After defending his Apostleship and his motivations, Paul moved on to explain that the gospel that he preached was not a wishy-washy, flimsy, powerless message of cultural manipulation. The Judaizers wrongly accused Paul of what they did not know. He had never changed his message to appease audiences, whether in a strict Jewish context or in the loose-living Gentile culture. The gospel that Paul preached was the one that he had received from Jesus himself.
Paul further explained why he did not want to change the message. First, God had told him to proclaim it, and changing the message would be disobeying God. To Paul, obeying God would always be more important than impressing people. Second, Paul explained how that the gospel had worked in transforming his own life. Why would he need to change the message if he knew it was powerful enough to work just the way it was? To make this second point, Paul gave a bit of autobiographical information.
In his younger years, Paul had been highly successful in following the Jewish religion. As a matter of fact, at the time of Paul’s conversion he was working as a zealous volunteer to fulfill orders to seek and destroy any person who refused to obey the Jewish religion, including Christians. After meeting the resurrected, glorified Jesus, Paul had come to place his faith in Him, and was converted. Everything that he had pursued up to that point in his life was in question. Paul, the Jewish zealot, was now faced with an painfully difficult situation.
Many assume that Paul walked away from his Damascus Road experience thoroughly changed, but Paul says that simply wasn’t the case. After seeing Jesus, Paul retreated into Arabia and Damascus for three years. I imagine that for those three years, Paul wrestled with the historical and prophetic truths that he had been raised under. I think that it is interesting to note, although not expressly important, that Paul spent three years learning the truth and message of Jesus. This was the same amount of time that the other Apostles had spent with Jesus during His earthly ministry. While the specific amount of time is not necessarily of great consequence, the fact that Paul didn’t simply convert over night is. It took years to reshape and reframe his theology. Damascus Road was the start of his gospel transformation, and even as an Apostle, he would continue to grow in his understanding of the truths of the gospel.
Paul’s final blow against the slanderous attacks that the Judaizers had made was in explaining his purpose for trusting in and proclaiming consistently and confidently the gospel as he had received it from Jesus. That purpose - in the end, God would be glorified. In never caving under social pressure and declaring the gospel with little regard for popularity, Paul knew that any result achieved, any conversions accomplished, would come only from the power of a gracious, electing God. At the end of the day, Paul’s ability to give a persuasive argument for the gospel was not what converted men. Men were converted simply by the will and work of an omnipotent God. As Paul would argue later in Romans 1:16, he unashamedly preached the gospel, because it “is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth,” to the Jew and the Gentile. He didn’t need to cater. God’s power was sufficient in the gospel to convert anyone.
Food For Thought: What reasons did Paul give for not needing to change the gospel to reach his audience?