Stubbornness and Boldness (Tim Stanley)
Updated: May 21
Last week we looked at the book of Philemon as an example of the love Paul had for the church. This week I would like to focus on his stuborn hard head, and his boldness.
There is little doubt that Paul was strong willed. He had to be to endure the hardships of his journeys. Like other early church Christian's he continues preaching despite being beaten, stoned, jailed and more. But I wonder if he had a stubbornness of his own.
In Acts 15 we see a disagreement that he has with Barnabas. "Barnabas wanted to take John (also called Mark) along with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him because he had deserted them in Pamphilia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and ... went through Syria and Silicia." (verses 37 to 41).
We see earlier, in chapter 13:13 , where John-Mark splits off but we aren't told why. Was it the hardships of the travels that made Mark part ways? And why was this an issue to Paul? Whatever the issue was, it wasn't enough of an issue to Barnabas that he thought Mark shouldn't come. What could have been such an issue that couldn't be forgiven so that he could come with them? We dont know.
I do wonder if this was simply about two hard heads not giving up their preference for the other person. Is that ok to say about Paul, that he may have even been sinfully at fault here? Why not?
Paul was pretty great, but he wasn't Jesus.
Every Christian leader makes mistakes. We dont follow them as leaders because they are always perfect but simply because God has chosen them for a certain role and we respect God. From scripture we know that Peter, Barnabas, Paul, and many other leaders made mistakes. Don't you love the fact that the Holy Spirit saw it as important, that these mistakes be recorded in scripture for the rest of history? If it was purely up to the human authors, then would these mistakes be recorded? These mistakes are recorded for our benefit (and they show the authenticity of scripture as historical record). They are a blessing to us. Check this out, this is so cool - Luke writes the book of Acts and records this embarrassing squable between apostles and doesnt even tell us what happens with these friendships! Are they still friends!? Often, scripture isn't written how you might expect. And that's a good thing.
But we can rejoice. This isn't a concern to the integrity of scripture because the amazing thing is - that it's not just written by human authors. The Holy Spirit is the editor and director. It's from other books that we see that the friendship was restored. In the same way that the Holy Spirit is directing the writing of scripture, He is also directing the cast. It's by the Holy Spirit's work that these friends reconcile. Its beautiful isn't it? With faulty actors, God works out a beautiful play.
We see at the end of the second letter to Timothy that Paul asks that Mark be sent to him because he is useful to him and that at the end of the letter to Philemon that Mark is mentioned by paul as one of a few who are "fellow workers" with him while he is in prison.
We also see that in 1 Corinthians 9:6 Paul argues that he and Barnabas are worthy of recieving the church's support for their work. The Holy Spirit is a redeemer of friendships. He is also a redeemer of mistakes. Think also about how when Paul and Barnabas parted ways, that there was then two teams on missions being sent out instead of one. You can bet that Holy Spirit didn't let the fight get in the way of His work.
It's a good theory that many propose, that Mark was a young man and had some growing up to do spiritually. Was it through the hard but true words given by Paul, and then the gentle encouragement from Barnabas that helped Mark in the best way to become mature? (Barnabas' name is actually Joseph. The church had given him the name Barnabas as a nickname that means "son of encouragement")
If Paul had some stubbornness or hard headedness to his personality then the Holy Spirit used it, turning it into perseverance and boldness for the gospel. This is the man who, with teeth and fists clenched tight, was dead-set on tearing apart the young christian church. God changed that. Jesus knocked him to the ground and the Holy Spirit picked him up and set him on an unbelievable journey of hardships to preach the Gospel and grow the Church. Covered in scars, facing trial, and eventually execution, Paul wasn't deterred from spreading the Gospel.
If Paul had a stubbornness or hard headedness to him then the Holy Spirit also redeemed it for the sake of his relationships. The Holy Spirit takes our varied personalities and uses them for the strength and growth of the church body. I'm sure Mark was thankful for both the personality of Barnabas and the personality of Paul, and thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit in all of them. Questions - When you think of the different personalities of those you share church with, are you thankful for them? Are you open to the work the Holy Spirit wants to do in using, correcting, refining and directing your personality?
How serious are you about telling people about Jesus who dont know him? Pray about it, because this is the #1 thing Jesus asks of us. Praise God for being a redeemer of friendships and the very good director through His church's messes.