“For ye have heard of my conversion in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the Church of God and wasted it.”

“Ye have heard of my conversation”
Literally:  “for you heard my way of life”–My manner of life; the mode in which I   conducted myself.  That is, you have heard of my former manner of life; of my conduct, my mode of life, my deportment.

Probably Paul had himself made them acquainted with the events of his early years. The reason why he refers to this is to show them that he had not derived his knowledge of the Christian religion from any instruction which he had received in his early years, or any acquaintance which he had formed with the apostles, he had at first been decidedly opposed to the Lord Jesus, and had been converted only by his wonderful grace.

         YOU HEARD:   (Grk.–êkousate)–Meaning, “you received news of.”  Even before I came among you heard about me. The reason why he refers to this is to show them that he had not derived his knowledge of the Christian faith from any instruction which he had received in his early years, or any acquaintance which he had formed with apostles.   He had at first been decidedly opposed to the Lord Jesus, and had been converted only by His wonderful grace.

         “in time past in the Jews’ religion”
         Literally:  “when {I was} in Judaism”–The word “religion” is not in the original Greek text.

         JEWISH RELIGION:  (Grk.–Ioudaismos)–Which refers to the Jewish faith and worship. 

         The Judaism with which Paul was acquainted and is life had been immersed, was apostate.  He knew nothing before his conversion of the supernatural Judaism in which the Levitical sacrifices were the outward expression of an inward faith in a coming substitutionary atonement for sin.  Judaism in Paul’s day was a merely ethical cult basing salvation on  good works and observing the sacrifices as a mere form.
         Paul now calls the religion in which he was brought up the “Jews’ religion.”  He was saved, not in Judaism, not by Judaism, but from Judaism. In the belief and practice of Judaism; that is, as it was understood in the time when he was educated. It was not merely in the religion of Moses, but it was in that religion as understood and practiced by the Jews in his time, when opposition to Christianity constituted a very material part of it. In that religion Paul proceeds to show that he had been more distinguished than most persons of his time.
1.      His early enmity to the Christian faith.His past career was notorious.
2.      His intense zeal for the Jewish religion.|
Good intentions will never make anything really good with God.  There is an old saying which says that, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

        b.      Mere religion can never make false be true, nor justify persecuting the truth. 
                 Unfortunately, there are those mistaken ones who believe that it doesn’t really matter how you want to worship
God, just so long as you are sincere.

“how that beyond measure”
Literally:  “that with surpassing {zeal}”– In the highest possible degree; beyond all limits or bounds; exceedingly.

          BEYOND MEASURE:  (Grk.–kath huperbolen)-Meaning: “by hyperbole.” The phrase is one which Paul frequently employs to denote anything that is excessive, or that cannot be expressed by ordinary language (see Acts 9:1-2 and 22:4). 

“I persecuted the Church of God and wasted it.”
Literally:  “I persecuted the Church of God and ravaged it.”

          THE CHURCH:  (Grk.–ekklesia)–Here in the singular, marking its unity, though constituted of many particular churches, it is all under the one Head, Christ and together make up the Body of Christ (see Acts 8:3 9:1.

           OF GOD:  (Grk.–tou Theou)–Added to mark the greatness of his sinful alienation from God (I Cor. 15:19).

          WASTED: (Grk.–portheô)–That is, laid it waste; the opposite of building it up; destroyed it. The word which is here used means, to waste or destroy, as when a city or country is ravaged by an army or by wild beasts. His purpose was to utterly to root out and destroy the Christian religion (see Acts 8:3; 9:1).

“And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.”

         “And profited in the Jews' religion”
         Literally:  “and {I} progressed in Judaism-

PROFITED: (Grk.–proekopton)—“I was becoming a proficient; I made progress.” Made advances and attainments.

Paul made advances not only in the knowledge of the Jewish religion, but also he surpassed others in his zeal in defending its interests, he had had better advantages than most of his countrymen; and by his great zeal and characteristic ardor, he had been able to make higher attainments than most others had done.  He does not mean that he became more exemplary in the love and practice of the pure Law of God than any of his countrymen, but that he was more profoundly skilled in the traditions of the fathers than most of his fellow students were, or his contemporaries.

“above many my equals in mine own nation”
Literally: “beyond many contemporaries in my race”–Equals in years. This is the true sense of the original. It means that he surpassed those of the same age with himself.      Possibly there may be a reference here to those of the same age who attended with him on the instructions of Gamaliel.

 Paul does not mean that he became more exemplary in the love and practice of the pure law of God than any of his countrymen, but that he was more profoundly skilled in the traditions of the fathers than most of his fellow students were.

MY EQUALS:  (Grk.–sounlikiotas)–May mean his contemporaries.

NATION:  (Grk.–genei)—Literally:  race, (perhaps, years), not sect of the Pharisees.

“being more exceedingly zealous”
Literally:  “being much more a zealot”– More studious of; more ardently attached to them; more anxious to distinguish himself in attainments in the religion in which he was brought up. All this is fully sustained by all that we know of the character of Paul, as at all times a man of singular and eminent zeal in all that he undertook.

