Is Fact True Apostles Do Not Say Paul Is False Important?
The 12 did not spot Judas as a traitor in their midst. They are not portrayed as divine oracles during Jesus' ministry even though they healed the sick, and did other miracles. Other than Jesus promising after His ascension they would with inspiration remember His words, Jesus never told us the 11 surviving apostles, and Matthias, added as the 12th in Acts 1, would have constant prophetic / inspired insights.
In fact, Jesus in Matthew 24 warned the surviving 11 apostles that many will come in "my name" to deceive, if possible, the very elect. Jesus obviously meant to include them, giving them the criteria how to discern false Christs. Jesus did not reassure them that the Holy Spirit would speak privily to them the names & identity of false Christs & prophets to protect them, thereby excusing them from applying His warning-criteria.
Even if the 11 apostles were each prophets for the purpose of recalling Jesus' words during His ministry does not mean they are above being fooled later by others. They could even be fooled by holy men who are lying. This is specifically found in Scripture. In 1 Kings 13:1-32, a true prophet meets another previous true but older prophet. In the story, the true prophet was deceived by a lying prophesy of the older true prophet.
18 He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him.
Hence, merely because the young prophet was indeed an honest and true prophet did not give him perpetual discernment of another's credibility. He was duped by the lie of a valid prophet who nevertheless falsely told the young prophet that God told him (the older prophet) that the young prophet could stay and eat in the city when God had previously spoken differently. See our article on "False Prophecy Deceived Young Prophet." Hence, the 11 apostles, even though they were inspired to recount the words of Jesus in the gospels, were not living oracles with perpetual discernment. They can be fooled, just like the young prophet was fooled by the older prophet in 1 Kings 13:1-32.
Another example proving no such constant inspired discernment was enjoyed by the apostles post-Ascension of Jesus to heaven is the example in Acts 12:6-11. Peter encounters an angel of the Lord whom Peter does not perceive as a true angel during the entire rescue at this angel's hands from a prison. Only much later does Peter surmise (rather than being told privately by God) that this angel was from God. Listen to the exchange:
6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.” (Acts 12:6-11 NIV.)
Thus, Peter had no idea while these events took place that God was behind a true escape. After he saw the effects of the angel's activity, Peter said "now I know without a doubt" the Lord sent the helper-angel for real. Even in this, Peter clearly does not imply God told him this after-the-fact. Rather, Peter knew the effects were beneficial, and surmised it must be God's doing. Thus, Peter says "now I know without a doubt" rather than saying God informed "me this was His doing." Hence, Peter did not have constant discernment of every situation what the truth was about people or events. Peter was no better off than the young prophet deceived by the old prophet in 1 Kings 13:1-32, as we discuss elsewhere.
So when the 12 in Acts 15 treat Paul's testimony about his work before the Gentiles with seriousness, and never expressly are quoted doubting Paul was a 'brother,' this is read by some to be a confirmation of Paul. Here is an example of this contention:
If Paul were a phony, the "real" apostles, sanctioned by the Holy Spirit, surely would have noticed and done something about it. Instead, they recognized the legitimacy of his ministry and came to an agreement with him in Acts 15. Peter and James both defended the work Paul and Barnabas were performing in that chapter. Peter referred to Paul as "our beloved brother" in his second epistle. These are hardly the words and actions of men who believed that Paul was an impostor. (1/27/2009 Theology Web)
But the Bible is clear that the apostles had no more extraordinary knowledge constantly about others than you or me. Their only inspired function was recollecting Jesus' words as embodied in the apostolic gospels of Matthew and John. God allows false prophets to see whether we apply the Scriptural warnings (does he seduce you from following the Law given Moses? the test laid down in Deut. 13:1-5) to show our love for God. So God may deliberately not be communicating the 'quick' answer so the spiritual test which false prophets represent can operate as God intends -- to prove whether you love Him with your whole heart, mind and soul.
Thus, to infer Paul's acceptance in Acts 15 as a brother meant the Holy Spirit gave the seal of approval to the hearts of the Apostles about Paul is based upon an unfounded supposition that the 12 had constant access to inspiration. This assumption is not only without any evidence that each of the 12 had 100% total insight into anyone's spiritual position with God at all times, but also contrary to evidence such as Acts 12:6-11. Hence, because the premise is false in that Theology Web argument, it is wrong in its conclusion that the 12's presumed silence about Paul being false proves Paul is true in some important aspect.
Also, please note, in Acts 15, Paul in the Jerusalem conference where Paul testifies about the work of God among the Gentiles, Paul never claims to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, nor to be the Apostle to the Gentiles (Peter makes that claim about himself in Acts 15). Thus, the most the silence of the 12 implies is they accepted Paul's testimony as credible, and not that Paul was an apostle appointed by Jesus Christ on the same level with the 12.
Further, as noted above, one should not expect God would ever intervene directly to tell us by name who is a false prophet. This would destroy's God's purpose in allowing false prophets to come -- God allows them as a test of our faithfulness to God. See Deut 13:3 in NIV:
3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Such a test would be destroyed if God speaks directly to us, tapping us on the shoulder and saying: "this is a false prophet." Rather, God has always given Biblical criteria to apply to make this assessment whether someone is a false prophet.
In Deuteronomy 13:1-5, the test is whether the prophet with true signs and wonders "seduces you from following the path given you today" (i.e., the Law).
Jesus gave other tests -- such as does this someone claim to have met "me" in a desert place? (Matt 24:5, 24-27.) Why would Jesus give such warnings of false prophets other than to test our love for Him? There would be no test of the apostles, however, if God came to tell them specifically each false prophet as he presents himself was false. God was testing them.
Furthermore, the entire premise that the 12 were ultimately silent about Paul may be, as a matter of historical fact, untrue. In fact, in Jesus' Words Only, we believe Revelation 2 is Apostle John conveying that the apostles did support a trial of Paul at Ephesus (see Acts 19). However, in Revelation 2 John used oblique language for those with ears to hear. This makes us equally subject to the test whether we examine the evidence with a heart seeking to faithfully follow God rather than follow a false prophet. For more information on Revelation 2, see the book Jesus' Words Only (free online to read) for a systematic proof of this claim.
See also our article Was Paul A True Apostle of Jesus Christ?