Galatians 1:11-14 (cf.Acts 9:1-25)
The conversion of Saul of Tarsus
But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
At the height of Paul's campaign of repression, he was confronted on the road to Damascus by the risen Christ. In an instant his life was reoriented. The Jewish law was replaced as the central theme of Paul's life by Jesus Christ. He became the leading champion of the cause which he had tried to overthrow.
The realization that Jesus, whom he had been persecuting, was alive and exalted as the Son of God exposed the weakness of the Jewish law. Paul's zeal for the law had made him an ardent persecutor. He now saw that his persecuting activity had been sinful; yet the law, instead of showing him the sinfulness of such a course, had really led him into sin.
The law had lost its validity. Paul learned that it was no longer by keeping the law that a person was justified in God's sight, but by faith in Christ. And if faith in Christ provided acceptance with God, then Gentiles might enjoy that acceptance as readily as Jews. This was one of the implications of the revelation of Jesus Christ which gripped Paul's mind. He was assured that he himself had received that revelation in order that he might proclaim Christ and His salvation to the Gentile world.
According to Galatians 1: 11-24, the first few years of his Christian journey Paul followed the voice and direction of God and only God. He purposedly isolated himself from everyone he knew and was led to travel first to Arabia, then subsequently to Damascus, the place where he had encountered Jesus on the road that led to Damascus. He didn’t initially go to Jerusalem to either confer with or to be instructed by any of the Apostles there. It would be 3 years later when he would come to Jerusalem after his conversion. He felt that even though they had been Apostles prior to his Damascus Road experience that God had given him the same authority as they had. So, he first went to Arabia for a considerable amount of time. Nobody knows why he traveled there. We can only surmise that he started his preaching ministry while there based on Acts 9:20- 22, and 27.after which he returned to Damascus first to preach in the same place where he had been converted..
Being godly sorrowful for all the havoc he had caused prior to his conversion, Saul made sincere attempts to undo and correct all of the wrong he had done toward the church and those who followed the gospel. During the 3 years he spent in Damascus. From there Paul's evangelistic trail went through the kingdom of the Nabatean Arabs as he traveled both east and south though scholars don't give any details on his stay in that region. (Galatians 1:17) Apparently his evangelistic preaching left enough of an effect to the extent the authorities in the area became hostile towards him and according to 2 Corinthians11:22-33, the Nabatean king in /Damascus attempted to arrest him.
Contacts at Jerusalem (cf. Acts 9:26-31)
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter,* and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord's brother. (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.) Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. But they were hearing only, "He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy." And they glorified God in me. (NKJV)
The more Paul preached, he grew more powerful in the ministry and preached boldly in the synagogue in favor of Jesus and openly proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God. Finally, Paul went to Jerusalem in verses 18 and 19 and spent 15 days with Peter. Within those 15 days he spent with Peter, the only other apostle he came in contact withwas James, the brother of Jesus. Following that meeting, Paul traveled to Syria and Cilicia, (Tarsus) his home town and to confront his past. He couldn't stay in Jerusalem too long because the havoc he caused before his conversion on the Damascus Road was still to raw. No enough time had passed. The people still were emotionally stung from persecution and those who he led in the assault against The Way, particularly his temple guard associates felt betrayed by his change of allegiance. It was so dangerous for Paul that he had to be secretly taken down to Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast and put on a ship to Tarsus, his hometown.
It was here Paul spent ministering 11 years living among the people in Judea as a virtually unknown because many of them were already converted, and many of the people here were already aware of his conversion. In fact, they were amazed and privy to witness for themselves Paul preaching the very faith that he stood in opposition in the past. For the next 10 years, Paul was actively engaged in preaching to the Gentiles. Toward the end of those 10 years, Paul met Barnabas who came to Tarsus from Antioch and invited Paul to join him in caring for a young church there. There spontaneous campaign of Gentile evangelization had recently occurred at Antioch, resulting in the formation of a vigorous church. Barnabas himself had been commissioned by the apostles in Jerusalem to lead the Gentile evangelization in the city of Antioch.
About a year after Paul joined Barnabas in Antioch, the two men visited Jerusalem and conferred with the three "pillars" of the church there-the apostles Peter and John, and James the Lord's brother (Galatians 2:1-10). The result of this conference was an agreement that the Jerusalem leaders would concentrate on the evangelization of their fellow Jews, while Barnabas and Paul would continue to take the gosepl to Gentiles.
"Schism" Among the Apostles
In Galatians 2: 11- 21 Paul had a confrontation with Peter that stemmed from Peter's change in attitude toward gentile Christians. Paul confronted Peter because in his mind, Peter started acting like a bigot and his new behavior toward saved Gentiles was showing a setting of a “social” double standard. Paul noticed Peter started acting anti-socially toward the Gentiles whenever the Jews were present. This behavior was a sharp contrast from the behavior Peter showed Gentiles in Acts 15.
