Galatians | 1:1-12 | 1:13-24 | 2:1-10 | 2:11-21 | 3:1-9 | 3:10-29 | 4:1-11 | 4:12-20 | 4 :21-31 | 5:1-15 | 5:16-26 | 6 | PDF |


These small group studies of Galatians 1:13-24 contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Galatians 1:13-24  Bible Study Commentary – Paul’s Calling and Conversion

Outline

I. Paul’s life prior to conversion (13-14)
II. Paul in Arabia and Damascus for 3 years (15-17)
III. Paul begins his ministry (18-24)

I. Paul’s life prior to conversion (13-14)

Discussion Questions

• What was Paul’s life like prior to conversion?
• Why does Paul want to tell the Galatians about his life as a Jew before conversion?
• What motivated Paul to persecute the church?
• What do we learn about Paul’s character in these verses?
• What was he zealous for? How is this similar to people who are religious? What should we be zealous for?

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Paul’s life prior to Christ – Paul was an extremely religious person before his conversion to Christ. He was not an agnostic or an atheist, nor was he into materialism. He didn’t live by the mantra “eat, drink, and be merry.” According to this passage, Paul was “extremely zealous for the traditions” of his Jewish ancestors. He was well educated. He was not lukewarm or apathetic. So, what do we learn from Paul’s life?

• Religion can’t save you. If religion couldn’t save Paul, it can’t save anyone. Paul tried his very hardest to be moral and follow religious traditions, but it wasn’t good enough. (See Philippians 3:4-8.)
• Focus on Christ, not external traditions. In Paul’s zeal to pursue the traditions he grew up with, he ended up persecuting those who were following Christ and trying to destroy the very church Christ was building up. Even today, many believers zealously pursue certain practices and attack those who have different customs. Many of these people allow traditions and rituals to distract them from Christ. Some traditions, which people may focus unnecessarily on today, include things like how to structure a church service, saying “in Jesus’ name, Amen,” following rituals concerning the Lord’s Supper, wearing a certain type of clothing to church, and many others.
• God can save anyone – If God could save Paul, then He can save anyone. You may have a relative or friend who seems beyond hope. They may be very hostile to the gospel. Do not give up on or stop praying for them. God can still save them.
• Whatever is worth doing is worth doing zealously – Paul was the kind of person who gave his all. He gave his all to persecuting the church; then he gave his all to building it up. Certainly, Paul was wrong to persecute the church, but he understood that whatever is worth doing is worth doing to the very best of one’s ability. After conversion, he channeled this same enthusiasm to building the church. Are you “extremely zealous” for the things of God?

II. Paul in Arabia and Damascus for 3 years (15-17)

Discussion Questions

• What do we learn about God’s plan for Paul? When did God predestine Paul for ministry? What does this teach us about God?
• What was Paul’s calling? What is your calling? Can you identify it as clearly as Paul identified his? Are you currently working toward fulfilling God’s calling for your life?
• What does Paul mean that he did not immediately consult with flesh and blood?
• Where did he go after conversion? For how long? Why? Why does he share this with the Galatians?

Cross-References

Jeremiah 1:5- Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

Verse by Verse Commentary

Galatians 1:15 Bible Verse

On God’s Eternal Plan:

1. The plans of God do not change

A. God set me apart from my mother’s womb – Many people ask, “Why did God create the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Did He know what Adam and Eve would do? Was this a mistake?” God did know. You see, God has only ever had plan A. There is no plan B. God intended for Paul to be the flag-bearer, to take the gospel to the Gentiles. He had set Paul apart for this even before his birth. Paul did not know this, but God did. God had a plan for Paul’s life, and He also has one for you.

B. From this we see that God is sovereign. He uses sinful people to carry out His plans and decides to use them even before they are born. I have meditated on this point, trying to understand how God uses the decisions and actions of sinners who are fully responsible for their own sin. I can understand how God can use loyal followers to accomplish His plan. He tells them what to do, and they do it. The result–God’s will is fulfilled.

However, I cannot comprehend how God can use even the sinful choices of fallen humans to bring about His plan. They actively seek to rebel against Him and His plan but still end up bringing His sovereign will to fruition. How is this possible? My conclusion is simple: He is God. That is why I cannot understand it. It is one aspect of His sovereignty that is incomprehensible.

