What Does Galatians 1:17 Mean?

nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.

Galatians 1:17(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

The apostle Paul had a ministry that was distinct from the other disciples who accompanied the Lord Jesus from the beginning of His earthly ministry. In various of his Epistles, he made it very clear that he was given his gospel by special revelation, directly from the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Although his message does not conflict with the teaching of the other apostles, Paul was independent of them in many respects... and was the one and only apostle who received a special directive to go to the Gentiles with God's message of salvation. Paul wanted to stress that he did not receive his message through the teachings of Christ's other apostles. Paul received his gospel exclusively from the Lord Jesus, Himself: "For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it by men, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ...nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus."

Paul's ministry was exclusive, his commission was unique, and his calling was distinctive. He did not need any human tutor or approval from other men to teach the message he received from the Lord... nor did he learn his doctrine from any other apostle. Paul was not given a mandate to teach the gospel from any human source, but from God Himself. Paul did not receive the apostolic message he taught through the ministry of Peter, James, John, or any of Christ's other apostles. He was given it exclusively from the resurrected and glorified Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul was born in the city of Damascus and spent much of his early adult life zealously studying Judaism and the traditions of his Jewish ancestors... but God had set Paul aside to be His witness and called him to be Christ's apostle, from birth. But soon after he was born again, he went to Arabia for a time before returning to Damascus, where he quietly shared the good news of the gospel of grace to Jews and Gentiles alike.

Paul taught that Christ died according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and rose again, according to the Scriptures, and that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and did not depend on keeping the Jewish Law, legislation, rites, rituals, and feasts. Paul taught about the Body of Christ, which is the Church, and he taught about the one new man in Christ.

However, there were many who held fast to Jewish Law, legislation, rites, rituals, and feasts, and tried to incorporate Jewish traditions into the Church which conflicted with all that Jesus had taught Paul, and his message caused much contention and was resisted by many traditionalists and legalists, and Paul found it necessary to defend the gospel he taught - the gospel he was given by Christ, during his time in Arabia.

Paul stressed that God had set him apart from his mother's womb, and that he was called by His mercy and grace to be God's special mouthpiece, not chosen by men to be an apostle, like Matthias who replaced Judas Iscariot, nor was he taught by man, like the 3000 men who were saved on the day of Pentecost. Paul was taught by Jesus Christ and by God the Father, Who raised Him from the dead.

It was not man, but God Who chose Paul, and it was God the Father Who was pleased to reveal His Son in him. Paul was called and chosen so that he might preach the gospel of Christ crucified, risen, and ascended, among the Gentiles... and so we read: "I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood."

Paul did not travel to Jerusalem to learn the truth of the glorious gospel of grace, nor was he taught it by Christ's other apostles and teachers... for we read: "Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away to Arabia and returned once more to Damascus." Paul heard the voice of God on the road to Damascus and responded to His call on his life. And as a result, God equipped him and used him for a very special ministry.

You and I will not be called on to write sections of the New Testament or undertake the ministry to which Paul was called... but like him, we can all respond to God's call on our lives, listen to His voice, obey His instruction, and heed His call - so that like Paul we can fulfil the good work that God has prepared for us to do - to His greater praise and glory.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for the ministry of Paul and the wonderful example of a man who heard God's call on his life and was ready and willing to respond and obey. I pray that I may be like this apostle and be ready and willing to listen to Your voice, obey Your call, and fulfil Your will for my life, for Your greater praise and glory. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.

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