According to some, Paul’s Gospel was sufficient as it was, and he had no need of the Apostles at Jerusalem to help formulate his Gospel (Galatians 1:15-17). In fact, Paul almost immediately after meeting Jesus on the way to Damascus, left for Arabia, presumably to collect his thoughts and receive instruction (revelation, cp. verses 11-12 & 15-16) from Jesus, the resurrected Messiah, and didn’t return to Jerusalem until three years after his conversion (Galatians 1:18). What really occurred in those three years?
What Did Paul Know?
While it seems more than possible that Paul knew about Jesus before his crucifixion, he no doubt knew little of Jesus’ actual teachings before his crucifixion. However, this may have changed, while interrogating those he persecuted and tried to cause to blaspheme (Acts 26:11). He probably found out more and more about what Jesus taught through them. Yet, all this would have been hearsay, since many of the Hellenist Messianics probably didn’t know Jesus during his public ministry, or if they did, they had very little firsthand knowledge of him.
Paul’s firsthand knowledge of Jesus is that, though he had been crucified, Jesus was alive. Paul called him “Lord!” (Acts 9:5) before Jesus identified himself and afterward, as well (Acts 9:6). The reply presumes that Paul understood that he was experiencing a Theophany—i.e. an appearance of God, but even if some would deny this in the text, Paul certainly knew firsthand that he who had been crucified was alive, and all this time Paul had been persecuting this one’s disciples. In other words, Paul was guilty of seeking to stomp out the work or influence of God, and that is blasphemy. Paul was worthy of death according to the Law of his own faith, and he knew it.
What Did Paul Preach?
If the above is reasonably true from the text, then Paul knew Jesus was alive. He also knew that Jesus identified with those whom Paul went to Damascus to arrest and to return to Jerusalem for trial and eventual execution, if they didn’t recant (cp. Acts 9:1-2 with 4-5). Therefore, Jesus identified himself as the Messiah, because this is how his followers identified him. So, Saul/Paul’s firsthand knowledge of Jesus is he was crucified but arose from the dead and was alive as Israel’s Messiah. He presumably had some secondhand knowledge of his teaching which he retrieved from those he persecuted, but we don’t know exactly what that might have been. Paul also knew that Jesus chose him to take his Gospel (good news) to the gentiles (Acts 9:15; cp. 26:17). That is, Jesus, the Servant of God, who had been crucified, had been resurrected from the dead and is seated in the heavens reigning as Israel’s Messiah. The present age was ending, and the new age of the Messiah’s reign was beginning in the Kingdom of God on earth. Paul also claimed that Jesus told him that both Jews and gentiles needed to have their eyes opened (Acts 26:18). In other words, no one served God, neither those who obeyed the Law or those who knew nothing of the Law. Both needed to turn from darkness to light or from the power (or authority i.e. influence) of Satan to God–in order that they may be forgiven and have an inheritance together with THOSE WHO ARE SANCTIFIED BY FAITH who are IN him—i.e. in Christ (Acts 26:18).
This is what Paul began to preach, first at Damascus and then at Jerusalem, then to those outside Jerusalem and finally to the gentiles (cp. Acts 26:19-20). Paul preached that they should repent or agree to the charge that they had not been living under the influence of God, whether or not they knew of or were obedient to the Law, for both crucified the Messiah, the Son of God (Psalm 2:1-3; cp. Acts 4:25-28). And, in having their eyes opened to the fact of this sinful influence (cp. Acts 26:18) yield themselves to the influence of God by bringing forth works reflecting his influence in their lives (Acts 26:20). Therefore, if the Law could not, by itself, do this and couldn’t keep those who claimed to live by the Law (together with the gentiles who lived not by the Law) from crucifying the Son of God, then the Law, which didn’t prevent the Jews from crucifying the Messiah, could not be claimed as a requirement for gentiles before they could share in the inheritance with THOSE WHO ARE SANCTIFIED BY FAITH – i.e. those who are in Christ, Jesus (Acts 26:18). This encapsulated Paul’s Gospel.