Now that the Jewish kingdom church has written Paul’s new Gentile converts to say they didn’t have to keep the law, they “dismissed” the men they sent to deliver the letter (v.30). Once they read it, the Gentiles “rejoiced for the consolation” (v.31). “Consolation” can mean to relieve someone of suffering (cf.IICor.7:1). They were suffering after legalists told them they had to keep the law, and could only be consoled by “rightly dividing the word of truth” (IITim.2:15), because the law was in the word of truth—just not in the part to you!
Judas and Silas (v.32) were Jewish kingdom saints who “exhorted” them like James did, by saying they weren’t under the law, but should abstain from offending the Jews (v.20). They “confirmed” them with Old Testament truth. Barnabas did too (v.35). Paul confirmed them with grace.
Barnabas wanted to take Mark on Paul’s trip to confirm others (v.36,37) because he had experience as their gopher (13: 2,5). But Paul didn’t, because Mark left them in the lurch (13:13). As Mark’s uncle (Col.4:10), Barnabas was close enough to Mark to see signs he was maturing spiritually now that 7 years had passed. But the “sharp” contention between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39) proves believers are no longer filled with the Spirit in a way that empowers them to live “with one accord” (Acts 1:14; 2:1,46; 4:24; 5:12).
The Bible doesn’t say which man was right, because both could cite Scripture to back their position. Paul thought of Proverbs 25:19, and Barnabas thought of how God proved Himself a God of second chances with Jonah and Peter and others. Plus, Paul gave men responsibilities like gophering to see if they were faithful enough to be given more responsibility (Lu.16:10), and Mark proved himself unfaithful. So both men could cite Scripture, but even today good men differ over the Scriptures. That causes splits, but God works better in a lot of smaller ministries than in one great big one.
Barnabas took Mark home to Cyprus (Acts 4:36 cf. 15:39) to teach him how to be faithful by teaching him God’s Word.
Eventually, Mark must have proved himself to Paul enough to where the apostle felt comfortable telling others to “receive” him (Col.4:10). Mark must have made the most of that second chance, for Paul calls him a fellow-worker (Phile.1:23,24) “profitable for the ministry” (IITim.4:11).
We know God also gave Mark a second chance, for He allowed Mark to write a book of the Bible—one that presents Christ as the perfect servant! That means God will not only welcome you back with open arms if you’ve been unfaithful to Him, He can actually use what you learned while you were being unfaithful! What a great God we have!
This split worked out well for Silas too. In Acts 13, the Antioch church recommended Paul go forth with God’s grace (Acts 13:1-4), and now Silas was going with him instead of Barnabas (15:40,41)—probably as his gopher, since he was going in Mark’s stead. There’s no record Silas ever did any teaching while with Paul. He helped Paul with non-ministry things, as Luke did as the physician who traveled with him ministering to wounds inflicted by unbelievers.
Paul took Silas with him back to the churches that he and Barnabas started. Awkward! But it gave him a chance to explain the dispensational difference that had taken place since the days men were empowered to be of one accord.
If God’s given you a second chance, are you thankful enough to give one to others? If you will, God can use you to then give good advice to others, like the advice Paul gave Philemon. Philemon had an unprofitable slave who could be “profitable” to his master (Phile.1:10,11) if he’d just give him a second chance. If you’ll start looking at bad things that happen to you the way Paul was inviting Philemon to, as something God can make into something better than you had before (Phile.1:15,16), life will be a lot more enjoyable!
A video of this sermon is available on YouTube: “The Aftermath Of A Special Delivery Letter” Acts 15:30-41