By Mike Dawson
Interim Pastor, Santa Fe Baptist Church, Santa Fe
Focal Passage: Acts 15:36-41; 16:1-5
One of the most important ‘words’ in the Bible never actually appears in the Bible! The word is relationships. The Bible is all about relationships; yet the word itself has come into our vocabulary since Scripture was written. Terms like ‘one another,’ and ‘households,’ and ‘friends,’ and ‘neighbors’ are found again and again in God’s Word.
It’s obvious that relationships — with fellow believers, with outsiders, even with enemies, and of course with our Lord Jesus Christ — are Scriptural, and are vital to our well-being and very life. Three specific relationships and three questions arise out of our focal passage, Acts 15:36-41; 16:1-5.
Acts 15:36 — Old friends: “How are they getting along?” Apparently that was the question in Paul’s mind. He was thinking back over the first missionary journey that he and Barnabas had recently completed, and was wondering how things were with those who had come to Christ. The Apostle Paul did not let his passion for going where Christ was not known keep him from going “where we have preached.” Are there some ‘old’ friends you need to check up on, some past relationships that need renewing, some believers you shared Christ with who might need strengthening? Why not start today?
Acts 15:37-41 — Current friends: “How are we getting along?” This is an intriguing Bible incident. Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement — Luke calls it a “sharp contention” between them. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark on this return trip, and Paul didn’t. John Mark had turned back (for some unstated reason) during the previous journey, and Barnabas wanted to give him a second chance. But Paul must have thought it was too risky. Have you ever had a disagreement with a fellow church member? With a family member? I heard a husband say that he and his wife had never had an argument. “At times we’ve had some intense fellowship,” he said, “but never an argument!” Have you had some “intense fellowship” with a family member, a friend, or a fellow believer?
What Paul and Silas did is a good clue about how to handle such situations. They agreed to disagree. They didn’t allow it to stop the missionary enterprise. In fact, the separation led to a strengthening, a doubling of the missions work! And later, Paul reaffirmed John Mark, saying he was “useful to me in the ministry” (II Timothy 4:11). Ask God to heal any “intense fellowship” you may have with a fellow member, turning it into something to strengthen the kingdom!
Acts 16:1-5 — A new friend: “How is he/she going to get along?” Paul now partnered in ministry with Timothy. Timothy may have been led to Christ through Paul’s witness; but he certainly got started toward salvation by the godly influence of his grandmother and mother (II Timothy 1:5).
He was someone with obvious great potential that Paul recognized. Paul took some very unusual steps to see that Timothy would be well received by all. Is there someone new to the faith or to your church who needs your partnership or friendship to become more effective in sharing the gospel? Seek him or her out today; the newcomer, like Timothy, could help strengthen our churches and increase our numbers!