Galatians 1:11-12 “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ."
This beginning statement that Paul makes here is a continuation of him defending himself as a true Apostle sent by God. Over the next several verses, he will explain the process of how the truth was revealed to him by the Lord Himself.
The normal process of understanding the Christian faith is that we are taught the truth by a teacher or through the study of the scriptures. We must understand that at the time Paul is writing this letter, there is no NT scripture. There is only OT scripture. Don't misunderstand there were some circulating letters. And word of mouth was spreading rapidly across the land, but there was no compiled NT as we have today.
Paul is letting us know that he did not receive his understanding about the Gospel from the other disciples. He did not sit under their "school of ministry." As a matter of fact, some of the language going forward sounds as though Paul may have been suggesting that some of the leaders in the church could have learned some things from him if they had been willing to listen.
The main point to be made is that Paul received his understanding as a direct revelation given to him from Jesus. The rabbi Paul was taught by the Rabboni (Jesus) that Mary met in the garden after Jesus' resurrection (John 20:16). Now, let me make this clear. This does not happen anymore. In other words, if someone says they have a revelation from Jesus and that it should be followed as Gospel so add it to the book, run the other way. I am not saying that Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, does not give revelation because that is exactly what He does. But He gives revelation about what is already written. And if you are given "revelation" that does not line up with what is written, you better reject what you have received.
Before we move forward, we should consider the meaning of the word revelation. The word in the Greek is Apokalupsis. This is the same word that is used in the book of revelation, which is where the book receives its name:
Revelation 1:1 The Revelation (Apokalupsis) of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:
Revelation-to take off the cover or disclose. To uncover, lay open what has been veiled or covered up.
Galatians 1:13-14 “13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews 'religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14 And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.”
There are two main thoughts that must be considered from these two verses, and both thoughts hinge on the word: conversation.
Conversation- this is an old English word that has changed in its meaning since the KJV was first translated. The definition of this word is: manner of life, conduct, behavior. In other words, how one handles their business.
In this passage, there are 2 main thoughts connected to Paul's pre- conversion way of handling his business:
(1) he was a persecutor & waster [destroyer] of the church.
(2) he surpassed all of his contemporaries regarding zeal, knowledge, and devotion to the traditions of Judaism.
I believe this last statement by Paul should be understood in this light: the Judaizers are coming behind Paul’s work in the region of Galatia, and they are attempting to convince the believers there that what Paul has taught them is wrong. Furthermore, they are attempting to discredit him. But what Paul is saying is, “I have already been where they are. The things they are trying to convince you will help your Christian walk are the very things that I was zealous for before my conversion. The Gospel has been fulfilled in Jesus. The traditions have been fulfilled in Jesus. There is no need to add to Jesus.”
Galatians 1:15-17 “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.”
Paul has already explained that his calling was from God and not from man. Now, he explains in more detail that he was called from the womb to be a preacher, and destined to have the revelation of the New Covenant so that others could be informed of the good news.
This is a common thread that runs through the scriptures...the fact that God calls his servant from the womb. He explained to Jeremiah that:
5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
But this is what Paul says of us:
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
All of us should be reminded that God has preordained works for us to walk in. He has a plan for our lives. There are people He has called us to reach and if we don't who will?
When God first called Paul, he did not go to the other disciples in order to learn what God wanted to teach him. 17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. We have to be careful with this thought because Paul tells us in Ephesians that God has given the church certain gifts to help with the process of its edification. Amongst those gifts are teachers / pastors (Ephesians 4:11-12).
On the other hand, there is a valuable truth to be found here. Paul spent time in the Arabian Wilderness, and many scholars would agree that his purpose was not to evangelize at this point. Instead, his purpose was to get alone with God and hear His voice clearly. It is imperative for us as Christians to get alone in the presence of God- even more specifically with His Word...to learn what He is saying. You cannot afford to take what the preacher says at face value. You must study to show yourself approved.
It is my opinion and the opinion of other men of God that I highly respect that during Paul’s time in Arabia, he endured his Romans 7 experience. Maybe some of you have recently started coming to the Bible Study. If that is the case, I would encourage you to get on the website and listen to the teachings on Romans…specifically, Romans 7. But let me give you a glimpse into this thought. In Romans 7, Paul tells us about a struggle that took place previously in his Christian life. He is writing in retrospect. During this time, Paul was attempting to add the Law to his new relationship with Jesus. It is important that we understand that this is a common problem for all humans because all of our lives we are judged based on our performance. The whole Jewish system of Law was based upon doing things in order to be obedient to God. With this in mind, it is understandable why Paul would be drawn to adding the Law to his faith the idea would be, “Well if Jesus’ sacrifice made me right with God. Then I can be even more pleasing to God if I still don’t eat pork or teach people to be circumcised.”
But Paul explains that the result of adding Law to faith was that sin regained power in his life: Rom 7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
For the sake of time, you have to trust me that Paul is speaking of after he was already a Christian. And when he attempted to live according to the Law, it gave sin power in his life. It is important that you understand that the power you receive over sin is given to us by the power of the Holy Spirit based off of what Jesus did at the cross. The Holy Spirit does not move in our midst to give us victory because we have fasted enough, prayed enough, gone to church enough, quoted scripture enough, read our Bible enough… While all these things are certainly of God, when we attempt to make ourselves more righteous before God with what we do rather than what Jesus has already done then we frustrate God’s grace in our lives because His plan is to give grace based off what Jesus purchased at the cross. When God’s grace is frustrated in the life of the believer, then that believer is left to live for God in his own strength and will power. The results of this are disastrous to say the least. Our will power, no matter how sincere or consecrated we desire to be before God, is no match for the evil one. The result for Paul was: Rom 7:19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do….Rom 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Galatians 1:18-20 “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.”
In this part of the passage, Paul solidifies the point that he received the Gospel he preached as revelation from Jesus and was not taught like others by men. He specifically points out the fact that he spent some time with Peter and had contact with James, but these encounters were very brief in the overall scheme of things. Once again, many scholars believe that the time frame from Paul's conversion to Barnabas coming to get him (Acts 11:25) could have been as long as 10 years.
Galatians 1:21-24 “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.”
Paul was preaching the Gospel independent of what the church of Jerusalem was up to. As we will see going forward, his intent was not to cause division in the church. Instead, his intent was to stay true to God's will for his life. God was revealing the freedom of the Gospel to him in a way that no one else could see. To be honest, this had to be done away from Jerusalem because the church in Jerusalem was still holding onto a lot of the old system.
Jesus was the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world...not just Israel. The truth of the Gospel was relevant for everyone...not just the circumcised. God was revealing these things to Paul, and Paul was preaching this message everywhere God sent him. Specifically, he was reaching the areas in the regions of Syria and Cilicia before he began his missionary journeys.
We close with the idea that the churches in Southern Israel would not have been able to recognize Paul if he would have walked up into their midst. Yet, his reputation preceded him. In other words, they may not have known him, but they knew of him. And what they knew was that at one time in his life, he was a persecutor and killer of Christians. And now he was a preacher of the Gospel. The report of his conversion brought glory to God. And it is important for you and I to understand that the report of our conversion is just as important today. While it may not affect the entirety of the civilized world like Paul's did, it will affect the area where we live. It will affect our family. It will affect our co- workers, and it will affect the people of our past who once knew us the way we were before.