Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, A Reading from Homer (detail), 1885
The Early Epistles—
a calling from God,
a calling independent of other apostles,
a calling recognized by the gospel preached—
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.
His Former Life
13For 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: 14And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
Called by God
15But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, 16To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17Neither went I 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. 19
But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.
20Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.
21Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; 22And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: 23But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. 24And they glorified God in me.
(1: 11) I remind you ] lit. “to make known.” But here a definition such as to remind or to certify best suits the formal tone of the sentence.
not according to man] Neither a human standard nor a human message. Compare: “not man’s gospel” (RSV).
(1: 12) I neither received it . . . nor was I taught it] The gospel entrusted to Paul did not in any sense come from man nor through man. Compare: “An apostle, not of men, neither by man” (1:1).
but through a revelation] The strong adversative (alla) makes a aharp contrast. “I received it not by instruction from many but by a revelation from Christ” (Lightfoot). Compare: “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you” (1 Cor. 11:23).
(1: 13) ravaged] Conative Imperfect with an emphasis on repeated attempts. The word itself is a military term: “to devastate, to ruin, to make havoc of.” Though he made repeated attempts to destroy the church, he was unsuccessful. Compare: “tried to destroy” (NASB).
(1: 14) I progressed] lit. “to cut forward (as in a forest), to blaze a way, to go ahead (Robertson).
(1: 15) from my mother’s womb] A phrase meaning either from birth or from before my birth (so Lightfoot). Samson, dedicated to God even before his birth, says, “I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb” (Judg. 16:17). Compare similar expressions: Isa. 49:1; Jer. 1:5.
(1: 18) Cephas] The Aramaic name for Peter.
1: 23) these only had heard] The Greek construction is similar to a direct quote, “he who formerly persecuted us . . .”
His former life,
Acknowledged as genuine
A gospel directly from God, independent of other men, independent of other apostles, is the gospel which was committed to Paul.
(1:13-24) Both his former life as a persecutor and his limited contact with other apostles after his conversion are indisputable evidence of a call from God. He had seen Peter but once and then only for 15 days, and it had been a visit rather than a conference or class. There was
no need to consult with Peter for Paul, like Peter, was an apostle of Christ. Paul also saw James, the brother of the Lord, but that was all.
Also, the church in Judea could not deny what had happened. Paul, who had once persecuted them, was now preaching the gospel. These churches recognized the evidence of a genuine gospel as preached by Paul even though they could not recognize Paul himself. They knew the gospel. They did not know Paul.
Questions for Further Study
- The gospel of Paul was a certified gospel, but what might that mean to us now? (Paul also seals his word with and oath— 1:20 What are his exact words?
- If the gospel were a mere religious document of men, it could be revised, updated, changed. What does Paul say about it not being a man’s gospel?
- What was Paul like before he became an apostle? Did our life change after we became a Christian? and if so, how?
- Did Paul learn more about the gospel while he was in Arabia? Or, did his visit with Peter or James further his knowledge about the gospel?
- What did the Judean churches say about Paul? How could such testimony be further proof of his apostlehip?
- Where are Syria, Cilicia, Judea? Why mention such areas?