give him a second chance.

Reflection and Application

These two chapters present a representative sample of the tendency of human cultures to split themselves apart. For example, in the towns that Paul and Barnabas went to their seemed to always be two strongly divided camps between the believers and non-believers.

But even in the church organization there was a great divide that threatened the future and growth of the institution. Paul provides additional details of this conflict in his letter to the Galatians as he attempts to convince the Galatians that faith alone is sufficient. Presumably, the events leading up to the letter and the letter itself occurred before a long-term resolution was established at the Council of Jerusalem.

Ironically, just after we read about the resolution of the great debate we read about the break-up of two long-term missionary partners. Paul and Barnabas had faced death together and travelled hundreds of miles, but could not reconcile on what to do about John Mark. Was Paul reasonable in refusing to allow John Mark to come? Who was right, him, Barnabas, or both? We may never figure that one out, but we can credit Barnabas for giving John Mark a second chance. Under this grace, Mark prospered and eventually was the first to produce a Gospel book describing the life of Jesus.

When we have a colleague who has appeared to fail we might ask ourselves if he or she could be another Mark. If we give him or her a second chance, will they fail us again or prosper? These are decisions that are worthy of a consultation with the source of all wisdom, who has seen this pattern over and over. Bring it to him in prayer and then decide.

"The Reconciliation Song", performed by The Promise Keepers

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. In what situation have you had success in facilitating a reconciliation?
    2. What do we need to do to have faith?
    3. Who in your life deserves a second chance?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know reconciliation is always part of your plan. Help us to reconcile with each other.

    Prayer Concern
    People who deserve a second chance

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Acts 16-17 (Guided by the Spirit)

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