Greetings to the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, angels and saints in Christ. I need to write about this elder because he played an important role in Paul’s ministry. Paul met him when he got to Derbe and Lystra, implying that Timothy was a traveller and well known to the believers. Acts: 1-2 describes him as “a certain disciple…named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek.” He was “was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16: 3). The brethren at Iconium also knew of his character. This means that Timothy must have been ministering, perhaps in three or more cities. He had a good reputation in the ministry and Paul inducted him as a member of his team (Acts 16: 3). Paul’s actions speak volumes about Timothy, because Paul was a man who would have sought the Lord’s counsel on the issue. I know that Paul was able to discern the condition of the human spirit based on his experience with John Mark and based on his letter to the Corinthians (1Cor 2: 15a).

JOHN MARK

Why mention John Mark here? Since I am making the point that Paul was able to discern the condition of the human spirit, I must. John Mark was a Jew who lived in Jerusalem. Following his miraculous escape from prison, Peter went to his mother Mary’s house, which was the place where the disciples were praying for him. The writer of the book of Luke was careful to tell us that this was not John the beloved, but John Mark (Acts 12: 12). Paul and Barnabas brought him along with them to Antioch after they had met him in Jerusalem. What were they doing in Jerusalem? The church in Antioch had commissioned them to take supplies to the Jewish brethren after Prophet Agabus had prophesied about the famine that the Jewish believers would encounter (Acts 11: 27-30; 12: 25). On their return from Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit revealed that Paul and Barnabas were to be released from the pastoral ministry and were to go forth to the ministry to which they had been called (Acts 13: 1-4). They took John Mark along with them in the role of Junior Minister (Acts 13: 5). John Mark was supposed to take care of their daily needs so that they could attend to the work of the ministry. John Mark, however, left them and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13: 13) and this must have left Paul and Barnabas at a serious disadvantage. They continued on the preaching assignment, however, then returned to Antioch on its completion, remaining a long time with the brethren (Acts 14: 26-28). Following Paul and Barnabas’ return to Antioch, certain men came down from Judea and taught the gentiles the doctrine of circumcision which Paul and Barnabas rejected vehemently (Acts 15: 1-4). In the sequence of events which followed, Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem to resolve the issue with the apostles, elders and brethren. Prophets/Elders Judas and Silas accompanied them on their return, if you recollect, in order to deliver the solution to the gentiles. It seemed that somehow John Mark must have returned back with the delegation, perhaps with Barnabas’ approval, because he suddenly reappeared in Acts 15: 36 – 41. Following their return, Paul and Barnabas continued to teach and preach the word with the assistance of other believers (Acts 15). Soon after, Paul asked Barnabas to accompany him to visit the believers in the other cities to “see how they do” (Acts 15: 36).

JOHN MARK BECAME A SOURCE OF CONTENTION BETWEEN PAUL AND BARNABAS

Paul and Barnabas usually travelled with other ministers who would labor with them in the word and doctrine. This is a prestigious position, because who would not like to be affiliated with the General Overseers of the churches of the gentiles? In today’s church, these would be the assistants of the Juanita Bynums, Benny Hinns etc. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them, but Paul objected because John Mark, had “departed from them from (in) Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work” (Acts 15: 38). In other words, John Mark had gone off on his own business, leaving Paul and Barnabas to fend for themselves in the ministry, as we learnt in Acts 13: 13. I am beginning to wonder if John Mark had the stamina to endure the kind of ministry that Paul had to do. The only event that could have scared him off was the one in which Paul rebuked the sorcerer and caused him to go blind for obstructing the preaching of the gospel (Acts 13: 1-13). Paul did not think that John Mark was reliable and may have had information from the Lord that he did not let Barnabas know. It is not always a wise thing to tell your friends or ministry partners the reasons for your objections to other people. They will go back and tell them, then the conflict will intensify. Know what I am talking about? Jesus certainly did not tell all of the disciples about Judas’ spiritual condition and imminent betrayal. Only John the beloved knew. Acts 15: 39 says that the “contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other” (Acts 15: 39). Barnabas took John Mark and sailed to Cyprus, while Paul took Elder Silas with him and went “through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches” (Acts 15: 41).

WAS JOHN MARK WORTH IT/DID BARNABAS MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE?

Remember that I am trying to rationalize Paul’s actions in choosing a relatively young disciple (in age) as a member of his ministry team. No offense, Paul, but it is obvious that you were an excellent judge of human character and spirit because of the gift of discernment. For example, Acts 19: 22 shows that Paul so trusted Timothy, that he sent him (along with Erastus) to Macedonia on a ministry assignment. Furthermore, Timothy and Erastus ministered to him in the same manner that Joshua ministered to Moses, Elisha ministered to Elijah and Gehazi ministered to Elisha. This was really John Mark’s job, but Paul had lost all confidence in him. I am really trying to lay a ground work for ministers who ponder over the selection of junior and/or other ministers who would work closely with them in the ministry. Would you choose the John Marks or the Gehazis? Remember that John Mark was scared and that Gehazi was in it for the cash (2 Kings 5). Would you choose the faithful Silases, Timothys, Erastuses etc? How do you know which choice to make? Well I know for sure that Paul did everything by revelation and that is the same manner in which he selected the elders of the young gentile churches (Acts 14: 23). Do we think that he would have selected his junior minister and/or ministry assistant in any other manner?

I have been pondering on Barnabas’ decision for more than a week and have come to the conclusion that Paul was right and that Barnabas had made the wrong choice. Why do I say that? Well, Barnabas abruptly disappeared from the book of Acts after chapter 15. We hear no more of him or John Mark. What is the Holy Spirit saying to the church today? The Holy Ghost is saying that we must trust the man of God who has the revelation knowledge. Paul had already established his expertise in the area of spiritual revelation and was a trusted minister of the gospel. We can be wrong, yes, but we must know those who labor among us (including the leaders). While God can restore people who have fallen and who cause us to lose trust (did not Peter sink and betray the Lord later?) there must have been something about John Mark which Luke did not write into the book of Acts. He was certainly the straw (unworthy straw) that broke Barnabas’ back. Barnabas got unto a high horse and fell off. He was doing the work of the ministry, yes, but he needed to remain affiliated with Paul and was not supposed to work independently. He had gotten into a false sense of his importance and ability (maybe he felt he was the senior in the faith) and obviously felt that he could do without Paul.

In typical Vincentian style, I really must suck my teeth at Barnabas’ folly for not listening to the man of God who was tried and proven in the prophetic ministry. We know that Paul was well versed because it emerges in the letters to the believers although not in the book of Acts. Barnabas was well aware of the teachings that the gentiles had received from Paul, because Paul mentioned his name in the letter to the Corinthians and the Galatians (1 Cor 9: 6; Gal 2: 1). These books are replete on the issue of spiritual revelation. Heaven help the Barnabases in the church today. Please do not let your rising ministry take a nose dive for the sake of favoritism. Barnabas was blind to the Holy Spirit’s warning through Paul and lost the chance to end a wonderful ministry which had begun so beautifully. I say so because God chose Paul and not Barnabas. I do hope that I am being fair to Barnabas, but this is the only conclusion that I can come to. Blessings until next time!

Advertisements