Call to Apostleship
11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
13 For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. 14 And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
Contacts at Jerusalem
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter,[a] and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.)
21 Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. 23 But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God in me.
Much, if not all Paul is writing to the Galatians they already knew. He was emphatically reminding them of what should have been settled in their hearts. They had been convinced of Paul’s apostleship and his message.
Paul addressed them as brethren. These were Christians. They were born again by the Holy Spirit just as Paul and all Christians since Christ made salvation available to all who believe on Him.
Before we as believers begin to criticize the Galatians for questioning Paul and his gospel. Let’s remember that these young Christians in the faith were more dependent on Paul than we can imagine. This first generation of Christians had only the Old Testament Scriptures to study. The Jews who were converted had to overcome a lifetime of teaching that held them in bondage. The New Testament completion of the Bible wasn’t a reality. The letter to the Galatians was one of the first letters written in the years following Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
Paul continued, “the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man,” even the tense of the verb used demonstrated the permanent, unchanging Gospel of grace. The Gospel has no human origin, is not bound by human rules and standards, and no human character. This truth is why the Gospel — the salvation-by-grace-gospel — cannot be explained in human terms … cannot be fully understood by the human mind … and cannot be discounted based on human thought.
Paul asserted the Gospel came to him by a special revelation of Jesus Christ. (This term meant either the revelation was about Jesus Christ or the revelation was from Jesus Christ — both thoughts are consistent with the context.) This revelation enabled Paul to see that Christ was God’s Son and the only object of our faith and the source of unity for all believers Jew and gentile.
Although Paul’s witness and teaching of the Gospel was independent of the other apostles it agreed with theirs.
Next, Paul reminded the Galatians of his testimony:
- Paul was a Pharisee among Pharisees
- Paul was taught and believed a very strict ritualism that directly opposed the Gospel
- He was a leader in trying to stamp out the newly formed church and the Gospel itself
Prior to his conversion, Paul was a member of the majority in Israel. His faith was built on the works and ritual of the Jewish national religion. He knew nothing of the substitutionary atoning sacrifice of the true Jewish faith that pointed to Christ. In fact, Paul blazed a trail for others to follow in regard to his education, fierceness toward Christians and zeal to affirm the apostate Judaism he was a part of.
In all this Paul is proving to the Galatians that he would not have accepted the Gospel from human hands. Jesus was the giver of life, revelation, and teaching; only He could’ve reached Paul.
In verse 15, the phrase “separated me from my mother’s womb” is used to illustrate how God’s plan to devote Paul to His ministry happened before he was born. This idea is seen elsewhere in Scripture including Samson (Judges 16:17), and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15). God had marked out Paul for apostleship before birth, still further illustrated his independence from the other 12 apostles of Christ. Paul’s conversion and commission to preach the Gospel to the gentiles came directly from God and was affected in no way by any human efforts.
After his conversion, Paul went into Arabia to be alone with God and to think. Everything he had built in his Pharisee mind was in ruins. The three years spent in Arabia gave God time to teach Paul from the Old Testament Scriptures the true Gospel with Jesus as the foundation.
After three years Paul went to Jerusalem to visit Peter. He spent 15 days in the city and got to meet James, the Lord’s half brother. While in the temple during this visit he received a vision from Jesus telling him that his message would not be accepted by the Jews in the city. His mission was to the gentiles.
Chapter one of Galatians comes to a close with Paul ministering in Syria. The believers in Judea do not know him well enough to recognize who he was. They only knew that a man who had persecuted the church now preached the Gospel he tried to destroy and God was given the glory.