What is Paul Defending?

MAIN POINT OF PASSAGE (in one sentence): Paul’s gospel message was authentic, the truth, “the real deal”.  He got is straight from God, not some human teacher.  Since it was truth, then his condemnation for false teaching applied to himself as well as anyone else.

APPLICATION FROM THE PASSAGE: Paul had apparently been challenged (vs. 20) about the veracity of the message he preached. He documents not only the authority of his calling directly but also the truthful (biblical) accuracy of the gospel indirectly. Thus, what he tells the Galatians in the rest of his letter can stand up to his scathing condemnation of anyone who teaches any other “gospel”. We can – and must – do the same by remaining true to the biblical message.


Forgeries are everywhere—Rolexes, hundred-dollar bills, and…gospels. What—a fake gospel? During the time of the apostle Paul, false teachers in Galatia, through ignorance or deceit, were teaching a mixture of grace and works, thus challenging Paul’s message of “grace alone, through faith, without works.” In today’s passage, Paul staunchly defended his call and message, establishing a foundation to present a credible answer to these false teachers in the remainder of his letter. Sadly, we still find those today who would corrupt the simple message of the gospel in various ways.

  • Have you ever been in a situation where you felt you had to defend the gospel in the face of false teaching? How did you react when this happened?


11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.


  1. As you read this passage, notice the different actions taken. Some are directly stated, and some are implied. What did Paul do? What did Peter and James do? What did God do? What did other believers do? Why do you think they did so?
  2. In verses 17 and 19, what claim is Paul indirectly making about himself? Why do you suppose this is important to his declaration and defense? How was his experience similar to, and yet different from, the apostles?
  3. Verses 18-19 tell us Peter and James spent two weeks with Paul. What does the silence of Peter and James about Paul’s message imply?
  4. If someone tells you they have a more accurate message about the gospel (how to be right with God), what should you do?

RESPOND TO GOD (115 words)

Paul defended the gospel he preached as being from God, not from man’s teachings. He declared himself to be no less an apostle than Peter and James, and that he knew Jesus intimately during his life. He also made a case that the message he preached—not challenged by Peter and James—was the same as theirs. The point, then, is not only Paul’s complete authority as an apostle to preach the gospel, but the complete agreement between what he taught and what the apostles in Jerusalem were teaching.

  • Lord, help us to study and know your Word well, and to present it truthfully always so that God may be glorified.