Paul’s letter to the Galatians opened with a brief testimony of how he became an apostle of Jesus Christ. The primary reason Paul felt it was necessary to share his experience of conversion was because his teaching was being contradicted and its authenticity challenged by Jews that Paul claimed were perverting the gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:7). Paul argued, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). Paul went on to boldly declare that his message came directly from Jesus and plainly stated, “But I certify to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12).
The importance of Paul having received his message through a revelation of Jesus Christ was that its distinct content could not be verified by anyone else. Whereas, Jesus’ twelve apostles could vouch for the authenticity of each other’s messages, Paul had no one to back him up. Paul explained his situation as being appointed by God for a particular mission, specifically to preach the gospel to the non-Jewish races. He said, “But when it pleased God who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:15-19).
It appears that Paul received his revelation from Jesus during the time he was in the Arabian desert, because according to Acts 9:20, Paul began preaching the gospel while he was in Damascus, before he went up to Jerusalem to see Peter. Paul’s account of his conversion demonstrated that God was solely responsible for his salvation. Paul didn’t seek to become an apostle of Jesus Christ, he was “called” just as Jesus’ twelve apostles had been. The Greek word Paul used that is translated called, kaleo (kal-eh’-o) means to call aloud (G25640. Paul was therefore most likely referring to the voice he heard on the road to Damascus that had asked him the pointed question, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4). After Jesus identified himself, Paul asked him, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6), an indication that Paul’s conversion took place after Jesus had identified himself and Paul was able to associate him with the voice he believed to be God’s.