Monday, 15 February 2016
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. Galatians 1:18
Paul is being exceptionally methodical in his words here for a reason. He has already established that the gospel he preached was neither received from man, nor was he taught it. He further gave the timeline of what occurred after his conversion, including his trip to Arabia. Now he says that “after three years I went up to Jerusalem.” This “three years” is probably from his original conversion and not from the later events which included his return from Damascus.
The purpose of the visit was “to see Peter.” This seems innocuous enough, but there is exacting purpose in why he says this. First, the word rendered “to see” is an uncommon one, being found only here in the New Testament. It is historeó. One can see the germ of our modern word “history” in it. It is what one does in order to ascertain information by a personal examination and inquiry. For example, it is the word one would use when visiting a great city to find out all about it. Scholars puzzle over why Peter is singled out, but understanding what Paul writes about Peter in chapter 2 clears up the reason.
Peter is noted as one of the “pillars” of the church in Galatians 2:9. It may seem peculiar that his words are directed only at Peter, but this directed line of wording is given as a build-up to the events of Galatians 2:11-13. In other words, Paul is continuing to establish his apostleship and the truth of the gospel message he preaches, showing that it is on the same level of authority as that of any other apostles, including the noted Peter.
In this visit to Peter, he notes that he was there with him for “fifteen days.” Again, this is important to understand because it established the fact that this extremely short time was insufficient in length for Paul to have somehow obtained his apostleship by Peter or anyone else. There would not have been time to evaluate him, test his sincerity, place the needed trust in him, and commission him. Paul himself, while speaking to Timothy, shows that granting a commission after such a short time is imprudent –
“Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure.” 1 Timothy 5:22
Finally, during this fifteen-day period, Paul stayed with Peter, but he did not spend all of his time with him. This is evidenced by the account found in Acts 9 –
“So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. 29 And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. 30 When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.” Acts 9:28-30
Paul has methodically given the record of his conversion to demonstrate that what he preaches is both sound and on an equal footing with that of even the most noted of apostles. When a challenge is made to the true gospel, he was willing to go to almost unimaginable efforts to protect its purity. This will be seen as the epistle unfolds.
Life application: We are being given a continuous stream of verses which clearly establish Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles, and one whose message is to be adhered to as doctrine for the church age. Of course this is why Paul’s letters are attacked continuously by legalistic Judaizers such as the Hebrew Roots Movement and other “messianic” groups. He is also diminished by countless other churches as well. By weakening the authority of Paul’s letters, one is left with nothing but a convoluted religion that will inevitably fall back on works-based salvation. Hold fast to the gospel of Jesus Christ which says that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone.
Heavenly Father, a new week of work lies ahead of us. While we are busy with that, help us to keep our hearts and thoughts directed to You. Keep us from idle hands and wandering minds and help us to be productive and honorable people who will be an example to others and a light back to You. Let us not do anything that would bring a stain upon Your name. Help us in this as the week unfolds before us. Amen.