It is certainly clear that the position of James in the Church of Christ is Jerusalem was approved by all the members of the college of apostles. His function WAS distinctly a part of the Jerusalem church of the first century. That all those who visited Jerusalem were subject to his position has already been related and verified by references in God’s Holy Word. Often, the question of whether this could have been an office in every place where the Church was very large and was composed of several congregations where evangelist, elders, and deacons served the Lord is answered biblically in prophecy and practice.
Jerusalem had a special place in the development of the Church of Christ of the first century. Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:1-2 both teach “the law would go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” It is soundly accepted by all who have studied the New Testament that every doctrine or practice had to first begin in Jerusalem!! The reason for Paul, Barnabas, and Peter returning to Jerusalem was to settle a question about which there was disagreement among the apostles of the Lord. It was Christ Himself that predicted, determined beforehand, and implemented HOW this situation would be resolved. “Verily I say unto you, ‘whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:18-20
In the first century Paul and Peter had a dispute over fellowshipping with Gentile Christians who had not been physically circumcised (see Galatians 2, the whole chapter). Paul writes: “I went up by revelation”. The word ‘revelation’ used here is the Greek word apokalupsis which is defined as revelation, uncovering, unveiling, disclosure. Paul, Barnabas, and Titus went back to Jerusalem by divine command!
Saul’s persecution and Stephen’s stoning caused some Greek-speaking Jews, who had come from the Dispersion to Palestine, to flee. They scattered to the island of Cyprus and along the eastern coastline up to Antioch, the cosmopolitan capital of the Roman province of Syria. Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire, surpassed in population only by Rome and Alexandria, Egypt. These heard the gospel, were baptized into Christ and preached the gospel to the Gentiles in the synagogues of Antioch. So profound was the success of their preaching to these Gentiles, the church in Jerusalem, hearing about their obedience to the gospel, sent Barnabas, who was born in Cyprus, to preach to them. Barnabas then went to Tarsus and persuaded Saul (Paul) to join him. Acts 4:36,-37; 9:27; 11:19-26.
About A.D. 44, Agabus came to Antioch and foretold of a great famine in various parts of the Roman Empire. The Antioch church resolved to gather an offering for the poor saints in Palestine. Paul, Barnabas, and Titus were sent to Jerusalem with the offering. While in Jerusalem, Paul met with Peter, John, and James who Paul writes were “pillars” (leaders) of the Jerusalem church. No one demanded Titus to be physically circumcised! While these six brethren discussed the work of the Church, Paul tells us that some, who were Christians, sneaked into the meeting and tried to embarrass Paul for not having Titus circumcised. Their efforts failed and Peter, John, and James gave Paul and Barnabas the “right hand of fellowship” recognizing Christ had sent Paul to preach to the Gentiles as He had Peter to the Jews, called “the circumcision”.