A defense attorney was conferring with his client one day, and told him: “I’ve got good news and bad news.” His client said, “Give me the bad news first.” His attorney replied, “They did a DNA analysis of the blood at the crime scene and it turns out it’s yours. So they are charging you with triple homicide, and recommending the death penalty.” The man nodded and said, “What’s the good news?” His lawyer said, “According to the blood at the crime scene, your cholesterol is down.”
Well, speaking of conferring with people, after the Apostle Paul got saved, he decided not to confer with anyone! He told the Galatians,
“…when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace,
“To reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood” (Gal. 1:15,16).
Now I have to tell you, that’s certainly different than what I did after I got saved. I wanted to confer with as many believers as I could, to learn more about the Lord. And it seems odd that Paul didn’t.
And what seems even more odd is that Paul is giving his testimony here. Why would he make it a point to mention in his testimony that he didn’t confer with anyone after getting saved?
Well, what he’s doing here is answering the legalistic troublemakers who had persuaded the Galatians to put themselves under the law of Moses. Those legalists had accused Paul of getting his new message of grace from men, and not from God. That’s why he began this passage by writing,
“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
“For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11,12).
And that’s why, in giving his testimony, Paul mentions that he “conferred not with flesh and blood.” It’s impossible to get a message from men if you don’t confer with any men.
An Apostolic Oversight
But let me ask you: If you had gotten saved back in Paul’s day, which twelve men would you have wanted to confer with? I kind of gave it away when I said “twelve men,” didn’t I? You’d have wanted to confer with the twelve apostles, wouldn’t you?
After I was saved back in 1970, my parents took me to a Billy Graham crusade. I guess they figured that as long as their son was suddenly into all this Christianity stuff that they would take him to see the most famous Christian there was in that day.
And the most famous Christians when Paul got saved were the twelve. So you’d think that Paul would at least want to confer with them. If God was making me His new leader on earth, I know I’d want to confer with the old leaders. But after affirming that he hadn’t conferred with flesh and blood, Paul added:
“Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus” (Gal. 1:17).
That prompts another question. When you give your testimony, do you say, “I got saved, and then I didn’t go see Billy Graham?” Probably not. So why would Paul make it a point in his testimony to say he got saved and then didn’t go see the twelve?
Well, here Paul is addressing the legalists’ charge that he’d gotten his message from the twelve in particular. You and I know the twelve couldn’t have given Paul his new message of grace, for the Lord told them to “observe” the law of Moses (Matt. 23:1-3), and then told them to teach the nations of the Gentiles to “observe” the law that He’d told them to observe (28:19,20).
But the legalists were at the Jerusalem council, and heard Peter remind the rest of the twelve that they’d always known they were ultimately saved by grace (Acts 15:11), because the law was a yoke no man could bear. The legalists misconstrued him to say that they’d always believed men were saved by grace without the law, something that wasn’t so. But it was easy for the legalists to conclude from what Peter said that the twelve were the ones who gave Paul his message of salvation by grace without the law. No wonder Paul is making it a point to deny that he went to see the twelve after he got saved, that he went into Arabia instead.
An Apostolic Redaction?
But if I was one of the legalists who were accusing Paul of getting his gospel from men, I’d have read that and said, “Wait a minute, Paul! You’re leaving out part of the story here. You didn’t go to Arabia right away.” And it’s true, he didn’t. After he got saved, he asked the Lord,
“…Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? And the Lord said…go into the city….And Saul arose… and…they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus” (Acts 9:6-8).
So the first thing Paul did after getting saved was to continue down the road to Damascus to the city of Damascus—not Arabia. And if I were one of the troublemakers, I’d have suggested that Paul conferred with some of those flesh and blood men in Damascus at that time.
But we know he didn’t, because the Lord told Ananias,
“…Ananias…go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth” (Acts 9:10,11).
Paul wasn’t conferring with anyone during those three days. He’d been blinded by the light of the Lord’s glory, so he was praying, not conferring.
We know Ananias didn’t give Paul his message, because of what Ananias told him in Acts 9:17:
“Ananias…said…Brother Saul, the Lord…hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight….”
The Lord sent Ananias to Saul to give him his sight, not his message. The only message he gave Paul was the kingdom message of salvation by water baptism (cf. Acts 22:16), and Paul later learned that the Lord had not sent him to baptize (1 Cor. 1:17). So what happened then?
“Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus” (Acts 9:19).
But we know he didn’t get his message from those disciples either, for in Galatians 1:16 Paul says he didn’t confer with flesh and blood. One of the meanings of the word confer is to give. It’s usually used that way when someone says something like: “I confer upon you the title of The Duke of Earl.”
But if “confer” means to give, then when you confer with someone, you’re doing more than just shooting the breeze. The dictionary says “confer” means to give someone your ideas and opinions. That’s why when a bunch of people get together to confer, they call it a conference.
But Paul insists he didn’t confer with those disciples in Damascus after he got saved. He passed on that Bible conference, and on any other conferences he might have attended in Arabia or anywhere else. He passed on any and all opportunities for men to
confer a message upon him.
Apostolic Bad News
If you think it through, the only message that any apostle, or any flesh and blood kingdom saint, could have given Paul would have to include what the Lord told them in Matthew 12:31:
“…blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.”
If Paul conferred with any of those disciples at Damascus, they would have had to say, “Don’t look at us to tell you what message to preach. As far as we know, you shouldn’t even be saved after you blasphemed the Spirit by consenting unto the death of Stephen, a man filled with the Spirit. If we gave you a message to preach, it’d be that blasphemers like you can’t be saved.”
