Galatians 1:15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,
16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.
20 Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.
21 Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;
22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:
23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
24 And they glorified God in me.
God’s work must be done God’s way. There is no room for scheming and scamming. Paul wrote that “when it pleased God.” Paul was not born a saint. He was born a lost sinner just like all people. He lived into his adult years as a sinner who excelled in sinning. He hated God and he hated the Lord Jesus Christ. However, Paul was born according to God’s pleasure. We learn from the Bible that God has a much different sense of value than man does. Those who are saved are changed and we have a different sense of value than the lost do. However, God’s sense of value is unique. Those who are saved will understand that when we get to heaven.
As a saved man Paul understood that God had separated him from his mother’s womb at just the right time. God chose to give Paul life even though He knew Paul would be trained to excel in hating Him and His children. He knew that Paul would consent to the death of Stephen, who was a much better person at that time than Paul was. Yet God called Paul by his grace.
God revealed his Son to Paul. We know that Paul had acted in ignorance of the facts in his hatred of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. He had chosen to believe lies from his youth up. He chose to sit at the feet of Pharisees. He rose to prominence among this false religious group. Yet God chose Him and Paul ran out of hope as a lost man. He came to understand that he was fighting a losing battle. He could have continued to fight, but he was “smart” enough to know that was a dead end road.
Paul was converted for a specific purpose. Every born again Christian is called for a specific purpose. He is not chosen to just exist. He is called to be a witness unto Jesus Christ.
In Paul’s case, he was chosen to preach Jesus Christ among the heathen. The “heathen” in this case was the Gentiles. Paul was born a Jew. Yet God would choose him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. God wants all to be saved and the first church in Jerusalem was primarily made up of Jews. These Jews were to spread out and testify to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. It took persecution at the hands of men like Paul (Saul) to get the saints to spread out and obey God.
When Paul was converted and told what his duty was, he did not seek a second opinion from men. He did not sit down with Peter or John or any of the apostles to see if he was hearing things right. Peter and John did not understand the importance of the salvation message for all people, at that time. They heard Jesus talking of sheep other than just the Jews. They knew that the Gospel for was all people. However, they were prejudiced. Yes, born again Christians fail God. They will sin against God. They need to be taught and they need to be further changed even after they are saved.
Paul further stated that he did not go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles. They had been apostles longer than he had been. However, he did not need to consult with them about God’s calling on his life. At that time, they would have discouraged him from following God.
God took Paul into Arabia where he spent some three years being taught by the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul needed to be properly taught the truth by the Lord Jesus Christ. The saints also needed to be prepared to accept any person that is truly saved. The other apostles had blinders on and were not sure that a man like Saul (Paul) could ever be changed. They needed to learn some things. There was no benefit to them ostracizing a true man of God.
After three years, Paul returned to Damascus. That was the place where he had been stopped by the Lord Jesus Christ. That was where he spent three days and three nights as a blind man, neither eating nor drinking. He had some things to learn. II Corinthians 11:32 has some further details on this matter. After three years it was safe for him to return to the land of Israel. God had used that time to train him and to calm things down regarding him and the saints in Jerusalem and area.
Verse 18 tells us more about this. After his time of training, he was directed to go to Jerusalem to see Peter. He spent fifteen days with Peter. However, Peter did not add anything to his training. The Lord Jesus Christ is quite capable of choosing the right person as an apostle. He also knows how to train an apostle. Peter had some things to learn yet, and God would use Paul to help Peter get over some of the sins he did not want to address.
In verse 19 Paul stated that he did not see any of the other apostles. He did see James, the Lord’s brother as well. This was not one of the twelve chosen by Jesus Christ while He was on earth. The point that Paul was directed to make here is that his message was not a man-made message. His message was directly from the Lord. This is important for us to note today as well.
Commentaries can be helpful at times in our study of God’s Word. However, a godly preacher does not copy someone else’s studies and repeat them in the pulpit. He needs to personally study God’s Word and bring the message the Lord wants him to bring.
Some years back, during the first church I pastored, I met another man who was pastoring a church in another town. This man had poor eye sight. He had bigger spiritual issues than that. He told me that he would take taped message (that tells you how long ago it was), and he would take notes on them and preach them. It was obvious from his testimony that he did not study the Bible. I do not even know if the man was saved. He certainly was not a man I would have wanted to sit under.
Those that God sends to a pastor need to hear from the Lord. The pastor will not get a direct audible message from the Lord. However, he will get a direct message from the Lord through the Word of God. People do not need to hear regurgitated messages. They need to hear the message that God has for them at a particular moment in time.
In verse 20 Paul assured the recipients that he was not lying. Today, we can study the writings of the apostle Paul and we can know these were not his opinions. He was directed by God to write what he wrote. Some of the things he wrote are not well received even today. However, they are the Word of God.
After spending a few days with Peter and James, Paul was led by God into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. These were not Jewish areas. God chose Paul to reach beyond the boundaries of Israel. There were Jews in other areas, but there were also more Gentiles there.
In verse 22, Paul reminded the recipients that he was unknown to the churches in Judaea at that time. Notice that he was directed to write about the churches “which were in Christ.” There were already false churches at that time. It should not surprise us that there are false churches today. The true churches of that time did not have occasion to meet Paul yet.
In verse 23 Paul stated that word had spread regarding his salvation. Again we are reminded that a saved person is a changed person. A person who claims to be saved, but is unchanged is deceived and deceiving others. The wise saint will seek to help that person look into the mirror of God’s Word and see who he truly is.
Paul did not whitewash his past. God told him what to write. God told him what He thought of his past. He had wasted his time trying to destroy the faith of the saints. He would never stop the truth from existing or being proclaimed. The same is true today. We have politicians and religious people who want to silence the truth. They try to discredit the true man of God. Some pastors will get discouraged and leave the ministry. However, the naysayers will never silence the truth.
In verse 24 we see that the saints glorified God in Paul. They saw the mighty hand of God at work and they did not fight against it. They needed some encouragement at first, but they came to see that God can do what is impossible with man. That is also still true today. God can change a wicked lost sinner into a saint in a moment of time. The saved person will desire the things of the Lord. He will want to know His blessing and he will want to help others to know the truth as well.