[The audio for this week’s evening service is available at Sermon.net, as is a PDF file of the notes for the service. You should be able to download the audio directly with this link, if you prefer (right-click, save link as….)]
The word “next” in verse 18 indicates that Paul is setting up a time frame for these events. He does not want the accusation that he is leaving out events. The visit Paul makes here is to Jerusalem, for a short time, and is by no means a “formal” conference. This is undoubtedly the event recorded in Acts 9:26-30.
It is stated that he meets with Peter alone, except for James, the brother of Jesus. This is first an indication of Peter’s leadership of the Jerusalem church at this point. By Acts 15 he is in less of a position of leadership and James is “more in charge.” The reference to James may be because it is unclear whether he is an Apostle or not. Is everyone who saw Jesus resurrected an apostle, or only those with a special commission?
What did they do in this meeting? The Greek here is clear. Paul states that he went to Jerusalem to “interview” Peter. In Hellenistic Greek this is “to make someone’s acquaintance.” He wanted to meet Peter, let him know what was going on, exchange information, but not be instructed or approved in any way! It is extremely likely that Peter shared with Paul his experience of meeting the resurrected Jesus, and Paul did the same. It might be during this time that Paul learned of the events he describes in I Cor. 15:3-5 concerning those who had seen Jesus.
Fifteen days would have been plenty of time for Peter to tell him all that he knew of Jesus and his earthly ministry, something that Paul would not have been as familiar with, and that he would have had no other way of learning. This is a first hand interview by Paul to get the facts of Jesus earthly ministry. It is clear from this statement that Paul’s first contact with Jerusalem was minimal, with a limited number of the leadership, and was in no way a confirmation of his call or an instructional time.
After his brief visit with Peter, he sets of for Syria and Cilicia. The word region here sometimes is “latitudes,” as in a geographic region. But since this is not a technical document it likely refers to the Roman province of Syria and Cilicia. This is parallel to Acts 9:30, and 11:25f. We are told Paul boarded a ship for Tarsus, and later he and Barnabas went to Antioch. This period was likely similar to his time in Nabatean Arabia, a period of preaching the Gospel.
Paul includes an unusual line in this section: “with God as my witness, I am not lying.” This a courtroom oath. Paul is more or less setting himself in a courtroom scene and swearing a legally binding oath that he is telling the truth.
The point of all of this is to prove his statement in Gal 1:11-12 – he did not receive his gospel from any human, but rather from God. If the Galatian churches defect from that gospel, they are in extreme danger because they are rejecting the only Gospel which has its origins in God himself.