Galatians 1: Called by God
Responding to a call by God does not require human approval. Paul speaks about that in Galatians 1.
Gal 1:15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,
Gal 1:16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
Gal 1:17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
Gal 1:18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
Gal 1:19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.
If you are not self-employed, you all understand how we generally need approval before we do things on behalf of the company we work for. When I go to work, I can’t do whatever I want. I need to abide by the guidelines of the company because I am acting as a representative of the company. That certainly makes sense.
Paul recognized that he was a representative of Jesus Christ, and because he was called by Him, he did not need to go to Jerusalem get approval from the powers on earth. Clearly, he had been taught doctrine by the people in Damascus, so he was not going entirely off the deep end with his theology, but he knew that he had authority from the One who really mattered.
However, that’s not the end of the story. Paul eventually did go to Jerusalem, and he spent just over two weeks with Peter. Although Paul does not give us specific details, I’m sure they had one major topic of conversation. I’m sure that they were talking about the Gospel. If Paul had any unorthodox theology at that point, Peter definitely would have been the one to straighten him out, but there is no mention of that.
The importance of this meeting is that Paul understood the benefits of community. He could have continued doing his own thing in Damascus, but he decided to go to Jerusalem. He did not need the approval of Peter and the church authority at this point, but he nevertheless went to Jerusalem to presumably talk about the Gospel.
If that is what they were talking about, then it confirms an important detail for us. Given by the fact that it does not seem that Paul was criticized by Peter, they were preaching the same Gospel. By extension, that means that the training Paul received in Damascus and the teaching of the church in Jerusalem were quite similar. That is important because it shows an early unity of Christian teaching. At this point, we’re not very far after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, so it is significant that even at this very early point, people were preaching that which was agreed to be true.
The early church then seems to have been highly unified in purpose. It seems that they were preaching the same Gospel at least in Jerusalem and Damascus. They also understood that they were called by God and as a result needed to respond to His calling. Earthly authority has its place, but it is certainly not higher than God’s.