Very frequently in Christian circles, when divisions arise, we hear discussion of how Paul and Barnabas separated within their work. I have, in fact, used this very same discussion point in my work as there have been points along the way that it was obvious that the disagreement about how to proceed would run deep enough that it would prevent us from effectively working together as we move ahead.

In fact, that is what happened between Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas wanted to take along John Mark on their second missionary jouney, but when he had gone on the first trip, Mark had left them as they had arrived at Pergamum, just a little way into their trip, so it seems that Paul didn’t trust him and didn’t want him to go. That created a significant disagreement between Paul and Barabas, so they separated.

But I don’t think that it meant that they stayed separated forever. Paul and Barnabas had a significant and deep relationship. Barnabas had come to Paul when he needed to be introduced to the Apostles in Jerusalem. He came to Paul when the church needed additional teaching in Antioch. He traveled with Paul as a faithful companion on his first missionary trip. Barnabas was a great friend to Paul who seemed to deeply believe in him, and I don’t believe that they had simply separated and that was that.

In fact, if we look now on into 1 Corinthians, we can see evidence that their relationship had changed. Paul was now in his third trip, many years later staying at Ephesus, and was corresponding with the Corinthians when he is talking about the rights of an apostle to make a living from the Gospel when he directly refers to Barnabas:

This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?

1 Corinthians 9:3-6

Instead of receiving his living from the Gospel, Paul decided, it seems now in conjunction with Barnabas, to live based on working in addition to their preaching. In fact, this is how Paul had lived while he was in Corinth, at least initially. The book of Acts says that he made tents with Priscilla and Aquila, at least until Silas and Timothy arrived, presumably carrying funds provided by the churches in Macedonia, because we see that Paul had then returned to preaching and teaching full-time.

But the most interesting part to me here is that Paul seems to be indicating that Barnabas is either there with him now in Ephesus, or that he is aware of how Barnabas is working. How? Because Paul knows, all of these years later after they had separated at the beginning of Paul’s second trip, that Barnabas had also been working to make a living while he was also preaching and teaching.

In other words, and to get to the more important point, the split that we saw between Paul and Barnabas in the book of Acts wasn’t the end of the story. Instead, they continued on working together. They continued to be familiar with one another and worked together. Just because it wasn’t mentioned again in the book of Acts doesn’t mean that their relationship didn’t continue, and that is what this seems to indicate. Instead of a permanent split, it seems that Paul and Barnabas reconciled and continued to work together for the sake of the Gospel.

To me, this means that there is a season for everything. There are moments when we have disagreements. But there are also moments when we have reconciliation. We can separate but we can also come back together. We shouldn’t go on being hard-hearted, but instead we should determine how to place the Gospel at the front and in the first priority for the sake of the Kingdom.

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