Questions From Readers
▪ Was the apostle Paul part of the Christian governing body?
It is reasonable to conclude that Paul was a part of the Christian governing body in the first century.
The Bible provides only limited detail about the composition of the early governing body, most of the information being in Acts chapter 15. That account indicates that in 49 C.E. the group of men forming the governing body consisted of “the apostles and older men in Jerusalem.” Who were these?—Acts 15:2, 4, 6.
James, the half brother of Jesus, presided at that meeting to discuss the question of whether Gentile converts to Christianity had to keep the Mosaic Law, including circumcision. The apostle Peter shared in that discussion. The account speaks of Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas as “leading men among the brothers,” but it does not specifically say that they were part of the governing body. (Acts 15:7, 13, 22) The point is that the Bible does not give a complete list of names of those making up the governing body. Some have felt that Paul might not have been included since he was a traveling missionary and since he brought the question from the congregation in Antioch of Syria.
It is true that Paul was not one of “the twelve” who had walked with Jesus, for Matthias had been selected to replace Judas Iscariot.* But neither was the disciple James, though he clearly was part of the governing body. (Acts 6:2; 1:15-26) Furthermore, Jesus appeared to Paul and designated him as ‘a chosen vessel to bear His name to the nations.’ Paul thus became “an apostle, neither from men nor through a man, but through Jesus Christ and God.” He called himself “an apostle to the nations.”—Acts 9:3-6, 15; Galatians 1:1; Romans 11:13; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:7, 8.
As further indication that Paul became part of the body of “apostles and older men” who directed the congregations, consider what he did under God’s power. Paul wrote 14 books of the Christian Greek Scriptures. Peter equates the writings of “our beloved brother Paul” with “the rest of the Scriptures.” (2 Peter 3:15, 16) Paul took a significant lead in spreading Christianity, and he offered an abundance of direction to congregations. His inspired writings show that Paul sometimes settled issues himself. That is as might be expected back then with one of the governing body who was far away from the central body and faced with slow means of communication. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 7:10, 17) But at other times he brought matters before the entire body, as the account in Acts 15 illustrates.
To Titus, “Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ,” wrote: “I left you in Crete, that you might correct the things that were defective and might make appointments of older men in city after city, as I gave you orders.” (Titus 1:1, 5) So while traveling, Paul certainly spoke for the central governing body.—Acts 16:4, 5.
So, even though his assignment from the Lord involved extensive travels and consequent absences from some meetings of the central governing body, the evidence of how he was used by God and Christ indicates that Paul was part of that body.
By this time also the apostle James had been killed.—Acts 12:2.