A Study of Galatians 1:15-19
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called [me] by His grace, To reveal His Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. [Gal 1:15-19]
Now in this passage, we have a little more of history. In Acts, the Holy Spirit gave to Luke certain details to record. Here Paul gives other details. Both are consistent with the purpose that God had for their particular work.
Paul starts by saying that “it pleased God”. The answer to the question of “why Paul” starts with this much: It pleased God! Now this is not in reference to his salvation and conversion from persecutor to follower of the Way, but to the Lord’s choice of Paul as a chosen vessel to bear His Name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.(Acts 9:15) Notice that Paul says “to reveal His Son in me”. God chooses His ministers, and does not answer to us. If He never told us anything else, it should be enough to say “it pleased God”. In 1 Timothy, we get another glimpse of the mind of the Lord in calling Paul and making him His minister:
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did [it] ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This [is] a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, [be] honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. [1Ti 1:12-17]
Notice here that the apostle makes a point to say that God separated him from his mother’s womb. This was God’s doing. The Lord Jesus Himself separated Paul for ministry, and called him specially. Paul was called to preach the Lord Jesus among the gentiles, and this he would do. And the Lord Jesus called by His grace. There is no other answer. This is also the only answer as to why He would use any of us. It is by His grace.
…immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
There was no charge given here to learn the purpose of his call from anyone. This was the Lord’s call, and the Lord’s message:
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught [it], but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. [Gal 1:11-12]
Notice Paul also did not consult with another important group of men:
Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me:
The Lord alone would teach Paul. He would teach him in Arabia, a wilderness. The gospel which Paul would preach was not to be confused with that of the other apostles. They had their call and their gospel to preach. The nation to which that gospel went rejected it until “no remedy”. (See 2Chron. 36:16) God would now by His grace reach the gentiles in spite of the rejection by the chosen Nation. He would teach reconciliation by an enemy who was reconciled.
Now in the Acts narrative, this episode appears to occur between verses 25 and 26 of chapter 9. He says that he “returned again into Damascus” after going into Arabia. It appears that this is where Paul received his gospel to preach. This also seems to come between verses 16 and 17 in Acts 22, and at the first comma in Acts 26:20. Note the content of this revelation is not mentioned in Acts, for the Lord gave it to Paul alone.
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.
This visit to Jerusalem seems to correlate to Acts 9:26-29. This was when he met Peter, and James, the Lord’s brother. It is also where he met Barnabas, his first companion in ministry. Notice this happened after three years. Is this significant? Paul was trained in his gospel ministry, i.e. discipled, for the equivalent time as the twelve. The main difference was Paul’s discipleship was with the risen, glorified, and ascended Lord Jesus Christ. This is the only Lord Jesus that he ever knew.
Now fifteen days is a relatively short period of time. Why did that visit end so abruptly? Perhaps the answer could be found in the book of Acts:
And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; And saw Him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning Me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on Thee: And when the blood of Thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And He said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. [Act 22:17-21]
The Lord’s call to Paul would stand. He was pressed into ministry as apostle to the Gentiles. The dispensation of the grace of God was given unto him and the gospel committed to him would go out to the ends of the earth. Perhaps Paul was reminded of this when he wrote to the Philippians:
Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ: [Phl 1:6]
Praise God that He will accomplish all of His purposes!