“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and get information from him, and I stayed with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. I assure you that, before God, I am not lying about what I am writing to you!” (Galatians 1:18-20 NET).
Although our text doesn’t tell us what Paul the Apostle was doing in the three-year period prior to his departure for Jerusalem, it seems likely that he spent that time preparing to fulfill God’s directive for his life. But even though Paul’s apostolic calling did not completely mirror the experience of Jesus’ other apostles, the next chapter will tell us that he was fully aligned with those leaders on some important questions. (1)
The record of Paul’s visit to Jerusalem is contained in the Biblical book of Acts…
“And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.
So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus” (Acts 9:26-30).
Galatians 1:18-20 sheds some additional light on this trip by mentioning Paul’s intent to visit Peter (or Cephas). Peter, of course, was a recognized leader within the Christian community and one of the first disciples to be called by Jesus. However, we should note that Paul did not visit Peter in order to secure his approval. Instead, the purpose of his visit was to get acquainted with (AMP) or get to know (CSB) Peter.
Paul stayed with Peter for a little over two weeks and might have stayed longer if not for the murderous intentions of the Hellenists, a group of Jewish people who followed the customs of Greek society. Nevertheless, this short time period turned out to be fortuitous, for it supported Paul’s contention that he received his teaching directly from Jesus and not from others. While fifteen days would make for a nice visit with a new acquaintance, it was hardly sufficient to develop the deep theological truths that Paul would go on to record in his various New Testament epistles.
(1) Despite the fact that he will go on to rebuke one of them.