To say that Paul is an apostle because he saw Jesus is invalid. When the scripture says that Peter was talking about those that were with them throughout Jesus' ministry. Paul was called by God to the apostolic office. This overrules Peter's statement because Paul never accompanied them and was not chosen by the other apostles. He may have come across them in the years of persecution, but he did not follow Jesus as they did. Was Peter wrong about who was qualified to be an apostle?
Only thirteen men are identified as being apostles in the New Testament. They are the original twelve apostles, except for Judas, plus the addition of Matthias and Paul. Acts 1:21-22 gives us the qualifications that Matthias had to satisfy. Therefore, what qualifications did the apostle Paul have to satisfy? Some claim that Paul did not have to satisfy Peter’s qualifications and, therefore, Peter was wrong in Acts 1:21-22.
Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us — beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us — one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” Acts 1:21-22 (NASB)
The question that this article addresses is was Peter wrong?
Meaning of “Accompanied Us All the Time”
In Acts 1:21-22 the apostle Peter gives us the qualifications of an apostle. He says that an apostle must have “accompanied us all the time” the Lord Jesus went in and out among us. But what does the phrase “accompanied us all the time” mean? Does the phrase mean that all of the apostles had to have been together all the time throughout Jesus’ ministry: from His baptism to His resurrection? If not, then we have a serious problem because then none of the apostles would have qualified, including Peter.
Why would none of the apostles qualify? Because the apostles were not together all of the time with Christ. what follows are some examples. Scripture does not give us proof that they were together all of the time starting with Christ’s baptism, because it does not tell us they were. Now if we want to assume that they were together, then should we assume the same for Paul?
1) Baptism of Jesus – Scripture does not record any of the disciples as having been with Jesus when He was baptized. Therefore, we cannot verify that any of the apostles were with Jesus when He was baptized (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23). Is it possible that Paul saw Jesus being baptized since some Pharisees were present?
2) Temptation of Jesus – Scripture does not record that any of the disciples were with Jesus when He was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). The strong implication of Scripture is that none of the apostles, including Paul saw this.
3) Calling of the Disciples – In fact, all of the disciples were not together until sometime after Christ’s baptism and His temptation in the wilderness. Check out Luke 3:21-22 which tells us that Jesus was baptized and Luke 3:23 says that immediately He began His ministry. Then Luke 4:1-13 teaches us that He was then tempted in the wilderness. Next, Luke 5:1 1-11, 27-39 describes the calling of some of the disciples and Luke 6:12-19 describes the choosing of the twelve disciples. Luke skips a calling described in John 1:35-51. On that occasion, Jesus called Peter, James, John, Andrew and Philip. Matthew was not called until later in Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32. The rest of the twelve were called later (Mark 3:7-19; Luke 6:12-16). Check out a harmony of the gospels such as the Life of Christ or A Harmony of the Gospels by Thomas & Gundry to discover the timeline of events.
4) Rejection In Nazareth – The initial group of disciples (Peter, James, John, Andrew and Philip) followed Christ to Cana of Galilee (John 2:2, 11), to the woman at the well in Samaria (John 4:27) and the record does not show they were with Him when He went to Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30). But since Christ visited four of the disciples later at the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:13-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 4:31a) and then again according to Luke 5:1-11, it demonstrates that they had left Him when He went to Nazareth. For more information read the study, “The Third Call Of The Disciples.”
5) The Transfiguration– The gospels clearly teach that Peter, John and James were alone with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 16:28-17:13; Mark 9:1-13; Luke 9:28-36). That is, all of the disciples were not together at a very significant event.
6) Other Events – Only Peter and John were at the crucifixion because all of the other disciples fled when Christ was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Many more examples can be given where the Scriptures do not indicate all the disciples were present with Jesus.
It is also an error to claim that the phrase “accompanied us all the time” means that all twelve of the apostles were together when they were with Christ. All that is needed is one example and it is provided by the absence of Thomas who was not with the other disciples when Jesus visited after His resurrection (John 20:24). Thomas did not see Jesus until another occasion (John 20:26-29).
