v. 18. Then, after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
v. 19. But other of the apostles saw I none save James, the Lord's brother.
v. 20. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.
v. 21. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia,
v. 22. and was unknown by face unto the churches of Judea which were in Christ;
v. 23. but they had heard only that he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
v. 24. And they glorified God in me.
Just how long Paul remained in Arabia cannot be ascertained; many commentators believe that his trip was only of short duration, his activity in Damascus occupying the greater part of the time. Three years after his conversion and call to his apostolic office, after his flight from Damascus, he made the journey up to Jerusalem, Act_9:26-29. His object in doing so, as he hastens to add, was not to receive his commission to preach at the hands of the apostles, but to visit Peter, to become personally acquainted with him It was Barnabas who at that time introduced Paul to Peter, Act_9:27. That he could not have taken a course of instruction in the Christian doctrine at that time is shown by the fact that he remained in Jerusalem only fifteen days. He undoubtedly consulted with Peter, but he spent much of the time also with the other brethren and in disputes with the Jews, Act_9:29, as well as in the Temple, where, in a trance, he received the command to set out on his missionary work among the Gentiles, Act_22:17-21. Incidentally, Paul states, he saw none of the other apostles at that time, all being absent from Jerusalem in the work of their calling. Only James, the brother of the Lord, had been present besides Peter. And lest any person in the Galatian congregations, under the influence of the false teachers, should question this statement, the apostle adds a solemn oath, asserting and attesting that he was not writing a falsehood. Not only his apostolic dignity, but the truth of the Gospel preached by him was at stake, and he felt it necessary to make such a strong exclamation.
The apostle now summarizes, giving an account of his early missionary labors. Having left Jerusalem, he went to his home city, Tarsus in Cilicia, Act_9:30, and afterward was active, with Barnabas, in Antioch, the metropolis of Syria, Act_11:26. This again shows that the apostles were not his teachers, but that he himself was at once minister and apostle with full authority. And as a further proof of his not having been a disciple of the apostles he refers to the fact that he was unknown by sight to the congregations of Judea that were in Christ; they did not even know him personally, as they undoubtedly would have, had he spent a longer time in their midst as a pupil of one or several apostles. Note that the congregations and therefore the Christians composing them are described as being in Christ; the Lord is the power by which they came into being, their inspiration, their life. Mark also that the congregations of Judea are here spoken of as many local organizations, not as mere branches of the mother congregation in Jerusalem. The only report about Paul that came to these brethren in Judea stated that the former persecutor was now preaching the faith which he once was destroying, that is, had attempted to exterminate. Whereas he had formerly made every effort to hinder men from believing in Christ, he now bent all his powers to have men come to the faith. And so they glorified and praised God in the apostle, rightly ascribing the change in his attitude entirely to the grace of God working in his heart, even as it does today.
After a brief introduction and doxology, Paul states his reason for writing the epistle and then immediately enters upon the historical and apologetical part of his letter by defending his apostolic commission.