1. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, Paul’s service to God was given to him before he was born (see Rom. 1:1). Paul’s words are similar to that of the prophet Isaiah: “Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.” Although Paul’s former life was spent in rebellion to God, Paul nonetheless, recognized God’s sovereign plan over his life. Called me by his grace—A common phrase used by Paul when describing God’s effectual call on his life: “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10); “Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace” (Eph. 3:10). Paul grasped the magnitude of God’s grace. In that, while he was persecuting Christians, Jesus called him to become an apostle and forgave him of his treacherous sins.
  2. 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; Paul makes it evident that he didn’t seek for man’s approval or need anyone to supplement his divine calling as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Preach among the Gentiles—Out of all the apostles, it would be Paul who would mainly reach non-Jews for Christ. Rom. 11:13-14, “Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.”
  3. 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. It’s not certain why Paul mentions not going to Jerusalem to be with the apostles. Perhaps he is making the case that because his calling to be an apostle came directly from Jesus, he, therefore, had no need to visit the apostles in Jerusalem for approval. Or perhaps Paul avoided Jerusalem for safety reasons and to learn more of his newfound faith and calling. I went away into Arabia—Prior to going off to Arabia to be alone, Paul preached Jesus in the synagogues in Damascus (Ac. 9:19-21). Putting his conversion at around AD 33. Shortly thereafter, Paul traveled to the Nabatean kingdom in Transjordan of king Aretas IV. In 2 Cor. 11:32-33, Paul describes how he escaped from danger while in Damascus: “At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.”
    • FIRST MISSION: Damascus
      • 9:19- Damascus w/ disciples
      • 9:20 – Proclaims Jesus in synagogues
      • 9:21 – Amazed at his teaching and conversion
    • SECOND MISSION: Damascus to Arabia (app. 2+ yrs)
      • 9:22 – Goes off to Arabia. He increases in knowledge/strength & confounded the Jews in Damascus
      • Paul went away in Arabia to spend time studying and growing in his faith and calling (this timeframe is probably somewhere between vs 21 and 22 or vs 22 and 23).
  4. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit (historeō, get acquainted; to get information) Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. Paul travels from Damascus to Jerusalem (vs. 18-20) in about AD 35. Visit Cephas—Based on the wording, it seems Paul’s visit to Peter was twofold: (1) get acquainted and (2) gain information about Jesus Christ. Paul makes no mentioning of any other details that he and Peter discussed during his two week trip.
    • THIRD MISSION: Arabia to Damascus (after 2+ yrs)
          • Paul didn’t actually spend three years in Arabia and in Damascus. Jewish reckoning accounts partial years as full years.
          • 9:23 – “When many days had passed, Jews wanted to kill him”
          • 9:26 – Saul (Paul) knew their plot and the disciples saved him
    • FOURTH MISSION: Damascus to Jerusalem (15 days)
          • 9:26-29 – Attempts to join disciples, and Barnabas brings him before the apostles
  5. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. James came to saving faith after Jesus appeared to him in his resurrected body (1 Cor. 15:7) and would later become a church leader in Jerusalem. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!)—Paul is declaring divine judgment on himself if what he is writing isn’t true.
  6. 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. This area includes Paul’s hometown of Tarsus. NKJV MacArthur Study Bible, “He was preaching in that region for several years. When word of revival in that area reached Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas (see Acts 11:20–26). Paul stayed on in that region as a pastor in the church at Antioch. With Barnabas, they went from there on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:1–3), and afterward returned to Antioch (Acts 14:26), from where they were sent to the Jerusalem Council (Acts 14:26–15:4).”
  7. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me. Paul emphases his distance from Judean Christians (including Jerusalem). His avoidance was based on three reasons: (1) he was protecting himself from his enemies, (2) God was using him in his hometown, and (3) his public ministry had not yet come.
    • FIFTH MISSION: Jerusalem to Syria, Cilicia and Judea (v. 21-24)
        • 9:30-31, “And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”
        • 11:25-26, “So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.