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Old 08-03-2008, 04:49 PM   #1
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Default Reconciling Barnabas

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Barnabas was used by the Lord to bring Saul, who became Paul, into the ministry (Acts 9:26-27; 11:22-26). Furthermore, in Acts 13 Barnabas’s name was mentioned first when the list of prophets and teachers in Antioch was recorded and when the Spirit set Barnabas and Saul apart for the work. Shortly after they went out, the matter of capacity arose. At the beginning of the journey, Barnabas was always mentioned first (vv. 2, 7); then Paul’s name began to be mentioned first (vv. 9, 13, 16, 46, 50). Paul’s name was mentioned first because his capacity to meet the need at that time was greater than Barnabas’s, and he eventually became the leading speaker (14:12). Paul began to take the lead on their journey because he had a greater capacity. Barnabas did not have the capacity that Paul had. Later, Paul wrote fourteen Epistles. Who could speak as much, as deeply, or as high as Paul spoke? Of all the writers of the New Testament, Paul was the only one to use the term the Body of Christ. The other writers did not use this term or the term economy, because they did not have as great a capacity as Paul.

When Paul and Barnabas returned from their trip to Antioch, a big problem arose concerning circumcision, and the church in Antioch sent them to Jerusalem to fellowship so that the problem could be solved (Acts 15:1-3). After the problem of circumcision was solved and they returned from Jerusalem to Antioch, they wanted to make another journey (v. 36). At this juncture Barnabas wanted to bring his cousin, John Mark (v. 37; Col. 4:10), on the journey. But Paul would not agree to bring Mark along, because Mark had left Barnabas and Paul in a negative way on their first ministry journey (Acts 13:13 and note 1). Barnabas’s desire that Mark go with them was simply according to his own feeling. As a result, Barnabas and Paul separated from each other (15:39). From that point on, even though Barnabas might have gone out to visit the churches, his ministry was finished as far as the holy record in Acts is concerned.

According to my understanding, the problem between Paul and Barnabas consisted mainly of two points. First, Barnabas might have had some hidden unhappiness within him, because he took the lead at the beginning and later Paul began to take the lead since Barnabas had a smaller capacity. This was not an easy matter to overcome. If Barnabas had been happy about this development, that would have been a great mercy to Barnabas. Second, according to the record in Acts 15, Barnabas did not keep a proper principle in taking John Mark with him. Apparently, he did this only because of his own personal feeling concerning his cousin. This violated the spiritual principle. Barnabas should have submitted to Paul’s way of not taking John Mark in order to allow Mark to learn the lesson. Instead of submitting to Paul, Barnabas took his own way, and this resulted in a separation between him and Paul. Paul had a greater capacity than Barnabas, and because of this, he eventually was the one to take the lead in the ministry.

Witness Lee - The Present Turmoil in the Lord’s Recovery and the Direction of the Lord’s Move Today

I've been studying Witness Lee's concept of New Testament rebellion quite much recently but it is hard to find even a verse to support such a concept. However, my study has opened my eyes to at least one thing that I was previously misinformed about, which is even cited in the above excerpt.

Witness Lee frequently made the assertion that since Barnabas isn't mentioned again after Acts 15, this is proof that Barnabas was someone who had made a mistake before the Lord in his ministry. Lee, always uplifting Paul above all the other New Testament authors, blames Barnabas for the contention about John-Mark in Acts 15. Lee does this by imagining that Barnabas is plagued by secret unhappiness that Paul had a greater "capacity." Lee also imagines that since Paul was moving to the lead in the effort to the Gentiles, he also therefore had the authority to command that Barnabas do this or that as an underling.

Only, these things are not in the Bible. These are just Witness Lee's own religious considerations superimposed onto the text. Paul, as it turns out, while clearly a great and essential gift to the Body, was still only a brother in the Lord. I'm not sure where the consideration ever came from that he never made any mistakes, as if he were a pope.

