Paul is giving his testimony in this passage (v.15) so why would he mention not conferring with flesh and blood (v.16)? He was answering the legalizers who were saying his message was of men and not of God (1:11,12). You can’t get a message from men if you don’t confer with any men! Paul goes on to mention he didn’t see the 12 apostles (Gal.1: 17) because they would be the men most likely to have given him his message.
But who would think he got the grace message from the 12, who were still preaching the law? Well, after Paul began preaching grace, the 12 themselves wondered if his message were of men, so they gathered at the Jerusalem Council to decide. When they decided it was from God, some unsaved Jews probably accused the 12 of turning their backs on the law and conspiring with Paul to concoct this blasphemous new message of grace. That’s why Paul says he didn’t go see the 12; he went into Arabia. The legalizers might have pointed out that he went to Damascus first (Acts 9:5-9), but we know Paul didn’t confer with the men in Damascus, for he was busy praying there (Acts 9:10,11), not conferring. And Paul didn’t get his message from Ananias, for he gave Paul his sight, not his message (Acts 9:17).
Then Paul hung with the saints in Damascus (9:19), but couldn’t have gotten his message from them because he didn’t confer with them. The word “confer” means to ex-change ideas and opinions, and Paul says he didn’t confer with flesh and blood. Besides, had he asked those Jewish kingdom saints what message to preach, they would have had to say, “Don’t ask us. As far as we know, you shouldn’t even be saved cuz you blasphemed the Spirit when you consented to the death of Stephen, a man filled with the Spirit” (Mt.12:31). We know they didn’t give Paul that message, for he himself was the pattern for more blasphemers who got saved under his new message of grace (ITim.1:15,16).
While in Damascus later, Paul was preaching, not conferring (Acts 9:20). Then “after many days” he went to Jerusalem (9:23-27). Galatians 1:18 says “many days” consisted of 3 years (cf. I Kings18:1). But the apostles were afraid to confer with him, so he didn’t see them, other than James (Gal.1:19).
Paul only conferred with Peter, for only he could give him the only information he wanted—about the sheet vision that made Gentiles clean (Acts 10:28). That’s something the apostle of the Gentiles would want to confer about (Rom.11:13)!
But if he was with Peter “fifteen days” (Gal.1:18), why not see the other 11? I think it was because the Lord knew men would say he got his message from them, and so told Paul to steer clear of them. He couldn’t have gotten his message from Peter alone, for the 12 were told they needed two or three to do something official like commission a new apostle and give him a new message (Mt.18:18-20). The legalizers couldn’t say Paul got the grace message from James because he was still preaching the law 23 years later (Acts 21:18-20).
Some say it’s not important to insist Paul preached a different message than the 12, but he thought it was important enough to swear to it (Gal.1:20)! Then, after proving he didn’t get his message from the leaders of the kingdom church, he proved he didn’t get it from its members by testifying he was “unknown by face” to them (1:21,22).
Instead, he went to Syria and Cilicia (v.21).We know the legalizers followed him there because later the apostles had to write the new Gentile converts there to say that the trouble-making legalizers weren’t sent by them (Acts 15:23-27).
Even today, men say that Paul preached what the 12 preached because he preached the faith he once destroyed (Gal.1:23). But the faith he destroyed was the faith men had in the message of “Jesus is the Christ” (John 20:31). Paul preached that, but he also preached that He died for our sins!