“of the traditions of my fathers”–Of the traditions of the Jews.

A large part of the doctrines of the Pharisees depended on mere tradition; and Paul doubtless made this a special matter of study, and was particularly tenacious in regard to it. It was to be learned, from the very nature of it, only by oral teaching, as there is no evidence that it was then recorded.

TRADITIONS:  (Grk.–paradosis)–Meaning: “a handing down,” or, “to give personally.”

         It signifies an act of transmission or that which is transmitted.  Paul is speaking of the hereditary traditions of his family.  He was the son of a Pharisee; these Phraisaic traditions had been engraved on the Law and made the Law void (see Matt. 15:1-6). Subsequently these traditions were recorded in the Mishna, and are found in the Jewish writings.
         In the time of Paul they were to be learned as they were handed down from one to another; and hence the utmost diligence was requisite to obtain a knowledge of them. Paul does not here say that he was zealous then for the practice of the new religion, nor for the study of the Bible. His object in going to Jerusalem, and studying at the feet of Gamaliel, was doubtless to obtain a knowledge of the traditions of the sect of the Pharisees. Had he been studying the Bible all that time, he would have kept from the fiery zeal which he evinced in persecuting the church, and would, if he had studied it right, have been saved from much trouble of conscience afterwards.

VERSES 15-17:  THESE VERSES GO TOGETHER TO MAKE A COMPLETE THOUGHT.Dr. David Stern, in hiS translation, The Jewish New Testament, translates these verses to read:  “But when God, Who picked me out before I was born and called me by His grace, chose (16)  to reveal His Son to me, so that I might announce Him to the Gentiles.  I did not consult any-one (17) and I did not go up ro Yerushalayim to see those who were emissaries before me.    Instead, I immediately went off to Arabia and afterwards returned to Dammesek (Damascus)”.

“But when it pleased God, Who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace.”

“when it pleased God”
Literally:  “but when God was pleased”–Paul is saying that he was called according to the will of God. Paul traced all his hopes of eternal life, and all the good influences which had    ever borne upon his mind, to God.

           PLEASED:  (Grk.–eudokeô)–Literally:  “to think it good, to be well pleased.”

“Who separated me from my mother's womb”
Literally:  “He having separated me from my mother’s belly”– That is, in His counsel set    me apart from other men for a special destination.  He whom I acknowledge as the GOD of nature and the GOD of grace; Who preserved me by His providence when I was a helpless infant, and saved me by His grace when I wa an adult persecutor.

            SEPARATED:  (Grk.–aphorizô)–Meaning:  “to mark off by bounds, to determine,   to separate.”

The meaning is, that God had in His secret purposes set Paul apart to be an apostle. It does not mean that he had actually called him in his infancy to the work, for this was not so, but that God designed him to be an important instrument in his hands in spreading the true religion. Jeremiah Jer 1:5 was likewise set apart, and John the Baptist was also likewise early designated, for the work which they afterwards performed. It follows from this,
1.     That God often, if not always, has purposes in regard to men from their very birth.
        He designs them for some important field of labor, and endows them at their creation with talents adapted to that.

2.     It does not follow that because a young man has gone far astray; and has become even a blasphemer and a persecutor, that God has not destined him to some important and holy work in his service. How many men have been called, like Paul, and John Newton, and John Bunyan, from a life of sin to the service of God.
3.     God is often training up men in a remarkable manner for future usefulness.
         a.      His eye is upon them, and he watches over them, until the time comes for their conversion,
         b.     His providence was concerned in the education and training of Paul.
It was by the Divine intention with reference to his future work that he had so many opportunities of education, and was so well acquainted with the “traditions” of that religion which he was yet to demonstrate to be unfounded and false, God gave him the opportunity to cultivate his mind, and prepare to grapple with the Jew in argument, and show him how unfounded were his hopes. So it is often now. God gives to a young man an opportunity of a finished education.
4.     We should never despair of a young man who has wandered far from God.
         a.      If he has risen high in attainments; if his whole aim is ambition; or,
         b.     If he has become an infidel, still we are not to despair of him.
                 It is possible still that God “separated” that talent to his service from the very birth, and that Hemeans to call such an one to His service.   
How easy it was to convert Saul of Tarsus when the proper moment arrived.  So it is of the now unconverted and unconsecrated, but cultivated talent among the young men of our land.

If we were to put into our own vernacular what Paul is saying here, it might go something like this:  “Christ personally called me.  But why did He call me?  Was it because of my great standing as a zealous Pharisee?  Or was it for my holy and blameless life?  Of course not! And it certainly was not for my admirable works, such as my persecution and bad rage against the church.  Then why did He call me?  It was simply because of His grace.”

Paul, the one who had once been such a fanatic for the LAW, now the center of his life was GRACE!  This one, who so passionately had worked to earn God’s favor, was no content in humble faith to accept whatever God lovingly offered him.  This one who had gloried in all the he had done for him, now gloried in what Christ had done him.

“To reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen, immediately I conferred not with fleshy and blood.”