The better reading is that Paul, the once-top Pharisee who circumcised Timothy, freely distributed to all the localities copies of Jerusalem's edict against eating strangled things, and who would still submit to take the Nazarite vow, was himself too religious in a number of ways. According to his unwillingness to forgive John-Mark's lack of boldness at one point in the past, Paul in fact is the one who instigated the "sharp contention" between himself and Barnabas when Barnabas was willing to take John-Mark with them on their journey to visit the assemblies. How could it be a "sharp contention" unless Paul were strongly insisting to forbid John-Mark to come along? Where is there a verse to support Lee's concept of Paul's authority to command Barnabas not to bring him? Where could we get a hint in the Bible itself of Barnabas' supposed unhappiness with Paul? Lee theorized that Barnabas was unhappy, but the Bible, to the contrary, actually indicates that Paul was unhappy about Barnabas.

I think it's clear that Lee was simply just too religious himself to understand how Paul's religious background became a damage which eventually even led to all the assemblies in Asia leaving him. Not to say that Asia was correct in leaving Paul entirely, but Lee was simply mentally unable to comprehend that such a thing might have justifiably occurred. For years, in so many printed publications, Lee publicly decried the fact that his teachings on "The New Way" weren't working out the way he expected, yet he somehow never got any insight that it was at least in part a consequence of those teachings themselves. Rather than ever considering that a simultaneous worldwide negative response to his teaching had anything to do with his teaching, Lee simply concludes that all the world is wrong and he is the victim of the lies and opposition of co-conspirators. To justify himself, Lee imagines scenarios about rebellions and defections and conspiracies in the New Testament and then applies the lessons which he himself wrote to his own situation. A perfect fit!

Paul just should have never picked this fight with Barnabas over John-Mark. There really was no benefit to that contention whatsoever and the testimony of the book of Acts was that Paul had not forgiven John-Mark for previous behavior and caused a division with Barnabas over it. Admittedly, none of us was there to see all the details but it seems clear enough based upon the testimony of Scripture that Paul's failure to maintain the oneness with Barnabas, over something that was obviously not an essential point of the faith, was Paul's error.

Lee's interpretation of Paul's behavior here, not coincidentally, allowed him to repeatedly discard dissenting co-workers with impunity throughout the years whenever he felt the need, and we have learned that there were many examples of this sort of behavior in Lee's background. Lee's departure from the fellowship with T. Austin Sparks, according to his own testimony about what happened there, is one of the saddest and clearest examples of this error being repeated, which had frankly been repeated endlessly among the Brethren before them. Eventually, at the start of "The New Way" teachings in 1984, Lee blamed a visit from T. Austin Sparks for the entire situation of deadness and decay in Taiwan for all of the previous 30 years!

I praise the Lord that I am not in the Local Church today. For freedom Christ has set me free! Based upon what you can read in Lee's published ministry, the situation among them continued to decline after the initiation of "The New Way" and the denomination which has risen up in the wake of Lee's death has taken some additional disturbing turns since then. As Lee did before, the LSM leadership today is always trying to find a scapegoat for their own shortcomings and inadequacies.

It's really kind of pathetic.

Or what was the word Lee always used?

Pitiful.
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Old 08-04-2008, 10:43 AM   #2
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I do not doubt that others before and since Lee have considered Barnabas as some sort of problem that got written out of the NT after that first journey with Paul. But since leaving the LC, I have never heard those kinds of sentiments. In fact, Barnabas is generally spoken of in a strictly positive light.

Also, while the reference is not altogether clear, Paul mentions Barnabas in 1 Cor 9:6. Unless he is talking about another Barnabas (otherwise not stated), is it not sufficient that this is written at some time after Paul’s second journey which did not include Barnabas? Since Barnabas was not on that journey (and according to Lee now written out of the NT ministry), why would Paul mention him, and in a manner that was aligned/parallel with himself, unless they (the Corinthians) had knowledge of him and also Paul was not adverse to him. Surely if there was something incorrect in the person of Barnabas, Paul would not have spoken of him as a teacher with similar constraints to himself as part of an appeal to the sensibilities of the Corinthians.

I think Lee’s teaching on this point is part of a fishing expedition for an excuse to cut off those who decide on a different direction than his “ministry” which is later described as the “ministry of the age.”
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Old 08-04-2008, 12:54 PM   #3
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Lee interpreted this episode in a self serving manner i.e. the implication is that he is "Paul" and anyone who disagrees with his directives and direction in the "work" will be out of the flow, the stream of God's move. Therefore his coworkers would be afraid to have disagreements and disputes with him lest they be cut out of the history of what God is doing on the earth. In short it was another instrument of control. Does anyone really believe that Paul thought this at the time? I don't.

Not to mention historically it is inaccurate. Peter and John were not mentioned in the latter part of Acts. Were they cut off from the NT ministry? Not hardly.

Who really controls God's work in the body? Christ the head does. Not Paul nor Peter nor John nor Mark nor Barnabas and...no not even Witness Lee!
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Old 08-04-2008, 01:03 PM   #4
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I think Lee’s teaching on this point is part of a fishing expedition for an excuse to cut off those who decide on a different direction than his “ministry” which is later described as the “ministry of the age.”
In Toronto we have been covering the book of Acts on the Lord's day. The speaking on Barnabas, I cannot see it on the website http://churchintoronto.org/Video.htm (hopefully there soon, we are having technical difficulties), and probably spoken by brother Nigel was very refreshing.

In a nutshell, Barnabas had a different portion than Paul. He looked after Mark during Mark's probable hard time following the dispute with Paul. Much later Mark went on to write the gospel of Mark. If Barnabas had not taken care of the young Mark when he did, we might not have the second gospel as we know it.

It was a refreshing angle after hearing for so long that Barnabas was written out of the NT because he did not go along with Paul, who was the so called single flow that was carrying God's move at that time.

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Old 08-04-2008, 01:21 PM   #5
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In a nutshell, Barnabas had a different portion than Paul. He looked after Mark during Mark's probable hard time following the dispute with Paul. Much later Mark went on to write the gospel of Mark. If Barnabas had not taken care of the young Mark when he did, we might not have the second gospel as we know it.
Great point, brother Steve. Let's not also forget the tremendous role Barnabas had in bringing "that hated and feared Saul" into the ministry, which has blessed all God's people for centuries. Barnabas also forfeited his right to marriage in order to serve the Lord well pleasingly.

Oh, how I hate narrowism!

There was a series of articles by Frank Lin a few years back about Barnabas and printed in Cleveland's Fellowship Journal. They completely refuted from the scripture the exclusive views about Barnabas which were promulgated by WL in that infamous Elders' Training of Feb 1986.

I understand that Frank Lin (full timer in Taipei) was quarantined for his beliefs.
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Old 08-04-2008, 01:39 PM   #6
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AndPeter I think Nigel must have plagiarized his Barnabas talk from me!
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Old 08-04-2008, 04:11 PM   #7
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Dear Brothers,

I appreciate the analysis of this bogus teaching. This error is tragic. I could never except it and never repeated it in any setting. Unfortunately, I never foresaw where this error would lead until it was way way too late. I originally took it as one of the non-essentials to overlook in order to guard the oneness of the Spirit. By 1986 it had become one of the pillars of the so called "the Recovery."

It is good that we continue to discuss this line. Thank you dear brothers.

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Old 08-04-2008, 06:37 PM   #8
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Not to mention historically it is inaccurate. Peter and John were not mentioned in the latter part of Acts. Were they cut off from the NT ministry? Not hardly.
Excellent point djohnson. This exact thought I had in mind earlier today. Is there a common belief of where Paul wrote his epistles from? I considered that Peter, John, Barnabas, and among others were in different places from Paul in Asia Minor carrying out the Ministry of Christ. There were still members of the Ministry, but not the subject of Paul's epistles.

