Sometimes partnerships come to an end. Those looking on at one before it finished may have imagined that it would never cease. Yet it did. At times, the cause is external, linked to outside pressures; at other times, the reason is internal, caused by the different priorities and attitudes of the partners.
Who would have imagined that Paul and Barnabas would cease to serve God together? Of course, God knew about it beforehand and was not taken by surprise when it happened. The devil, of course, may have been instrumental in stoking the embers that became a blazing flame of conflict.
The division arose in connection to the development of a good spiritual project, now called Paul’s Second Missionary Journey. Both Paul and Barnabas wanted to be involved in it. The division was caused by who to take with them as their helper, a minor role. Barnabas favoured his relative Mark, but Paul did not want him to come because he had failed to persevere on the first Missionary Journey.
No doubt, Barnabas would have wanted his relative to have another chance. Maybe in doing so he forgot that faithfulness is necessary in little things as well as in big things. Paul, however, must have thought that Mark at that stage gave no sign that his outlook had improved.
The outcome was a collapse in the partnership. It looks as if Barnabas did not get church sanction for his journey, so his departure for Cyprus may have been to go to his property there. He could have stayed on in Antioch and taught the church, but his attitude was not conducive for that to happen. Perhaps he later went round the churches in Cyprus and helped them. Eventually the separation was healed and Mark later became very helpful to Paul.
Meanwhile, Paul chose as his new partner Silas, who had proved himself earlier as a servant of the Jerusalem church. They did receive the approval of the church in Antioch for their journey, which indicates that the leadership there agreed with Paul’s assessment of Mark’s unsuitability at that time. It is worth noting that although Paul replaced Barnabas with Silas, he did not replace Mark with anyone at that time. There could not have been a suitable person available, a reminder that an unsuitable person is never a viable option in the Lord’s work.