- Locate the Passage
1:11-24 is Paul’s testimony which follows the introduction (1:1-5) and affirmation of the uniqueness of the gospel of Christ (1:6-10).
- Identify the Genre
The macro level is epistolary. The micro level is expository.
- Determine the Structure of the Passage
This passage contains Paul’s selective autobiography. It breaks down as follows:
-emphasis on the supernatural source of the gospel he proclaimed (verses 11-12)
-presentation of his personal testimony (verses 13-21)
-impact of his gospel transformation (verses 22-24)
- Exegete the Passage
In verses 11-12, Paul places great emphasis on the origin or source of the gospel he proclaimed. In doing so, he makes three denials and offers one key affirmation. First, he denies that the “gospel he gospeled” has its origin in any human agency. It is not “according to” (kata) man. Next, he denies that he received his gospel from man and that he was taught it by man. Finally, Paul affirms that he received his gospel through a revelation (apokalupseos) of Jesus Christ.
Verses 13-21 contain the details of Paul’s selective autobiography. He purposely weights it in God’s direction in order to underscore the supernatural power of God and His grace through Jesus Christ. Addressing his pre-conversion life, he acknowledges the report of how he persecuted (ediokon-“persecute” or “press”) the church beyond measure (huperbolen) and sought to destroy it (verse 13). Verse 14 continues the pre-conversion focus. Here, Paul informs his readers that he was advancing in Judaism beyond his contemporaries owing to his extreme zeal for his ancestral traditions.
Verse 15 marks a shift in Paul’s testimony. Here, he turns to address his conversion (see also Acts 9, 22, 26). Placing strong emphasis on God’s initiative, Paul describes Him as having “set me apart before I was born.” Literally, the text reads, “from my mother’s womb.” The verb “set apart” (aphorisas), means “to mark off.” The God who marked Paul from his mother’s womb also called (kalesas-“having called”-aorist active participle) him by His grace. Notice that verse 16 connects the action of God to God’s pleasure-“when it pleased Him” (eudokesen-aorist active indicative). God was pleased to reveal His Son to Paul (literally “in”). Verse 16 also includes a hina clause which points to purpose. The Lord saved Paul in order that he might preach Jesus among the Gentiles (ethnesin).
Beginning with the last part of verse 16, Paul’s testimony moves forward to address his actions following his conversion. He did not immediately confer (prosanethemen) with “flesh and blood.” Neither did he go up to Jerusalem. As Dr. Jack MacGorman told his Greek students: “Paul didn’t catch the first Greyhound to Jerusalem in order to acquire his credentials from the Jerusalem apostles.” Instead, according to verse 17, he went away into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Verse 18 records that Paul went to Jerusalem “after three years” to visit (historesai-“survey” or “history”) Cephas (Peter) and that he remained with him for fifteen days. Verses 19-21 successively note that Paul saw none of the other apostles except James (the Lord’s brother), that he was adamant about telling the truth and that after this Jerusalem visit he went to Syria and Cilicia. Paul provides such details to reinforce the truths that his gospel was not from man and that he did not seek man’s approval.
Verses 22-24 offer insight into the early impact of Paul’s transformation. While he was “unknown by face” to the churches of Judea, he was known by reputation. The former persecutor had been transformed into a proclaimer of the gospel. The result was that “they glorified (edoxazon) God because of me.”
- Let the Structure of the Text Drive the Structure of the Sermon
This text trumpets the truth that the gospel has the power to transform lives to the glory of God. The structure for the sermon might look like this:
- Paul stresses the supernatural source of his gospel. (11-12)
- Paul shares a testimony weighted in God’s direction. (13-21)
- Paul reflects on the impact of gospel transformation. (22-24)