Who taught Paul his gospel?
I have come across people who think that Paul had a special revelation from God concerning the gospel we had passed on to us in the letters he wrote to the churches. Does this mean that Paul had Jesus teach him the gospel? I have heard some people talk about how wonderful for Paul to have Jesus come to him in a vision and teach him things never taught before. But is this what Paul is trying to describe in his letter to the Galatian church?
Gal 1:11-12 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.
Does this mean that Jesus came to Paul on several occasions to give him special tutoring, or even to learn things never spoken before to men?
We do know that Paul did not go to Jerusalem after he got kicked off his horse and became a believer. His own testimony said he went into Arabia first. Not exactly the kind of place that one would expect someone to travel to in order to find the heart of the message of the early church. You would have thought he would have gone to Jerusalem, not in the opposite direction. Paul didn’t even venture into Jerusalem until three years after he went to Damascus. You know, another one of those centers of the gospel often mentioned in scripture…Not!
Gal 1:17-18 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
When we as unbelievers hear the gospel and respond to it, what we do is get around other believers. We encourage fellowship and good disciples, but never would it cross our minds to encourage a new believer to go to an unbelieving country to get to know God’s word. But this is exactly what Paul did. It would be akin to us telling converts to spend time in India or Indonesia and come back later once they have a good grip on what God has for man in his gospel.
This is why some will actually defend the idea that Paul had Jesus come to him in special revelation in Arabia to teach him the gospel message. They even go as far as to claim he had special revelation, something given to him outside of the Law of Moses and the Prophets. But when it comes to visions Paul only kinda brags of one vision.
2Co 12:1-5 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.
So if Paul is not bragging about a guy who went to Arabia and have Jesus come visit him and teach him the gospel, what happened to Paul in Arabia?
We can gain some insight into this by looking at another man of the past that God has used. For scripture does speak of another of whom it said God taught. Since scripture does talk of God teaching this man, should we conjure up pictures in our imaginations of this man taking notes while God is teaching him, like some do concerning Paul?
1Sa 3:21 And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh …
Scripture testifies the LORD appeared again of all things in Shiloh and the LORD Himself revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh. Scripture doesn’t give us a clear picture of what happened to Paul in Arabia, but it certainly does of Samuel. And the testimony is true. The LORD appeared and then taught Samuel Himself as He revealed Himself to Samuel. Sooooo… How did the LORD do this? Scripture does not say it was by any other way than by His Word!
1Sa 3:21 And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD.
It doesn’t say Samuel had a whole new revelation of God when the LORD taught him. It says he was taught by God’s word. This would be the Law of Moses, the book of Judges and maybe the book of Job. But not much more than that.
Applying this to Paul, we can see that he did not have to have a whole new word of the Lord to be revealed to him for it to become his gospel as some think. All that was necessary for Paul to say, “neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ”, was for him to get the revelation of Jesus through the Word. This would be the Law of Moses and the Prophets.
To cinch this up, all we have to do is look at what Paul was preaching in the last half of the last chapter in the book of Acts. Well, well, it says he was preaching of Jesus and His kingdom from the Law of Moses and the Prophets.
Act 28:23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.
Most people do not realize this when they read about Paul getting knocked off of his horse on the way to Damascus, but Saul of Tarsus already had all that he need to become Paul the Apostle when it came his gospel. In his letters Paul never quotes anything remotely close to any new revelation that some say he got first had from Jesus in Arabia. Instead his letters are full of quotes from the Old Testament. There is a bunch about Abraham and circumcision. Some about Hagar and the Ishmael. The promises given to the fathers and so on and so on.
What happened to Paul in Arabia is what can happen to every new convert that comes to Christ. We can get a revelation of Christ from His Word. Isn’t this supposed to be what happens to us during our devotions and study of His word?