Paul’s visit to Jerusalem
In Galatians 1:11 -2:10 Paul tells what happened to him after he first became a Christian. He ends the account by telling of a visit to Jerusalem.
Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. (Galatians 2:1-3)
Where does this visit fit into the record found in Acts? Some think it is a reference to Acts 15. After Paul and Barnabas had completed their first missionary trip some false teachers began teaching that only those who had been circumcised could be saved. An appeal was made to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem to settle the question. In Galatians Paul said he spoke privately to those in authority to make sure he was teaching the truth. In Acts both Paul and Peter spoke out publicly on the issue.
And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. (Acts 15:7-12)
It is clear that these are not records of the same event.
Some have suggested that the visit was the one recorded in Acts 11:27-30:
Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
This fits the description in that Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem but the purpose was to deliver money for relief from the famine, not to determine how accurate Paul’s teaching was.
It seems to me that this was the most likely time for Barnabas and Paul to have made their visit.
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul,and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. (Acts 11:19-26)
A church had been established at Antioch and the apostles sent Barnabas to teach the new believers. He went to Tarsus to find Paul and recruit him to help him. Naturally the apostles would want to make sure that Paul’s teaching was accurate. Even though there is no mention of a visit to Jerusalem this is the most likely time for such a visit to take place.