Paul’s Experiences (Part 2)
Gal. 1:16b -24
We continue to see the experiences of the Apostle Paul. Now we will look at the events after his conversion.
Illustration1: Apostle Paul
Paul saw himself as Christ’s herald. When he describes himself as an appointed preacher of the gospel (2 Tim. 1:11), the noun he uses means a herald, a person who makes public announcements on another’s behalf. When he declares “we preach Christ crucified,” the verb he uses denotes the herald’s appointed activity of blazoning abroad what he has been told to make known. When Paul speaks of “my preaching” and “our preaching” and lays it down that after the world’s wisdom had rendered the world ignorant of God “it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe,” the noun he uses doesn’t mean the activity of announcing, but the thing
announced, the proclamation itself, the message declared.
Paul, in his own estimation, was not a philosopher, not a moralist, not one of the world’s wise men, but simply Christ’s herald. His royal master had given him a message to proclaim; his whole business
was to deliver that message with exact and studious faithfulness, adding nothing, altering nothing, and omitting nothing. And he was to deliver it not as another of people’s bright ideas, needing to be
beautified with the cosmetics and high heels of fashionable learning in order to make people look at it, but as a word from God spoken in Christ’s name, carrying Christ’s authority and authenticated in
the hearers by the convincing power of Christ’s Spirit (1 Cor. 2:1–5).
Your Father Loves You by James Packer, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986, page for May 21
I. Paul went to Arabia. (Gal. 1:15-16)
A. Paul had emphasized that he did not receive his message from men before or at the time of his conversion. Now he affirmed that he was free from human influences afterward as well. Though Paul met other Christians after his conversion he did not consult them on doctrine. If he had been uncertain about the gospel, he could readily have gone to Jerusalem for a seminar with the apostles, but he did not.
Rather he went immediately into Arabia. It is doubtful that he went there to evangelize but rather to be away from men and alone with the Lord for personal study, meditation, and to receive further revelation. This zealous student of the Law now pondered the meaning of his conversion and looked for the things concerning Christ in the Old Testament (Lk. 24:27). The product of these days in Arabia was the
Christian theology that Paul explained in his epistle to the Romans.
B. Arabia was a large peninsula, consisting of Arabia Petraea, including Petra and peninsula of Sinai, the Syrian desert, between the Jordan Valley and the Euphrates; Arabia Felix, the south; bounded east, south, and west by the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean and Red Sea; and north by the Fertile Crescent.
C. The point of Paul’s declaration is clear. He formed his theology not by consulting with others, but independently as he sought God’s guidance.
Illustration 2: Theodore Epp
Theodore Epp, founder of Back to the Bible radio ministry, realized something was wrong when he stopped receiving critical mail. Convicted that he was not challenging the flock enough, he changed
his preaching. “I’m afraid that when I’m pleasing everybody, I’m not pleasing the Lord,” he later said, “and pleasing the Lord is what counts.”
This is not to suggest that a pastor is only successful when he is upsetting people! But he must be certain that he is first and foremost faithful to the One he serves. He is fulfilling a divine commission
when he preaches. Just as an ambassador is entrusted not with his own message but with his superior’s message, so the minister is entrusted with the Word of God. Before it is delivered, therefore, every message should be laid at the foot of His throne with one questions: “Is it faithful to You, my Lord?” Or as one German pastor would always pray in the pulpit, “Cause my mind to fear
my heart means what I say.”
The Body, Charles W. Colson, 1992, Word Publishing, p. 121
II. He went to Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18-20)
A. “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem…” (Gal. 1:18). Not all the three years were spent in Arabia. “Three years” means one full year, and parts of two other years; a round number to cover the period from his departure from Jerusalem for Damascus to his return to Jerusalem.
B. “To see Peter… abode with him fifteen days.” (Gal. 1:18) The purpose of Paul in going to Jerusalem was to get acquainted with Peter. He probably had never met Peter before. He spent two weeks visiting with Peter and “James the Lord’s brother” (verse 19), leaders in the Jerusalem church. The entire group of Apostles was not
with Paul on this visit. If Paul was converted in A. D. 37, this visit was between 38- 40 A. D.
C. “This James the Lord’s brother.” (Gal. 1:19) This is the half-brother of Jesus, not James the brother of John the apostle. He is named in Acts 12:17; 15:13; 22:18. He was not one of the Twelve, but rose to great dignity and influence in the Jerusalem church. He is called an “apostle.” Paul is showing his independence of and equality
the twelve in answer to the attacks of the Judaizers.
D. To stress the truth of what he had just said – no doubt in the face of a Judaizer’s charge that he had misrepresented his relationship to the apostles – Paul put himself on oath, calling God to be his witness that he was telling the truth.
III. Syria and Cilicia (Gal. 1:21)
A. “Afterwards I came… regions of Syria and Cilicia.” (Gal. 1:21) This statement agrees with the record in Acts 9:30. The churches of Judea did not know Paul personally.
They “were only hearing from time to time” about Paul’s conversion and they kept on “glorifying God” for the work Paul was doing (verses 22- 24). That Paul was busy planting churches in Syria and Cilicia at this time we conclude from the fact that we find churches in existence soon after. (Acts 15:41).
IV. Judea (Gal. 1:22-24)
A. The churches in Judea by this time had almost forgotten Paul. The only report they had recently heard was that this one who had once persecuted the church was now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. This would of course include the doctrine of justification by faith apart from circumcision or works. And in the face of this report the Judean believers praised God because of Paul. This was a telling blow to the false teachers. The Jewish Christians in Judea rejoiced in the same gospel the Judaizers sought to undermine.
Indeed, Paul was truly a converted man. The message he is proclaiming came from nonother but from the Lord Jesus Christ. Will you believe his message? will you repent also and receive Christ as your personal Saviour?