Acts 15:36-41        NIV

Acts 15:36-41        NIV

April 02, 2021 – Friday

Acts 15:36-41        NIV

36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 

37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 

38 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. 

39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 

40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 

41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.


My title for this sharp disagreement would be The Altercation.  A number of Bible versions that often insert titles have none here or simply have Paul and Barnabas Separate. The most unusual was the TLV (Tree of Life Version) with the title New Teams Strengthen Communities. The J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS) had what I consider the most accurate title, Paul and Barnabas Flatly Disagree, But The Work Prospers. The NIV also had a fairly accurate title Disagreement Between Paul and Barnabas.

You may be wondering what the big deal is or if this is a big deal at all. I think it is as verse 39 says They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted companyHere you may see most versions say sharp disagreement or disagreement so sharp or sharp contention or contention so sharp. Then there were some showing just how serious this disagreement or contention was with stronger wording: a heated argument between them TPT, Their difference of opinion was so heated VOICE, They argued so much NLV, had such a serious argument NCV, they so stirred, that they departed asunder GNV, had a big argument about this ERV, and Their argument became so intense CEB among others.

The Greek word used for this sharp disagreement is paroxysmos from which our word paroxysm comes. The Pulpit commentary believes Luke used the word paroxysmos in its common medical sense, when a disease of some standing takes a turn for the worse, comes to a height, and breaks out into its severest form. This is the sense in which our English word “paroxysm” is used. Thus, the Pulpit Commentary continues, The meaning of the passage will then be that, after a good deal of uncomfortable feeling and discussion, the difference between Paul and Barnabas, instead of cooling down, broke out into such an acute form that Barnabas went off to Cyprus with Mark.

This shows that even those normally of one mind can come into sharp disagreement, that they are indeed human with human flaws. Who was right and who was wrong in this sharp disagreement? Different commentaries will often take the side of one or the other. Perhaps neither was correct, but their future actions show they did not stay focused on this sharp disagreement. Instead, they both continued sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Luke maintained his focus on Paul’s missionary efforts while Barnabas efforts were no longer noted within Acts. The good news was Paul’s mention of Barnabas in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 9:6), showed any rift between them had ended sometime prior.

Bottom line: As Christians we can disagree, sometimes passionately, but we should nonetheless remain focused on God’s word and the work He had laid out before us.  We should let God heal any rifts between us as time goes on.

Prayer: Father God, please help me to minimize sharp disagreements with my brothers and sisters in Christ whenever possible.  And not to let such disagreements distract me from the work you have set before me. Help me to be generous in healing any disagreements that do arise. – In Jesus Name. Amen. 

RileyD, nwJ
Riley D. Driver – Pastor
Calvary Chapel of Dayton
PS: This came about as a result of Bible Study Thursday evening ably led by Pastor Luke Stephens when we looked at Acts 15:36-Acts 16:10 and I was fascinated by the sharp disagreement.