Was God’s plan for Jesus and salvation only foreknown (meaning He merely knew it ahead of time), or was it also predestined (meaning He planned it ahead of time)? The answer is BOTH. (See Acts 4:27-28 and 1 Corinthians 2:6-7.)

God’s foreknowledge demonstrates one significant aspect of His character: omniscience. His predestination reveals another crucial part of His character: omnipotence. These concepts are extremely closely linked and often are impossible to separate, as we see in Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

God both knew and appointed Jeremiah ahead of time. The same can be said for Paul.

2. Set me apart – God set Paul apart. He had a plan for him, a calling. For a while, God let Paul go. Paul lived his life his way. But according to His timing, God intervened. Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision, and Paul’s life was transformed. The rest of Paul’s life story is about how he zealously pursued God’s calling for him.

Application: How about you? Are you set apart? Do you have a calling? If so, what is it? Are you spending your time zealously fulfilling this calling?

3. God’s plan for the Gentiles – In verse 16, we see God’s plan for Paul was to take the gospel to the Gentiles. This wasn’t a new plan. We catch hints of it from way back in Genesis 3 and 12, and then many more verses on it throughout the Old Testament. God had a plan for the whole world even before creation. Nothing could stop it from being fulfilled.

4. Nothing in history did or could happen which could change God’s plan. History is His Story. Although God’s plan of salvation for the Gentiles was established before creation, He was remarkably patient in implementing His plan. At least 4000 years likely passed between creation and Paul’s calling to take the gospel to the Gentiles. Why did He wait so long?

We don’t know the exact answer, only that it was God’s plan. He did it when the “fullness of time” had come (Galatians 4:4-7). In other words, He did it at just the right time. From this, we see that God not only plans what will happen but when it will happen. He has the perfect timing for everything. This is very important for us.

Application – Are you waiting for something? Do you wonder why God doesn’t let it happen now? Did He forget? God knows how many hairs are on your head. He knows what you are waiting for. If it is good for you, He will give it to you at exactly the right time.

Are you waiting for marriage? Be patient. If you aren’t married yet, that means the right time hasn’t come yet.

Are you waiting for a promotion? Be patient. If you haven’t been promoted, the right time hasn’t come yet.

Are you in a hurry to graduate? Be patient. It isn’t time yet!

Don’t waste your life wishing for something to come in the future! Instead, get ready so that you will be prepared when God says it is the right time. The Israelites were mostly not prepared when Jesus came. In Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins, half were also not prepared for His second coming. Are you ready?

5. My immediate response was not to consult any human being – Remember the big picture of this passage. Paul is defending his apostleship so that the people will not be swayed by the false teachers who attacked both Paul and the gospel he was preaching. Paul is telling them that his apostleship authority is from God, not even from the apostles in Jerusalem. He did not go up to meet them immediately. Instead, there is a three-year period before his first visit to Jerusalem after conversion. What did Paul do during those three years? The simple answer is, “We don’t know.”

6. These three years are the most obscure of any in Paul’s life after conversion – Acts simply does not mention his time in Arabia.

There are many theories about what Paul did there, but they are only theories. The facts tell us Paul was converted and called, but he spent three years in Arabia before he fulfilled his calling. It appears to be somewhat similar to Moses’ years in Midian before completing his calling to lead God’s people out of Egypt, John the Baptist’s wilderness years, or Jesus’ 40 days in the dessert.

Whatever the exact purpose of Paul’s time there, it would seem reasonable that he was using it to prepare for the great task in front of him. It is hard to ignore that the three years he spent in Arabia is the same amount of time Jesus spent training the original apostles. Whether through prayer, meditation, time in the Word, or personal training from Jesus, Paul likely used this time to equip spiritually for the huge mission before him.

III. Paul begins his ministry (18-24)

Discussion Questions

• How soon after his conversion did Paul go up to Jerusalem to meet Peter and James?
• Why is it noteworthy that he only spent a short period of time with them?
• What testimony did Paul have among the people?
• What does his testimony (persecuting Christ, then preaching Christ) teach us? About God? About people?
• Why is verse 24 significant? What can we learn from that verse?

Cross-References

Acts 9:26-30 – When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Verses 18-19 probably are described in Acts 9:26-27.

Galatians 1:18-19 – Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles