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Multiplication by Division
Scripture: Acts 15:35-41; Galatians 2:1-5; Acts 15:...
Track 11 of 15 in the Paul: Grace & Strength Mixed Together series
Running time: 1 hour, 03 minutes, 11 seconds.
Our lesson today will focus on Gods way to do math. God gave Barnabas and Paul a great math formula to help win souls. In fact God taught them how to multiply by dividing. To be honest, that was not something I learned in school. But God has a way of teaching man many things by using opposite concepts.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Multiplication by Division

How many of you by nature are really good at math? How many really enjoy math and the challenges it posses? How many of you run for the hills when faced with math problems? How many liked problem solving math questions?

Our lesson today will focus on God’s way to do math. God gave Barnabas and Paul a great math formula to help win souls. In fact God taught them how to multiply by dividing. To be honest, that was not something I learned in school. But God has a way of teaching man many things by using opposite concepts.

In math, how does one multiply by dividing?

Acts 15:35-41 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord. Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia 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 left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Have you ever had the experience when you heard news about something, or someone, ran across a new fact or heard something come out of someone’s mouth that you never thought you would hear them say; that when you heard it you were totally taken by surprise? Examples?

There was a young news reporter who received the chance to interview Mother Theresa. His assignment was to provide a snapshot of her life’s work. At one point in the interview the reporter asked the saintly woman if she had any other dreams in life. Was there anything else she dreamed of doing? Without hesitation Mother Theresa responded, “Well, I always wanted to be a flight attendant.”

How many of you ever thought that being a flight attendant was Mother Theresa’s life dream? Does that surprise you? Can you see her doing that? For me, the picture doesn’t fit her.

Are there examples in your life that might surprise us if we knew something secret about you maybe someone hasn’t ask that revealing question about you to give us a surprising answer?

A young grand daughter was determined to find out how old her grandmother was. She asked but grandma just skirted the question. No one knew her exact age except her husband and even he wasn’t brave enough to spill the beans to anyone. As she was cooking supper she noticed that the house was quiet and her grand daughter was nowhere to be found. She walked upstairs to her room to discover her grand daughter had gotten into her purse and found her grandma’s birth date on her driver’s license. Grandma, you are 73. Yes dear, I am 73 years old. I am impressed that were able to figure out my age. As they were talking the little girl continued to scrutinize the driver’s license until a frown came across her face…and grandma, I see here you got an F in sex.

There are just things that happen that don’t match up with the times, a person’s character or what we have come to believe of someone. I have to imagine that grandma was quite surprised to hear the word sex come out of her granddaughter’s angelic mouth let a lone know what sex was at her age. The same can be true about Paul. There is the understanding and perception many have about Paul that he was a saintly man and when something out of his character happens, we step back and assume that what we just read or heard had to be out of context.

From the passage we just read, what can you tell me about Paul and Barnabas? What kind of men were they and did they really deep down not like each other? Is it healthy, is it okay for two close individuals to fight and split up especially over another Christian worker?

One of the things I really love about the Bible is its raw realism. God doesn’t paint pretty pictures of his greatest heroes. God exposes all the good and bad for us to read. Each hero had his or her strengths but along side of that each had their flaws. In some cases the flaws were severe causing many problems not only for the hero, but often for the innocent and the nation as well.

What weaknesses did the Bible lay open for all to see concerning: Moses, David, Jonah, Jacob, Abraham, Peter, John the Baptist, Thomas, James and John?

We shouldn’t be surprised that even the great Barnabas and Paul had their problems and when pressured or tested, they too came to blows over a disagreement. What is interesting about this event in Acts 15, it follows a similar situation concerning how to handle disagreements.

Paul and Barnabas finished their first missionary journey and then were summoned to Jerusalem to handle some concerns over what Paul and Barnabas preached. Paul and Barnabas had a lot to share on how the Gospel was preached and how many came to accept Jesus.

Galatians 2:1-5 Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.

Acts 15:1-2, 5 Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.”

With calm and cool minds, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and testimony from Paul and Barnabas, the church together handled the sharp dispute concerning circumcision and its relationship to salvation and acceptance of the Gentiles. The Church grew in unity and brothers from Jerusalem, along with Paul and Barnabas went back to Antioch with instructions concerning the question to the share with the Christians there. This was a great example on how disputes needed to be handled.

Right after that is when Paul and Barnabas had their dispute over John Mark which ended in what seemed to be a complete falling out, so much in that Paul and Barnabas had to go their separate ways. Personally, what I read here is somewhat a relief. God revealed this example to us to remind us that ever though these great men were good men, Godly men. But it is essential to remember that they were not perfect. They too made mistakes and didn’t al the time act in the manner of Jesus.

What was surprising to Paul about Barnabas concerning Mark? It must have hit Paul across the chin to think Barnabas would include a proven loser, a defector. What must have been surprising to Barnabas about Paul concerning Mark? Barnabas must have been deeply disappointed in Paul (of all people) that he didn't have enough grace to forgive Mark and allow him to travel with them.

True or False: God reserves the right to use people who disagree with me.

So what happens when we find ourselves in situations when there are disagreements over direction, or methods in moving forward our ministries? What are the principles to remember?

1. In every disagreement there is one issue but several viewpoints: In the dispute between Paul and Barnabas, the issue was clearly stated. Firm principles surrounded the issue. The viewpoints on the other hand were more subjective because they involved personalities. You might see an issue one way, your spouse sees it totally different. Your kids might see it totally different than the both of you. It all depends on how we are put together. Viewpoints are subjective.

From what we know of Paul and Barnabas, how might their viewpoints be different in relationship with how they are wired?

2. In disagreements, each side has validity: With every issue, there are weaknesses and strengths but what was important with this issue, both viewpoints had strengths. Neither side had a slam-dunk concerning strengths.

3. In heated disagreements, someone usually gets hurt: The more intense the heat, the deeper the wounds. No one is immune to hurt no matter how mature in Christ you are. The longer the heat the greater chance for severe mistakes such as character assassination, name calling or hurling insults. The result is the inflicting of wounds that are slow to heal or some that never heal.

Acts 15 ends in a most remarkable way. Luke tells us:

Acts 15:39-41 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Paul chose Silas and departed. Barnabas took Mark and sailed away to Cyprus. Don’t miss the extreme significance here. God multiplied by dividing. Only He can do that. Check out the map and see what happened when two powerful preachers of the Gospel covered twice the amount of opportunities to win souls. Only God can take something that seemed so final, so much like a dead end and transform it into a powerful force for good.

What is the secret in handling and resolving conflicts or disagreements? Paul, in his own words gives us the secret. I wonder if he discovered this after his encounter with Barnabas?

Philippians 2:4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.