According to Paul (Galatians 1:18), who is supported by Luke’s account in Acts 9, Paul was preaching Christ in Damascus and vicinity for a full three years before he ever met with any of the Apostles at Jerusalem! The indications are that Paul wasn’t silent during those three years after his heavenly vision, but began to obey the Lord by preaching the Gospel to those in Damascus and in Arabia (Acts 26:16, 19). If Paul learned the Gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection—that is, that Jesus was the Son of God—by revelation (via his vision on the Damascus Road), this means that his excursions into Arabia imply that he preached the Gospel there among the Ishmaelite people.
During those three years, Damascus was, no doubt, used as Paul’s headquarter church, just as he had later done at Tarsus, Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus and possibly Iconium. Aside from his tent making profession, the Damascus brethren probably supported Paul both financially and with personnel. Therefore, it is logically sound that, if Paul was conducting a three year evangelistic endeavor centered at Damascus before he even went to Jerusalem to meet with the Apostles, he didn’t need the Apostles’ testimony in order to preach the Gospel of Christ. This was Paul’s argument in pointing out that it was three years before he even discussed the Gospel with the Apostles at Jerusalem (Galatians 1:17), and that, when he finally went to Jerusalem, he met only with Peter an James, the brother of the Lord (Galatians 1:18-19). His discussions with them at Jerusalem lasted for no longer than fifteen days (Galatians 1:18), before he had to leave because of a threat to his life over preaching the Gospel (Acts 9:28-30), just as he had to leave Damascus (Acts 9:22-25).
The point is that Paul could not have learned his Gospel from any of the Apostles over such a brief period of less than three weeks. Fifteen days is simply not enough time to formulate a heretofore unknown theological premise for preaching the Gospel. It takes several years for someone in seminary to be trained for evangelistic work. Admittedly, there is little doubt that Paul already knew how to evangelize others for Judaism, so the method of reaching out to the ignorant would not have been a problem. However, the Apostles taught a different doctrine than was accepted by the major divisions of Judaism. Paul would have had to learn Peter’s Gospel, or a reasonable facsimile, if the men from James are to be taken seriously, because they argued that Paul learned his Gospel at the feet of the Apostles. Nevertheless, Paul claims in his defense that there simply was not enough time for that to occur.
After leaving Jerusalem Paul went to his home town of Tarsus in Cilicia and then to Syria to preach the Gospel (Galatians 1:21; cp. Acts 9:30). The Roman province of Syria included Cilicia, but notice that Paul differentiated between the two. What should we make of this? I believe that, since Paul made a distinction between the two areas of the province, he probably intended to express the fact that they include two different evangelistic excursions. The first was headquartered out of his hometown of Tarsus and spread from there throughout the vicinity of Cilicia. The second occurred when Barnabas came to get him (Acts 11:25-26) to assist in evangelizing Antioch in Syria. Antioch became the headquarter church for other areas in the Syrian province that no doubt included Galilee, Samaria, the Decapolis and the coastal cities along the Mediterranean. However, until Barnabas came for him to evangelize Syria and the northern regions of Judea, the Jews in these places didn’t know him personally, but only heard of his work in Christ and praised God for him, even though he had once sought to destroy the Gospel he now preached (Galatians 1:21-24).
Paul’s point in bringing this up was to show that during all this time, that is, the three years he spent in Damascus and vicinity preaching the Gospel (cir. spring of 35 AD to 38 AD), and the time he spent at Tarsus and vicinity (cir. spring of 38 AD to 41 AD), and the time he spent at Antioch and the northern Syrian province (cir. spring of 41 AD to 44 AD), Paul had not returned to Jerusalem to discuss his Gospel with the Apostles there. He was busy for approximately nine years preaching Christ under the authority of the heavenly vision he experienced on his way to Damascus. Thus, Paul debunked the accusation of the men from James who taught the Galatians that his Gospel was learned from men (the Apostles), and Paul, therefore, should not have added to or taken away from what was preached at Jerusalem.
Simply stated, Paul received a vision of Christ, showing Jesus was alive after his crucifixion. Nothing the Apostles could tell him would make Jesus’ resurrection more believable to Paul. The only logical conclusion is that Paul’s Gospel came by revelation, because no man taught it to him nor did he receive it from the Apostles; his life before Christ shows he tried to destroy the Church. Afterward, he couldn’t have needed the Apostles’ testimony, because he had been bringing people to Christ for 3 years before he met the Apostles. Even then he was in their company for no longer than 15 days, and approximately six years after that he journeyed to evangelize Galatia (cir. spring of 44 AD to 47 AD). Where was the time to support the argument of the men from James?