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Old 08-06-2008, 12:29 AM   #9
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In a nutshell, Barnabas had a different portion than Paul. He looked after Mark during Mark's probable hard time following the dispute with Paul. Much later Mark went on to write the gospel of Mark. If Barnabas had not taken care of the young Mark when he did, we might not have the second gospel as we know it.
Yes, it was his portion, he was "the son of encouragement", as his name shows.
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Old 08-06-2008, 03:07 AM   #10
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Excellent point djohnson. This exact thought I had in mind earlier today. Is there a common belief of where Paul wrote his epistles from? I considered that Peter, John, Barnabas, and among others were in different places from Paul in Asia Minor carrying out the Ministry of Christ. There were still members of the Ministry, but not the subject of Paul's epistles.

Terry
Oh, do you mean the "succession" of ministers in the book of Acts, from Peter to Paul, is not irrefutable evidence for the concept of the "one unique minister of the age?"


What about all those messages on recovery church history which we heard about Luther ... Guyon ... Zinzendorf ... Darby ... Nee ... Lee ... We?


Not only did WL's distorted sense of church history attempt to discredit Barnabas, Apollos, and John-Mark, and all the rest of "the twelve," but also every servant of God throughout church history. I bought into his "succession" completely, that is until I read Brethren history and I learned the "dirty little secret" about the way JNDarby treated other godly men of God.

What a shock it was to me when I learned that Darby's brutal mistreatment of George Muller and BWNewton exactly paralleled WL's own mistreatment of John Ingalls and others, over all the same reasons!
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Old 08-06-2008, 03:29 AM   #11
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Not only did WL's distorted sense of church history attempt to discredit Barnabas, Apollos, and John-Mark, and all the rest of "the twelve," but also every servant of God throughout church history. I bought into his "succession" completely, that is until I read Brethren history and I learned the "dirty little secret" about the way JNDarby treated other godly men of God.

What a shock it was to me when I learned that Darby's brutal mistreatment of George Muller and BWNewton exactly paralleled WL's own mistreatment of John Ingalls and others, over all the same reasons!
You know, looking into these issues has ironically been an encouragement for me to be able realize that there's still hope for me if God could even use His problem children.
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Old 03-28-2013, 09:29 PM   #12
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Great point, brother Steve. Let's not also forget the tremendous role Barnabas had in bringing "that hated and feared Saul" into the ministry, which has blessed all God's people for centuries. Barnabas also forfeited his right to marriage in order to serve the Lord well pleasingly.
Exactly who was Barnabas?

"Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet." Acts 4:36-37

While known as Saul, he was the chief persecutor of Christians. Following Saul's conversion, many Christians probably that it to be a ruse. In Acts 9:26-27,
"When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. "

I have heard it suggested when Barnabas and Paul parted was due to John-Mark, since Barnabus was no longer mentioned, Barnabus was no longer used by God. Can you believe that?

I suggest this, quite possibly Barnabus and Paul did not cross paths again. Perhaps partly due to Paul's imprisonment. Rather Barnabus' time with John-Mark was to shepherd John-Mark so he might be a useful brother as we see later on in Paul's epistles.

"Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas’s cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him);" Colossians 4:10

"Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service." 2 Timothy 4:11

"as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers." Philemon 1:24
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Old 03-28-2013, 09:50 PM   #13
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Am I going to far to suggest Barnabus being from Cyprus and Paul being from Tarsus as Hellenistic Jews were more ideal culturally to go out into Asia Minor and Greece than it was for their Hebrew brethren?
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Old 03-29-2013, 12:28 PM   #14
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Concerning Lee's teaching that Barnabas lost his usefulness in "The Work" after his dispute with Paul in Acts 15 over taking Mark, this verse in I Corinthians 9.6 completely debunked that teaching ...
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Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?
In that notorious elders training of Feb 1986, Lee taught that after Barnabas disagreed with Paul, that he was finished in the work, and that he was never mentioned again in the Bible.

