These chapters give us Paul's so called three missionary journeys.
- The first journey starts with Paul and Barnabas in Cyprus and the south-central part of modern day Turkey. It's on this journey that Paul starts going by Paul, probably his Roman name.
- There's some great conflict resolution in these chapters. Mark goes home in the middle of the first missionary journey for whatever reason. Paul and Barnabas later get into it over taking Mark on a second journey.
- But there is something deeper going on. Acts 15 doesn't tell us about Paul calling Peter a hypocrite at Antioch and Barnabas siding with Peter. Acts 15 tells us about James' concession that Gentiles can be saved without converting to Judaism, but it doesn't tell us about the debate over how Jew and Gentile believer might eat together. I don't think Paul and James agreed on this one... ever.
- The second missionary journey brings Paul into Greece. He spends 2 years at Corinth and writes 1 and 2 Thessalonians from there.
- The third missionary journey involves 3 years at Ephesus, and Paul writes 1 Corinthians, maybe Galatians, maybe more.
My personal take-away:
- I once heard someone who had been part of a church split say not to spend too long in Christian disagreement. If you cannot resolve your differences fairly quickly, agree to disagree and multiply the kingdom. This is what Paul and Barnabas in effect do. They agree to disagree and go their separate ways... and the kingdom is better for it.