Was either Paul or Barnabas wrong in their dissention and disagreement about John Mark?



1.      I believe Paul was wrong in his initial assessment of the ability and future of John Mark.

2.      The situation is described in Acts 15:36-41 which states, “And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. 37 And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. 38 But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. 39 And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; 40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.”

3.      Who is John Mark?  John Mark comes from a family of faithful people.

1)      Acts 12:12 states, “And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.”  This passage reveals that when Peter was in prison, some of the early church gathered together at the house of Mary to pray for his release and safety.  It seems from reading Acts 12:25 that John Mark was very excited when Peter was released from prison as a result of praying.  Both Paul and Barnabas agreed at that time to take John Mark to Antioch for further instruction.

2)      Paul might have thought that Barnabas was partial to John Mark because they were kin.  Colossians 4:10 states, “Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)” 

4.      He traveled with Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey as stated in Acts 13:5, “And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.  He evidently saw more than his immature Christian mind could bear, and left the missionary journey shortly after it had started, as stated in Acts 13:13, “Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.”  The reason for his leaving is unclear, but it seems the episode at Cyprus concerning Barjesus, a sorcerer, had left him visibly shaken, and unable to continue.  What happened at Cyprus was a far cry from the victorious episode in Acts 12.  Paul considered John Mark unstable, not just immature.  Barnabas evidently considered John Mark faithful, but needing maturity and a nurturing hand.

5.      Acts 15:36-41 describes how Paul chose Silas and went on the second missionary journey, while Barnabas chose John Mark and went on another missionary journey.  It has been argued that the missionary journey of Barnabas and John Mark was not of the Lord because there is no mention made of that trip.  I don’t think that is a valid argument, as there are many successful and God lead missionary trips, events, so forth, that are not recorded in the Bible.  Everything could not be included in scripture.

6.      Barnabas is the right person for helping others grow.

1)      Acts 9:27 records that Barnabas was the person that introduced Saul (Paul) to the church at Jerusalem when they wouldn’t accept him because of his past reputation. 

2)      Acts 11:22 records that the early church sent Barnabas to check on the folks and their work when they were scattered after the persecution concerning Stephen.  Barnabas traveled as far as Antioch, who when he saw the grace of God, and knowing the people there would need good instruction in the Word of God, went to Tarsus to get Paul to come help.

7.      II Timothy 4:11 records the thoughts of Paul toward the end of his ministry as he writes to Timothy from Rome, “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.”  I believe Mark in this passage is John Mark, whom Paul now believes is profitable, not only for the ministry, but also to him. 

8.      Philemon 1:23,24 records that Paul believed John Mark to be a fellow laborer in the truth.  “There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus; 24 Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.”

9.      I Peter 5:13 – “The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.”  Marcus is Mark, possibly John Mark, who has matured, and been accepted as faithful and a foundation for the early church.  This passage shows what Peter thought of John Mark.

10.  Somewhere along the line, though it is not mentioned in scripture, Paul and Barnabas are reconciled concerning John Mark.  In the end, they both consider John Mark profitable to the ministry.

11.  The lesson for us is that we need to be helpful to people, even when it seems they have failed.  We do not understand the end of anything, much less what God is going to do with people.  We do not need to be over judgmental, nor should we “cast our pearls before the swine.”  We need to let people have time and room to grow to spiritual maturity.  We must never forsake the truth for any person, never compromise the truth, but also teach – be a missionary.