“Then three years later I went to Jerusalem to get to know Peter, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. The only other apostle I met at that time was James, the Lord’s brother. I declare before God that what I am writing to you is not a lie. After that visit I went north into the provinces of Syria and Cilicia. And still the churches in Christ that are in Judea didn’t know me personally. All they knew was that people were saying, “The one who used to persecute us is now preaching the very faith he tried to destroy!” And they praised God because of me.” Galatians 1:18-24 NLT
Paul returned from a lengthy time of "reprogramming", if I may call it that. He had spent his whole childhood, teenage years, and early adult life pursuing the Jewish traditions. He was a Pharisee (the strictest and most well known observers of the law of Moses). He was born from the lineage of the tribe of Benjamin. He was circumcised the eighth day according to the law of Moses. He was blameless in his keeping of the Jewish law. In Philippians 3:5-6 he says it like this: “I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.” NLT
Paul was, indeed, indoctrinated in the Jewish beliefs. His mind and life were inundated with these things. After his encounter with Jesus in Acts 9 he needed the Lord to disciple him in the truth. This would require him to get away with God for an extended time of searching the scriptures, prayer, and, perhaps, even fasting. Paul's world had been turned upside down, or shall I say, right side up. He saw the scriptures differently now. His spiritual eyes had been opened. God was preparing him for the purpose for which he was born (to carry the message of the gospel of grace to the world). Paul had been transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. He would never be the same.
When he did return to the scene of public life, he spent fifteen days with Peter, a well respected pillar of the church. I speculate that during that time he allowed Peter to share his personal relationship with Jesus and his eye witness account of Jesus ministry and teachings.
He also visited with James, the Lord's brother (the one who also wrote the book of James). James appears to be the first Pastor in the New Testament at the Jerusalem church, which was the mother church of them all. (see Acts 15:13-21). It appears that Paul was submitting to godly authority and counsel as a new follower of Christ. It would take time for the church to fully accept his legitimate conversion and calling. Paul (Saul) had zealously persecuted the church before his conversion. Now the church could take a sigh of relief and rejoice that God had rescued them from Pauls vehement assault on the faith of Jesus. God took the strongest opposition and turned him into a preacher of the gospel.
God is always looking out for His church. No matter what men may say or do, the church of Jesus Christ will always triumph.
Prayer for today: Father, in Jesus name, make me a vessel of honor that You can pour Your self into and out of. Help me share the freedom that comes from truly knowing Jesus. Religion had enslaved me. Your grace has set me free!!!
Rev. Curtis Norris