Here Paul purposely debunks that notion, writing about Barnabas perhaps 10 years afterwards to Corinth. He also confirms a positive regard towards Barnabas. He links himself with Barnabas as being under much criticism, probably from the Judaizers. He states that Barnabas was still serving the Lord, living by faith just as he was.

Of those 400 plus brothers at the elders' training who signed that declaration of loyalty to Lee, was there not a single brother brave enough to stand up and speak this verse in rebuttal?
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Old 04-17-2013, 05:32 PM   #15
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Concerning Lee's teaching that Barnabas lost his usefulness in "The Work" after his dispute with Paul in Acts 15 over taking Mark, this verse in I Corinthians 9.6 completely debunked that teaching ...In that notorious elders training of Feb 1986, Lee taught that after Barnabas disagreed with Paul, that he was finished in the work, and that he was never mentioned again in the Bible.

Here Paul purposely debunks that notion, writing about Barnabas perhaps 10 years afterwards to Corinth. He also confirms a positive regard towards Barnabas. He links himself with Barnabas as being under much criticism, probably from the Judaizers. He states that Barnabas was still serving the Lord, living by faith just as he was.

Of those 400 plus brothers at the elders' training who signed that declaration of loyalty to Lee, was there not a single brother brave enough to stand up and speak this verse in rebuttal?
Ironically I had listened to a portion of that elders conference last weekend.

In regard to Barnabas and Paul, they were distributed with different gifts. If you are speaking from the concept of a ministry going out, perhaps Barnabas was not that brother. In today's context a brother like Barnabas may not be beneficial to a work. Where a brother like Barnabas benefits the Body is laboring on one who most would consider to be unprofitable to spend time on. I consider Barnabas as a type of the shepherd in Matthew 18 who leaves the 99 to go after the one.
Barnabas' time with John Mark must have perfected him. As later on Paul considered Mark to be useful. Who is to say the Gospel of Mark doesn't happen without Barnabas ministering Christ to Mark?
As I paraphrase another brother "who is right? who is wrong? Barnabas and Paul labored together. History tries to judge Paul must be right. Barnabas must be wrong. God does not judge this way. When we come to the judgment seat, we may hold a different view of Barnabas."
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Old 04-17-2013, 06:59 PM   #16
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As I paraphrase another brother "who is right? who is wrong? Barnabas and Paul labored together. History tries to judge Paul must be right. Barnabas must be wrong. God does not judge this way. When we come to the judgment seat, we may hold a different view of Barnabas."
The book of Acts, written by the beloved physician Luke, records some of Paul's history. That's it folks! That is how the Spirit inspired him to write. Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement, a "sharp contention, so that they separated from each other," and parted ways for their 2nd journey. Luke actually assigns no blame to either man. Probably Luke was not even there, and later joined Paul in Troas.

Years ago I had a Christian friend on campus who was from India. He told me of the history of the church in their country, identifying Thomas as the apostle who first brought the gospel to them. When I heard this story I was filled with praise to the Lord. Firstly, that God could use such a "doubting Thomas" to bring the gospel to a distant land. Secondly, that the move of the Spirit was never restricted to Paul as we were taught by Lee. Thirdly, that Thomas is still honored today among succeeding generations as a "lasting fruit."

Lee's teachings about Barnabas were loaded with extra-biblical and incorrect innuendo, inference, and implication to his own followers. Note that Benson Philips and Ray Graver were able to capitalize on this teaching and coerce 400 plus leaders to sign that pledge of allegiance to Lee. Lee had successfully made Barnabas into the Recovery "bogey man" for all to fear lest they too have their record "stricken" from the heavenly account. This is just one more case in which a simple reading of the scriptures should have dispelled Lee's teaching, but as with everything in the Recovery, Lee could supposedly "see things no one else could."
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