Why did Paul go to Jerusalem in Acts 15? Would not the Holy Spirit have guided them in answer to their question? Another great question that was turned in by one of YOU. Let’s take a few lines to consider this excellent question. Will you study it with me?
It is certainly true that Jesus promised the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles into ALL truth! Notice John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. And, John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. There should be no question in anyone’s mind whether or not the apostles (including Paul) knew every single thing that they needed to know to do the work of spreading the saving message. Jesus’ words make that perfectly clear.
So then, there must have been some other reason that a meeting took place in Acts 15. Let’s read it… Acts 15:1-2 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. (2) When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. Luke informs us here that certain Judaizing teachers were causing problems (dissension and disputation). They were seeking to bind parts of the Law of Moses upon Gentiles. Let us not for one moment think that Paul was confused about this matter or that he needed consultation with others before he could give his answer to these false teachers! Listen to what Paul wrote: Galatians 1:11-12 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. (12) For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. The truth of the gospel was revealed to Paul by Jesus Christ and he had the exact same authority and guidance that the other apostles did.
Back to Acts 15.1-2. Let’s ask the question: What word is the antecedent for the word THEY in verse 2? Who was it that determined that such a meeting was needed? Grammatically, it could be: PAUL AND BARNABAS. But contextually, that does not make sense because of the phrase: AND CERTAIN OTHER OF THEM. It seems the antecedent has to be THE BRETHREN of verse 1. Paul and Barnabas were quite willing to defend their position in Jerusalem or anywhere else. It was the brethren who were beginning to be influenced by the false teaching of the Judaizers. They needed some confirmation that the position of Paul was the true position.
Those false teachers had attacked the authority of Paul and Paul was thus forced to defend his apostolic authority. That is what he does in 2 Corinthians and Galatians. The thing that came out of the meeting of Acts 15 was recognition that Paul’s position was true and a letter was sent out to the Gentile churches (Acts 15.20). Paul had the SIGNS of an apostle (2 Cor 12.12) and none of the Gentile Christians ever should have questioned Paul’s teaching, but evidently some were in that sad state. Not only was the Judaizing doctrine a problem among the Gentiles, there were many Christians of a Jewish background who also were having difficulty with that particular doctrinal discussion. The doctrine was always WRONG and the Jerusalem meeting simply was one means of getting that message firmly presented among all brethren.
Paul went to Jerusalem for the meeting of Acts 15 because he loved the souls of men—he wanted that question to be answered once and for all, if possible.