In summary, it is an error to push the phrase “accompanied us all the time” to mean something it does not mean. The message of the gospels is that the disciples were eyewitnesses to Christ and His ministry. They were not with Him all the time, every minute, every hour or every day, such as when He prayed alone (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 9:18; John 6:15-17). They were not always together with Him. We do not know if all the disciples traveled together all the time because Scripture never tells us. Scripture is silent at times and does not cover every event in Christ’s life. The events described in the gospels do not describe all that Jesus did during those three years. In fact, all of the gospels focus on the last week of Christ’s life. Half the gospel of John (chapters 12-21) are about the last week of Christ’s life and the forty days afterward. Therefore, we cannot know if the disciples were with Jesus during every day and month He ministered during those three years. Since we cannot answer the question, we do not how much time or how many days the disciples were with Jesus. Also, we do not know if Paul saw Christ during those three years since Scripture is so silent. This helps us understand what Peter meant by the phrase “accompanied us all the time.” The disciples were not literally with Jesus twenty four hours of every day all of the time and the disciples were not together all of the time. Peter’s statement was a general statement that the twelve were witnesses of His baptism before they became His disciples, and were witnesses during Christ’s ministry. Since Paul was a Pharisee and the gospels indicate that the Pharisees were with Jesus during most of His ministry, including His baptism, the critics have to prove that Paul was not there. But that is impossible!
Did Paul Accompany Jesus Too?
Now that we understand the meaning of “accompanied us all the time” we can seek to understand if Paul was an eyewitness of Christ. First, it is very possible that Paul was an eyewitness to many if not most of the events in Christ’s life. Acts 22:3 tells us that Paul was born in Tarsus of Cilicia and then raised in Jerusalem as a child (Acts 22:3). He was a student of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), who lived in Jerusalem. Given Paul’s zeal for the Law and his opposition to Christ, he may have observed Jesus in action a great many times. In Acts 26:26 Paul informed Herod Agrippa that Jesus did not perform His ministry “in a corner.” That suggests that Paul could have been and most likely was an eyewitness. Maybe the strongest statement Paul made that reveals he was an eyewitness is found in 2 Corinthians 5:16.
Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh . . . 2 Corinthians 5:16 (NASB)
We know that Christ visited the temple at the beginning of His ministry (Malachi 3:1-2; John 2:14). Is it possible that Paul was at the temple when Christ visited? We know Paul was a Pharisee and he said in Philippians 3:5-6 that he was blameless in regards to the Law. Every good Pharisee was regularly at the temple. Matthew 3:1-10 teaches us that the Pharisees were at the baptism of Christ. Was Paul among those Pharisees? The gospels record that almost every time Jesus taught or performed a miracle, some Pharisees were present. They frequently argued with Him about theology and their view that He had violated the Mosaic Law. We know the Pharisees were present at the crucifixion and death of Christ. It is easy to say that Paul did not accompany Christ or the disciples. But how do we prove it when there is evidence that Paul could very easily have been an eyewitness?
Finally, it is a serious error to claim that Peter was wrong or made a mistake since he was an apostle and Christ’s lead apostle. It is a serious error to claim he made a mistake since we have no proof. We could just as easily claim that Paul was in error and lied to the other apostles that Christ had appointed him an apostle. It is dangerous to claim an apostle made a mistake since all Scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The apostles wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). It is a serious mistake to assume that Paul was not an eyewitness. Such a claim may seemingly help to justify someone’s claim that they are an apostle, but such a claim cannot be proven and it is not even marginally supported by Scripture. 1 Timothy 3:6 warns elders to not be filled with pride.
. . . and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. 1 Timothy 3:6 (NASB)
We do not have the authority to claim that Peter was wrong! There are no apostles today and that has been the claim of the church since the early church fathers.
Suggested Links:Does Ephesians 4:11 list other leaders in the church?
What is the role of an apostle today? – Who is an apostle?
How were the apostles chosen? — Do apostles exist today?
Were miracles and wonders signs of an apostle?
The Spirit’s Ministry – Tongues and Prophecy