"But when God, who having set me apart from the womb of my mother and having called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me -- in order that I might preach Him among the Gentiles -- I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood..." (Gal 1:15-16).
In this third section, Paul asserts His authority as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. The authority sections A and A' contrast with the other apostles B and B'.
III Paul Apostle of the Truth 1:11-2:14
A Paul's Authority 1:11-17
B Apostles Not Consulted 1:18-24
B' Apostles Confirmed 2:1-10
A' Paul's Authority 2:11-14
"For I make known to you, brothers, the Gospel preached by me that it is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man nor was taught it, but through the revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you heard my former way of life in Judaism, that according to exceeding measure, I was persecuting the church of God and was destroying it, 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of those my own age among my own people, being exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who having set me apart from the womb of my mother and having called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me -- in order that I might preach Him among the Gentiles -- I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go into Jerusalem to the apostles who were before me, but I went into Arabia, and again returned to Damascus" (Gal 1:11-17).
The Gospel he proclaimed to the Galatians didn't come from himself or any man. God gave Paul the message through the revelation of Jesus Christ. He saw the glorified Second Adam, Lord. If it had been up to Paul, he was well on his way to a successful life in Judaism and Law keeping. He was killing Christians and seeking to destroy God's church! But God sovereignly chose Paul to be His apostle. God set Paul apart from before his birth for this purpose. It wasn't Paul; It was God's grace that laid hold of Paul that the Lord Jesus would be revealed in Paul. God took an extremely zealous Jew and turned him into a messenger of grace to the Gentiles! When this happened to Paul, he didn't trot off to confer with any man or even go up to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles. He didn't need to; the Lord Jesus gave him the message and sent him to the Gentiles! He went to Arabia and Damascus.
"Then after three years, I went into Jerusalem to meet Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I did not see other of the apostles, except James, the brother of the Lord. 20 And in which I write behold, before God that I am not lying. 21 Then I went into the districts of Syria and of Cilicia. 22 And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; 23 and they were only hearing that the one who was formerly persecuting, now is preaching the faith which once he was destroying. 24 And they were glorifying God in me" (Gal 1:18-24).
Paul was unknown to the churches and hadn't consulted with the apostles. He met Peter and James briefly and then proceeded with his ministry to the Gentiles in Syria and Cilicia. Word was being spread among Christians that the great persecutor of the church had become the preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. Amazing what God had done! A grace transformed messenger was sent by Christ with the message of grace!
That didn't mean that the apostles didn't approve of Paul's message and ministry! He writes,
"Then fourteen years later, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus also. 2 And I went up according to a revelation and set before them the Gospel which I proclaimed among the Gentiles according to myself to the ones who are esteemed that I not be running or had run in vain. 3 But, not even Titus who was with me, who being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 And because the false brothers who were brought in secretly, who came by stealth to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to enslave us; 5 to whom we did not yield in subjection for even an hour, so that the truth of the Gospel might remain with you. 6 And from the esteemed to be something, (whatsoever formerly there were it makes no difference to me; the appearance of a man God does not accept) for the esteemed added nothing to me. 7 But on the contrary, having seen that I have been entrusted the Gospel of the uncircumcision just as Peter of the circumcision 8 (for the One who works through Peter unto apostle of the circumcision worked also through me unto the Gentiles), 9 and having known the grace given to me, James and Cephas and John, those being esteemed pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles; And they unto the circumcision. 10 Only of the poor that we should remember which very thing I also was eager to do" (Gal 2:1-10).
Paul went "through" (dia) fourteen years of ministry and then God told him to go up to Jerusalem. He went and set the Gospel he preached to the Gentiles before them. They agreed; they didn't even require uncircumcised Titus be circumcised! There was no debate. They gave Paul their approval, their right hand of fellowship and agreed that he was called to the Gentiles while they went to the Jews. They didn't add anything to Paul's message; they only asked that he remember the poor -- something already deep on Paul's heart. There were false brothers there who sought to enslave Paul, but Paul didn't give an inch in his zealous protection of the Gospel for the Gentiles. Was Paul star struck being with the original apostles? Why? They too were sinners saved by grace. His Lord, and theirs, is Jesus.
Serving the Lord Jesus gave him the courage and authority to even rebuke the apostle Peter when Peter's actions were out of line with the Gospel. Paul recounts,
"And when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned. 12 For before some came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came, he was drawing back and separating himself, being afraid of the ones of the circumcision. 13 And also the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not walking straight according to the truth of the Gospel, I said to Peter in front of all, 'If you, being a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, why do you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?'" (Gal 2:11-14).
No one, not even Peter has the authority to alter the Gospel! Peter wasn't overtly teaching another gospel or preaching some other gospel, but he was living in a way that overturned the Gospel! Out of fear of those still observing the Old Covenant food laws and required separation from Gentiles, Peter was by his actions leading the Jewish believers to deny the Gospel. Peter had not done this before Law observing Jews came from Jerusalem. Peter knew the Gospel that Jesus had done as Second Adam what the Law could not do. The Lord Jesus had been raised and enthroned at the Father's right hand because He kept the stipulations of the Pactum Salutis and was the faithful vassal Son who fulfilled His kingdom commission even to death on the cross. Because of Jesus' finished work, Jew and Gentile are save by grace through faith and not by works of their own righteousness. Peter would never have said otherwise, but his actions proclaimed something else. But Paul, sent by the Lord Jesus, had the authority to set him straight. Paul had the authority of the Lord Jesus.
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Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are from NASB. Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org
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