Summary: Paul continues reporting events that occurred after his Damascus rd encounter with the Living Lord. He tells of his conversion & the yrs following to show that his message came from God alone.
AN APPROVED MINISTRY
Paul continues reporting events that occurred after his life altering Damascus road encounter with the Living Lord. He tells of his conversion and the years following to show that his message came from God alone. His gospel and his apostleship were received completely independent of man. It was God who commissioned him to preach the Good News to the Gentiles, and it was God who discipled him during those years. His Gospel did not come from association with others, it came from God.
Paul records a chronological sequencing of the places he lived and visited to substantiate hie claim. The five places Paul visited after his conversion are:
I. ARABIA & DAMASCUS; 17.
II. JERUSALEM; 18-20.
III. SYRIA & CILICIA, 21-24.
After Paul’s salvation and call to ministry he went to the desert to sort things out as verse 17 indicates. 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.
After Paul’s conversion the first place he went was to Arabia. He went away to be alone with God. He probably did so for two reasons. First, he had to think out this life shattering, life altering experience that has happened to him. Second, he had to speak with God before he spoke to man. He had to be sure of himself and sure of God and sure of his message.
There are too few who will take the time to face themselves and to face God. How can a man face the temptations, the stresses, and the strains of life unless he has thought things out and thought things through, till he becomes sure of who he is and where he must stand. Have you?
The second place Paul went was back to Damascus. That was a courageous thing to do. Remember he was on the way to Damascus to wipe out the Church when God confronted him with the truth. All Damascus knew that. Paul went back to bear his testimony to the people who knew what he had been and what he had been sent to do. Neither the Jews nor the Christians would be receptive to him. But there he returned.
After I ACCEPTED THE CALL to preach, Morris Chapman, who was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Albuquerque at that time, asked me to preach on Sunday evening. I had never preached a sermon. This was my first. I invited every friend I had or had known to that service. They waited for each other outside. Then they came in and sat down on the very front row. Obviously most had never been in a Baptist church. I had talked to most of them about the Lord before, but after that mini-sermon they understood my commitment to Jesus and His way. The Holy Spirit moved in the service and brought conviction upon us. Nearly all of my “friends” stayed away from me from that point on. Their rejection was difficult, but God honored my testimony. Many of them and their immediate family members who knew me would later believe the gospel and be saved. God made certain that I didn’t lose anything that He would not return with something better. Over time God replace my former friends with true friends and friendships that have enriched my life.
Kipling has a famous poem called Mulholland’s Vow. Mulholland was a cattle-man on a ship. A storm broke out and in the storm the steers broke loose. Mulholland made a bargain with God. If God saved him from these plunging horns and hooves he would serve Him from that time on. He was saved and when he got to land he proposed to keep his part of the bargain. His idea was to preach religion where no one knew him, in comfortable circumstances, handsome and out of the wet. Then God’s demand came to him, “Back you go to the cattle-boats and preach my gospel there.” God sent him back to the place that he knew and that knew him. Our Christian witness, like Our Christian love, must begin at home.
The line of thinking is that neither Arabia or Damascus were places where Paul would have had contact with the Jerusalem Apostles. By Jerusalem Apostles he is referring to Peter and the “twelve” (1 Cor 15:5). The clear indication of the language is that Paul considered his calling and gifting for ministry of the same essence as their calling and apostleship.
II. JERUSALEM, 18-20.
Paul continues his chronological sequencing of events in his life with verse 18. Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days.
The third place Paul went after his conversion was finally to Jerusalem. This visit was three years after he left to persecute the Christians in Damascus. He went there at the risk of his life. His preaching of Jesus had caused riots and attempts on his life by the jews in Damascus (Acts 9:21-26). His former Jewish allies in Jerusalem would be out for his blood, because to them, he was a renegade traitor. As for his victims, the Jerusalem Christians, they might ostracize him, unable to trust the reality or depth of his conversion.