“Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.” (Gal. 1:18, 19)
Some say Paul spent these three years in the desert and others say the three years refer back to his conversion and baptism. The main point in this and the previous verses is that Paul did not consult any apostles or disciples for instruction in the gospel. Wherever he was in this span of years he was consulting with the Holy Spirit rather than just parroting the words of the Twelve. More than likely this is one of those phrases that could mean during the third year rather than at the end of three years.
The important thing in verse 18 is the visit to become acquainted with Peter who was considered the leading apostle. What did they talk about? Not politics or sports and since the weather there was pretty consistent they probably talk a lot about rain or the lack thereof. Both of these men were into Jesus and each would have been eager to talk about their personal experience. Peter would have been knowledgeable about Paul’s prior activities in persecuting the church and would have been eager to hear about the events that brought about the change in Paul.
In the same way, Paul, who was called after the resurrection would want to hear a first-hand account of what it was like to be with Jesus in real life. Paul made it plain earlier that he did not need gospel facts but he was short on the knowledge of the early church. We remember that for many of the church’s early years Paul was on the other side.
Paul uses the Aramaic for Peter which is then transliterated into Greek. In all his references to Peter except one this is the form chosen. Scholarship has not found any real reason for Paul to do this. He also mentions seeing James but there is no indication that this was a long meeting or that it had any impact on what Paul would later teach as “his” gospel.
Of all the conversations that took place in the early days of the church these fifteen days of meetings between Paul and Peter must have really been something. If you could spend a couple of weeks with an apostle who would you choose? Peter and Paul had some interesting things that happened to them in their walk with Jesus. How about a two-week forum with the two of them as the main speakers?
Paul is at odds with the Galatian churches over his and their understanding of the gospel. He wants to make sure that they know he received his gospel from Jesus through the Holy Spirit and not second handed from one or more of the apostles in Jerusalem. This is very important to him as we see in the next verse.
Task for Today: While you can’t sit in on the conversation of the two-week summit of Peter and Paul you can learn about the subject that was dear to both their hearts, the good news of Jesus. Read about Peter in the gospels and then hear him speak in his two letters. Read about Paul in Acts and then hear him speak in his many letters. Spend a couple of weeks or more with these two great voices of the gospel.