Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.)
Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God in me.
Paul continues with his life story, but right in the middle of this is a comment with interesting implications. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.
Paul is describing his relative isolation, but incidentally implies, most certainly, that James is an apostle. That brings the total to fourteen (including Paul). Remember, the apostles replaced Judas with Matthias because they thought the number had to be twelve.
“Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. … And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles. — Acts 1:21–23, 26
But they were wrong; the number doesn’t have to be twelve. Including Paul and James shows that the apostles eventually recognized this.
This raises an important point—the apostles weren’t infallible. Of course, it doesn’t matter much that the apostles were wrong in thinking that there had to be exactly twelve of them. That number isn’t important. Still, it sets the stage for a number of debates where the apostles didn’t all agree (e.g., circumcision).
It’s scripture that’s infallible, not the apostles.
This has practical applications in our lives. The study of Christianity includes trying to comprehend the incomprehensible. That should humble us. Our understanding of any issue is simple-minded, if not downright wrong.
Everybody is wrong sometimes. As an inventor, I can tell you from personal experience that being wrong is the secret to inventing. You have to love being wrong. If your first idea works, then the invention is too easy to be patentable. If it doesn’t work, that’s when the fun starts. The key is to not be discouraged.
A lifetime of studying God leads to recognizing how limited our understanding of Him is.
You don’t have to love being wrong, but you have to be comfortable with it. It’s the key to growth.