Online Bible Commentary
Not from Men
Galatians 1:13 For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. 14 And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord's brother. 20 (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.) 21 Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. 23 But they were hearing only, "He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy." 24 And they glorified God in me. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is writing to believers in southern Galatia from his home in Antioch, Syria in 49 A.D. He has just completed his first missionary journey in which he and Barnabas planted churches in southern Galatia at Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. Along the way the apostles were hounded by the Jews. In fact, Paul was stoned in Derbe to the point of death (Acts 14:19). This letter is the first of Paul’s letters.
The churches in Galatia have already turned from Paul’s gospel to a false gospel of a mix of works and grace instead of grace alone. So Paul is writing to them to direct them back to the true gospel.
Paul has just declared to them that he received his gospel, the true gospel, directly from Jesus Christ and not from men (v. 12). In this passage he elaborates on how this came about.
Paul begins by giving his background before becoming a Christian. He was a Pharisee above all Pharisees. As a youth he had studied under the Pharisee and celebrated doctor of the law Gamaliel in Jerusalem. Paul was “exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers” and, therefore, “advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation” (v. 14). He was certainly well versed in the Jewish law, the Old Testament.
As a result of this zealousness for Judaism Paul “persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it” (v. 13). His persecution of Christians was ruthless.
Next Paul gives an account of his conversion to Christianity. He had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, and was changed forever. Paul had been set apart, even from birth, to be an apostle for Christ (v. 15a). On this day, the time “when it pleased God”, on the road to Damascus, God’s “grace” was bestowed upon Paul and he was saved (v. 15b). God revealed Jesus to him and Paul was called to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles (v. 16a).
With this background information serving as a basis Paul then elaborates on how he received the gospel from Jesus, and not men. After he was called by Jesus, he “did not immediately confer” with men, nor did he “go up to Jerusalem” to confer with “those who were apostles before me” (vv. 16b-17).
Instead Paul took a sabbatical to Arabia, where he received teaching directly from the Lord (v. 17b). It was during this time in Arabia, perhaps close to three years, that Paul received the teaching that would form the basis for his future ministry (v. 18a).
Then, and only then, did Paul confer with other apostles. He traveled to Jerusalem and spent a short time, “fifteen days”, with Peter. He also briefly met with James, the brother of Jesus and head of the church in Jerusalem (vv. 18b-19). This was obviously not enough time to formulate the gospel that Paul would use in his ministry.
At this point, Paul cites an oath from Roman court proceedings to testify to the truthfulness of his statements (v. 20). Paul then began his ministry on his way back home. He ministered in “Syria” and later in his home province of “Cilicia” (v. 21).
In the “churches of Judea” Paul was an unknown (v. 22). All they knew was what he told them about himself as one who had turned from persecutor to preacher (v. 23). So it was Paul’s preaching, and only Paul’s preaching, that gave them a reason to praise God (v. 24). This further attests to the fact that Paul’s gospel was certainly from Jesus Christ, and not from men.
Paul is saying that the Bible is the word of God. The teachings come from God, not from men. God merely used men to write down the words that He spoke into them through the Holy Spirit. The author of the Bible is God; men are merely His ghostwriters.