Defense of Paul's Apostleship
Part Two

Defense of Paul's Apostleship

Galatians 1:11-2:10


Earlier we said that Paulís opponents basically launched a 2-pronged attack against him: they first attacked his apostleship (either he wasnít an apostle or else he was a second-rate apostle), and second they attacked his gospel (saying that it contradicted the OT, Godís Word). From 1:11-2:21 Paul defends his apostleship. He is an apostle, and his apostleship is on the same level as that of the original apostles, even Peterís.


11 For I am making known to you, brethren, the gospel which was preached by me, that it is not according to man. 12 For I myself neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you heard about my former manner of life in Judaism, that to an extraordinary degree I used to persecute the church of God and was trying to destroy it; 14 and I was like a trailblazer, cutting a path in Judaism beyond many contemporaries among my generation/race, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when God was pleased, who had set me apart even 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 consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor went I up to Jerusalem to those who in time were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.

18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 Other of the apostles I did not see, except James, the Lord's brother. 20 (Now what I am writing to you, behold before God I am not lying.) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 Now I was still unknown by face to the churches of Judea the ones in Christ ; 23 but only, they kept hearing, "He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy." 24 And they were glorifyingóbecause of me [the very one who had tried to destroy them]óGod.

According to Paulís opponents, Paul was a second-rate apostle because surely he was nothing more than an apprentice of the original apostles. Paul had not walked with Jesus during His time on earth. He had not been there that first Easter night when Jesus appeared to the original 11 disciples. In fact, later when the 11 wanted to replace Judas Iscariot so that they would again have 12 apostles, one of the criteria the potential apostle had to meet was that he had been with Jesus from the very beginning of His ministry (Acts 1:21-22). Well, Paul fit none of these criteria. In fact, since he had not been with Jesus during His time on earth, surely he received all his knowledge about Jesus and all his training to be an apostle from the original 12.

Paul shows the absurdity of this charge by recounting first his conversion experience itself and then the first few years of his life as an apostle, right after he had become a Christian.

Notice 2 things here:

  1. Paulís conversion experience demonstrates that God saves people only by grace and not by works. If people are saved by works, then Paul would have never been saved because all his works (promoting Judaism by killing Christians) would have actually condemned him. He who didnít deserve salvation at all was saved simply by an act of God, not by his good deeds. (Paulís testimony implies that grace is the way a person is savedóPaulís life before he became a Christian did not merit any favor from God. By means of the Greek words Paul uses here, he is claiming that he was a trailblazer in the Jewish religion, going where no Jew had gone before! If Paul had not become a Christian, he probably would have become the greatest Jewish rabbi ever, he was that gung-ho for the Jewish religion.)       
  2. Although this is not in Galatians, Paulís conversion experience on the Damascus Road teaches us 3 things:
          i. Who Christ is: He is the Lord, God the Son
          ii. How a person is saved: purely by grace
          iii. What the church is: ďthe body of Christ.Ē Whereas Paul thought that he was only persecuting Christians, Jesus let him know that he was actually persecuting Him, Jesus: ďSaul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?Ē

Moreover, think about how absurd the claim is that Paul received theological instruction from Peter. Although Peter is so important for our knowledge about the events in the life of Jesus, he wasnít quite the brightest bulb in the room. In fact, what does Peter later claim about some of the things in Paulís letters(2 Pet. 3:16)?

If anybody taught somebody, it would have been Paul who taught Peter and not vice versa as Paulís opponents have claimed!



Paulís opponents were claiming that Paul was second-rate and that the original 12 were first-rate apostles. They also implied that unlike Paul, they were actually following the teachings of the original apostles while Paul was contradicting those teachings. They, not Paul, represented the beliefs of the original 12 apostles.

Well, what was the attitude of the original 12 towards Paul? Did they consider him second-rate? If so, he might have been a second-hand Rose as an apostle. Paul now recounts for us his actual relationship with the original 12 (Matthias has replaced Judas Iscariot).

1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. 2 I went up because of a revelation; and I submitted to them the gospel which I am [even now] preaching among the Gentiles, though in private to those who seem to be something, if perhaps I might be running, or had run, in vain. 3 But not even Titus, who was with me, though being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order that they might enslave us. 5 But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. 6 But from those who seem to be something (what they were makes no difference to me; God does not receive the face)ówell, those who seem to be something contributed nothing to me. 7 But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been for the circumcised 8 (for He who energized Peter unto his apostleship for the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles ), 9 and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who are seeming to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we ourselves might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They only asked us to remember the poorówhich I also was eager to do.

While Paul and Barnabas were ministering to the church in Antioch after their first great missionary journey, Judaizers infiltrated the church at Antioch trying to persuade the new Gentile Christians that they had to be circumcised in addition to believing in Christ for salvation. Such a brouhaha erupted that the church commissioned Paul and Barnabas to go to the mother church of Christianity in Jerusalem to have this matter settled once and for all. According to v. 2, what does Paul claim that actually persuaded him to go up to Jerusalem.

In addition to Barnabas, who else accompanied Paul to Jerusalem (2:1)?

This young man was a Greek convert. Being uncircumcised, this young man goes as the ďtestĒ case. If he comes back from Jerusalem uncircumcised, then Paul has won the day and then people donít have to be circumcised in order to be saved. If he comes back circumcised, then Paul has not won the debateóChristians will have to be circumcised in addition to believing in Jesus in order to be recognized as Christians.

Unlike the account of this event in Acts 15 which describes Paul and Barnabas addressing the entire Jerusalem church in public, Galatians 2 describes what was going on behind the scenes between Paul/Barnabas and Peter/James/John. Notice 2 things about the behind-the-scenes maneuvers:

  1. Paul claims that the apostleship of Peter/James/John was not any better or greater than his and Barnabasí. Instead, what does he claim about these 3 men who have been labeled pillars of the Jerusalem church (2:6)?

    Of course, he is exaggerating because the whole point of this part of Galatians is to show that Paulís apostleship was in fact as valid as theirs.

  2. Paul didnít yield to the Judaizers nor any inclination among the 3 great apostles regarding salvation and circumcision. When Paul says that he didnít yield to them for even an hour, he means that he didnít give an inch, or as we would say, ďHe didnít give in for even a moment.Ē

This great church conference concludes with Paul and Barnabas winning the day: circumcision or any other work of the law is not necessary for salvation or for living the Christian life!

Even more important, for Paulís claim, is the fact that the 3 great apostles actually extended to Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship. Paul didnít have to bow down kiss the first popeís ring. The three great apostles treated Paul and Barnabas as equals. They shook hands on this matter because they were all equals, not superiors and inferiors. Paulís apostleship was just as good as theirs in their own eyes. The only difference was that Peter was sent as an apostle to the Jews (circumcised) and Paul was sent as an apostle to the Gentile (uncircumcised). The only thing the 3 great apostles wanted Paul to do was to emphasize caring for the Christian poor, something Paul was very eager to do.

(Now this emphasis on care for the Christian poor actually came from Jesus Himself. In fact, at the end of His sermon on the second coming when Jesus speaks about the judgment of the sheep and goats, He claims that what separates the sheep (the saved) from the goats (the damned) was their treatment of the Christian poor (Matt. 25:31-46, especially verses 40 and 45). Paul was so serious about this that the whole emphasis of his third missionary journey was to collect alms for the poverty-stricken Christians in Jerusalem.