In this chapter, we see Paul and Barnabas returning to Antioch after visiting and evangelizing several other cities around Turkey. The main theme is one of conflict regarding the teaching of some false teachers who had come from Jerusalem and how it was resolved.
We see two different conflicts; first a conflict in the church and the second a conflict between the two apostles.
The first conflict regarding doctrine – the basics of our faith. The false teachers, who were Jewish believers, were preaching that all believers should hold to the law from the Old Testament. This was eventually resolved by referring it to the church in Jerusalem.
How do we resolve such divisions amongst us as churches? We need to test all that we hear, by the word of scripture; no matter who has taught it. (1 Thess 5:20-21). We need to recognize that there are principles of our faith that are fixed and indisputable and then there are many aspects of scripture which are a matter of interpretation. This dispute in Antioch was over a principle of our faith, not of individual interpretation. If we believe a certain interpretation of a scripture (that is not a basic principle), it is not right to judge others as wrong, if they believe differently.
The second dispute in this chapter, between Paul and Barnabas, was quite severe but it is only over a matter of opinion. Despite this, the Lord blessed both Paul and Barnabas as they went their separate ways and ministered in different places.
How do we behave when we have disagreements with fellow believers?