And that is not the message Paul preached! He knew that the Lord said “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven… in this world, neither in the world to come” (Matt. 12:31,32). And he knew the world to come started at Pentecost when men “were made partakers of the Holy Ghost…and the powers of the world to come” (Heb. 6:4,5). And he also knew that the coming of that world had been interrupted by the dispensation of the mystery! That’s how God could save Paul and all other blasphemers during “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4).
Now we’re not told how long Paul stayed in Damascus, but we know what he did there, for Acts 9:20 says,
“…straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.”
While Paul was in Damascus, he wasn’t conferring with men to learn what to preach—he was preaching what he’d already learned on Damascus Road. He began by preaching the first thing that Jews like himself need to hear, that Jesus was the Son of God. If you don’t believe that, it won’t do you any good to believe He died for your sins. For if he wasn’t the Son of God He was just another sinful son of man, who had sins of His own to die for, and couldn’t die for yours.
“…after that many days were fulfilled…when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him…But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles…” (Acts 9:23-27).
When it says Paul went to Jerusalem and saw the apostles after many days, we’re not told how many days, but we find out as we read on in Galatians 1:
“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days” (Gal. 1:18).
If you doubt that the Bible would call three years “many days,” we know it would, for after Elijah told King Ahab it wouldn’t rain for three years,
“…it came to pass after many days, that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying…I will send rain upon the earth” (1 Kings 18:1).
But even though it had been three years since Paul persecuted the apostles, they were still afraid to confer with him, until Barnabas convinced them he was now on their side.
Apostolic Chopped Liver
But we know Barnabas didn’t take Paul to see all the apostles, for right after saying he saw Peter in Galatians 1:18, he wrote,
“But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother” (Gal. 1:19).
Here we learn Paul only saw two apostles. And for some reason, Paul only wanted to confer with Peter. Why wouldn’t he want to see all the apostles?
I think it was because Peter was the only apostle who could give Paul the only information he wanted to confer about—that sheet vision that God gave Peter in Acts 10, when the Lord showed him that unclean animals were no longer unclean. How did Peter interpret that vision? A little later, he said:
“…God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28).
Peter rightly interpreted that vision to mean that the Gentiles were no longer unclean. Now that’s something “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13) would want to confer with Peter about!
But when Paul says he visited with Peter for 15 days, you’d think that at some point Peter would have invited the other eleven apostles over to meet the new apostle. But Paul says the only other apostle he saw was James, and while James was an apostle, he wasn’t one of the twelve apostles.
So why would Paul snub the other eleven? We know they all still lived in Jerusalem, for the Lord told them to stay in Jerusalem until the city was converted, so they would not have left. So how come Paul didn’t say to Peter, “What do you say we have a fish fry with the rest of the apostles, like the one you guys had on the beach with the Lord after He rose from the dead?” Wasn’t it a little rude not to invite them over?
If I were one of the other eleven, I’d be thinking: “What am I, chopped liver? Does the new apostle think he’s too good for us?” But the Lord knew that men would say Paul got his message from the twelve, so He likely told Paul to steer clear of them.
You say, “But couldn’t he have gotten his message from Peter?”
The answer to that question is, no, he couldn’t, for the Lord had told Peter,
“…Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven… if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:18-20).
That’s not a prayer promise, as so many Christians mistakenly believe. That was the Lord telling them that after He ascended into heaven, they could make official decisions in His absence if there was a quorum of two of the twelve present to make them.
An Apostolic Quorum
That means there is simply no way that the twelve would do anything official—like loose their commission to the Gentiles, and bind themselves to minister to saved Jews (Gal. 2:9)—unless two or three of them agreed to do it. So no, Paul could not have gotten his message from Peter alone, the only member of the twelve with whom he met.
And there’s no way the legalizers could suggest Paul got his message from James the Lord’s brother either, even though Paul admitted to seeing him, for 23 years later
“Paul went…unto James…and all the elders….And…they…said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law” (Acts 21:18,20).
That means James had been preaching the law for 23 years! So nobody would believe it if the legalizers said Paul got his message of grace from a man who never stopped preaching the law. The grace message given to Paul is conspicuous by its absence in the epistle written by James, and the epistles written by Peter and John and Jude as well. That gives us further evidence that Paul didn’t get his message from the apostles, for they too never stopped teaching the law and the kingdom.
Now if you’re thinking that none of this is very important, I can assure you that Paul thought it was extremely important. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have said what he said in the next verse of Galatians 1:
“Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not” (Gal. 1:20).
Paul thought that all this was important enough to lift his hand and swear an oath to God Almighty that he was telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And the reason God included his oath in the Bible is that God knew there would always be Christians who think Paul preached the same thing as the twelve. I hear from them all the time here at BBS.
If you don’t think it’s important to know that Paul didn’t preach what the twelve preached, talk to the people who lost loved ones because they thought they could drink poison or handle serpents like the Lord told the twelve they could do. Talk to the ones who stopped believing in God because He doesn’t answer all their prayers like the Lord promised the twelve (Matt. 21:22). Talk to the ones who are literally haunted by the thought that they’ve committed the unpardonable sin, or that God let their baby die because of their sins (like He did with David under the law)—the law that the twelve preached!
That’s why Paul swore an oath that he didn’t get his message from the twelve, and that’s why God recorded his oath in the Bible, so we would know how crucially important it is to proclaim the gospel given to the Apostle Paul.