“To reveal His Son in me”–This is to be regarded as connected with the first part of verse   15:   “When it pleased God to reveal His Son in me” i.e., on the way to Damascus.  The revelation referred to was the miraculous manifestation which was made to Paul on his way to Damascus (compare II Cor. 4:6). That revelation was in order to convince Saul of Tarsus that Jesus was the Messiah; to acquaint him with His nature, rank, and claims; and to qualify him to be a preacher to the heathen.

          REVEAL:  (Grk.–apokaluptô)-Literally:  “to uncover, unveil.”   This Greek word refers to the disclosure of something by the removal of that which hitherto concealed it, and refers especially to a subjective revelation to an individual.

A public disclosure of the Lord Jesus through Paul would necessitate the fact that He had been previously hidden from public knowledge, which certainly is not the case, since He had already been preached to the world.  But He had previously been hidden from Paul, which points to a subjective revelation of the Lord Jesus to Paul.

“That I might preach Him”– In order that I might so preach him; or with a view to my being appointed to this work. This was the leading purpose for which Paul was    converted, (Acts 9:15, 22:21).

           I MIGHT PREACH:  (Grk–euangelizômai)–This present tense in the Greek, which includes the idea “that I may preach Him,” implying an office still continuing.  This was the main commission entrusted to Paul (see 2:7, 9).

“among the heathen”
Literally:  “among the nations”– The word heathen refers to Gentiles. That is, the  Gentile world;  the portion of the world that was not Jewish, or that was destitute of the    true faith. It was to the Gentiles,  and dispersed Jews among the Gentiles, that Paul was especially sent.

          HEATHEN:  (Grk–ethnos)–Literally:  “the nations;” but commonly rendered as either Gentile or heathen.  In other places this word is translated as nations (i.e., Matt. 24:7; 25:32).

“I conferred not with flesh and blood”
Literally:  “I did not confer with flesh and blood”– Paul did not get his message from any man.  He received the gospel directly from Jesus Christ.  I did not take counsel with men

His first act after conversion was to withdraw into Arabia.  This fact shows that he had at once place himself completely beyond the reach of human influence.  This retirement into Arabia was for the purpose of solitary communion with God.  Paul says, I did not lay the case before any man; I did not confer with any one.  He resolved at once to follow the command of the Savior, and at once to obey Him. This shows: 
1.      That when the Lord Jesus calls us to follow him, we should promptly and decidedly obey
2.      That we should not delay even to take counsel of earthly friends, or wait for human advice, or consult their wishes, but should at once resolve to follow the Lord Jesus.
3.      That when the Lord Jesus calls us, we should at once abandon any course of life, however pleasant, or any plan of ambition, however brilliant, or any scheme of gain, however promising, in order that we may follow him.

What a brilliant career of ambition did Paul abandon!  How promptly and decidedly did he do it!  He did not pause or hesitate a moment; but, brilliant as were his prospects, he at once forsook all–paused in mid-career in his ambition–and, without consulting a human being, at once gave his heart to God. Such a course should be pursued by all. Such a promptness and decision will prepare one to become an eminent Christian, and to be eminently useful.

“Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me:  but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.”

“Neither went I up to Jerusalem”
Literally:  “nor did I go up to Jerusalem”–That is, I did not go there at once. I did not go   to consult with the apostles there, or to be instructed by them in regard to the nature of the      Christian faith.

         Paul’s purpose of this statement is to show that in no sense did he derive his commission from man;  that he had his call so immediately and pointedly from God Himself, that he had no need of the concurrence even of the apostles, being appointed by the same authority, and fitted to the work by the same grace and Spirit, as they were.
         Jerusalem was the stated residence of the apostles; and, when all the other believers were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, we find the apostles still remaining, unmolested, at Jerusalem (Acts 8:1).

“to them which were apostles before me”
Literally:  “to the apostle before me”–This implies that Paul even then regarded himself to be an apostle.  He admits they were apostles before he was; but he felt also that he had original authority with them, and he did not go to them to receive instruction, or to derive his commission from them. Several of the apostles (if not all of the eleven–Acts 8:1)   remained in Jerusalem for a considerable time after the ascension of the Lord Jesus, and it was regarded as the principal place of authority. See Acts 15:1-41.

“but I went into Arabia”
Literally:  “but I went away into Arabia”–That part of Arabia which was contiguous to Damascus, over which Aretas was then king (literally:  Tetrarch).  Of this journey into Arabia we have no other account.


Arabia was south of Damascus, and at no great distance. The line indeed between Arabia Deserts and Syria is not very definitely marked, but it is generally agreed that Arabia extends to a considerable distance into the great Syrian desert. To what part of Arabia, and for what purpose Paul went, is wholly unknown. Nothing is known of the circumstances of this journey; nor is the time which he spent there known. It is known, indeed, (v.18), that he did not go to Jerusalem until three years after his conversion; but how large a part of this time was spent in Damascus we have no means of ascertaining.


“and returned again unto Damascus.”–Paul did not go to Jerusalem to consult with the apostles after his visit to Arabia, but returned again to the place where he was converted, and preached there, showing that he had not derived his commission from the other apostles