36 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.”
37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark.
38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.
39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus;
40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.
41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
The events of Galatians 2:11-21 probably occurred between Acts 15:35 and 36.
Some have explained the contention [between Paul and Barnabas] by noting a possible spiritual decline in the change from the words: “the Holy Spirit said,” in 13:2, to the words: “Paul said,” in 15:36. It should be remembered, however, that in the former passage we have the Spirit’s original instruction to the church at Antioch to separate Paul and Barnabas for the work wherein they had now become engaged. Therefore we should not expect another such case, nor are we to suppose that the apostle is acting in the flesh every time we fail to find the words: “The Holy Spirit said.” Indeed, since the passing of the Pentecostal era believers should be very careful about saying: “The Spirit said” or, “The Spirit told me” or, “The Lord said to me,” unless they are referring to the written word of God. — Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, page 13.
It was Paul’s love for the people in the churches he started that prompted him to begin his second journey. The Spirit, as we will see, had more in mind for him that simply revisiting places he’d already been.
Paul and Barnabas’ contention may have resulted, in part, from Barnabas’ leaning toward the Judaizers (Galatians 2:13).
This wasn’t the end of Paul’s relationship with either Barnabas or Mark. He mentions Barnabas in 1 Corinthians 9:6 and Mark in Colossians 4:10 and 2 Timothy 4:11.
departed (v.38) — Paul considered Mark’s departure (Acts 13:13) a desertion.
contention (v.39) = paroxysm, exasperation
Cyprus (v.39) — Barnabas’ home. Nothing further is mentioned about his ministry in Acts.
Silas (v.40) — He was, like Paul, a Hebrew and a Roman citizen. He must have sided with Paul in his disputes with Peter and Barnabas.
went through (v.41) — with stops to minister, probably visiting churches he started before going to Antioch (Galatians 1:21) and clearing up the issue of circumcision for Gentiles.