In Acts 15, Peter showed a bold advocacy for the Gentile church when a group of Judaizers came to Antioch and attempted to undermine the doctrine of Grace taught by Paul and Barnabas. They disputed the doctrine of salvation by grace alone and vividly contended that the Mosaic Law was also necessary for salvation. This included the need for circumcision. This malicious contention caused such a great stir within the church so much so, that Paul and Barnabas both requested and got a council meeting (The council of Nicea) with the Apostle to settle this important matter.
At this council meeting, both Paul and Barnabas gave their report how God was saving Gentiles. A “certain” sect of Pharisees who were also present at the meeting rose up and contended that the Gentile’s salvation claims were invalid because none of them had been circumcised. It was in this meeting that Peter publicly addressed that God sent him also to preach to the Gentiles. Peter confessed: God made it crystal clear to him that He is of no respecter of person (races). Peter continued: "All believers are “sealed” by the Holy Ghost not by keeping laws. God deemed it that all people should hear the gospel and since this was God’s doing, that it wouldn’t be right for any council to be given authority to place another “yoke” upon any Gentile convert by requiring of them to place themselves under the Mosaic Law (something we couldn't even do ourselves) to be saved, when salvation was in fact by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. To do so constitutes an act of "tempting God" as well as creating "potential" differences with the Galatia church and the Jewish church". Peter concluded saying the council and those affected should seek to live in a harmonious way that would help in purifying the Gentiles hearts by faith and not by works or attempting to keep the Mosaic Law.
It was soon after the meeting of the Council of Nice that, over the course of time, Peter when out in public and started acting negatively against non-Jewish people. The Gentiles living in his community were now being treated contrary to that public declaration he had made at the council meeting. His behavior toward them had become hypocritical and contrary to the council’s decision. Paul angered by Peter's actions felt that if his behavior was left unchecked, this anti-social behavior happening in the community would jeopardize the “common” faith within the church fuel other schisms and antisocialistic behaviorsamong the people as well as with the other apostle themselves. By confronting Peter, it was Paul hope to accomplish two things:
1. Paul wanted Peter to know that there was no “schism” between them and doctrinally, they were on the same page but at the same time Peter needed to know that he was in a backslidden state.
2. Paul needed Peter to be aware that other Jews, even Barnabas were following his bad example of discrimination and double standard to the point that even at that moment this behavior was already dissimulating and creating a huge rift within the Galatia church.
Conversion Exposed: Salvation in Jesus Christ Alone
In Galatians 2: 15- 16, The Apostle Paul did an "expose" on man being" justified by faith" alone. He gave a detail explanation between the difference of being "justified" by faith and the works- "self righteousness". Paul declared: The gift of "Salvation" through Jesus Christ is not given to anyone based upon their race or national heritage. God gives it by his grace and we receive it by our faith in Jesus Christ alone for it. Without the death, burial and resurrection and of Jesus, God’s plan of salvation would not be possible. Paul writes here in verse 15 that the salvation God speaks of is “common”, meaning that no race is more saved than another and salvation is not exclusive to just the Jewish race, neither is keeping the law a "pre-requisite." "Salvation is in Jesus Christ alone!" Salvation cannot be obtained any other way. The Jews wanted to “brag” that their salvation was by "keeping the law and circumcision", but as Paul exclaimed in this verse, "nobody is justified by the law or by the practice of “law-keeping”.
Paul in this epistle explains the primary function of the Mosaic Law as it pertained to the strained relationship God had with fallen man and how the Law had to give way to "higher laws" (God's Love laws) that had contained in them the "power to save". The purpose of the Law was to show man’s imperfection in himself and to reveal how God felt about the works of sin. It is in the law that man realizes that he doesn’t measure up to God’s standards, yet there were those who believed that by keeping the law that they would be saved. Ultimately, since it is God who mandated that the works of the law cannot and will not justify anybody in their flesh, men and women were and are left to conclude that no one is righteous before God, unless God imparted His righteousness in their life. The law does not in fact give us any righteousness at all, but actually exposes our lack of righteousness because the Law exposes the SIN that is in our lives publicly.
When Jesus came to this world in human flesh and told man that he came to fulfill the law, Jesus became the earthly embodiment of all the righteousness that God is. Therefore, there is absolutely no law that can justify man. When a man has his faith in God and accepts God's way of redemption (through Jesus Christ), God counts that man’s faith toward righteousness.
In a "nutshell", our faith in Jesus Christ depends on God and all God does to save us alone. The moment we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Personal Savior, God then imputes his righteousness upon man and seals us with his Holy Spirit and disregards, our sin and everything we do in our attempt to justify ourselves. Faith in the works of God is so important because we are so in love with the world and all the entrapments that’s in this world system. As for the law, there is no known way anybody can work for God and keep the law without breaking at least one of them. Even though a man may consider himself righteous in his own eyes, Isaiah tells us that the righteousness of man is no more than “filthy rags” in God’s sight. James 2: 10 tell us that if man breaks just one of God’s laws, that that man is guilty of breaking all of God’s laws. We must seek justification through Jesus Christ because it’s only through Jesus Christ that any man can be justified.
Dr. William Edward Boddie