18 “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.” (Galatians 1:18–24)
After three years of silence in Arabia (Galatians 1:17), and then an initial preaching ministry in Damascus (Acts 9:19-22), Saul then traveled to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles in general and Peter (Cephas) in particular. It was time for Saul to be in contact with the leaders of the church.
Saul sought to visit Peter, and then later on the Lord’s brother James, for information, counsel and instruction. While Saul did not receive the Gospel from a man (Galatians 1:12), he did sense the need for confirmation and insight from those who knew Jesus best.
It was at this time that while the church at large regarded Saul with fear and apprehension, he began preaching the Gospel following his meeting with the apostles (Acts 9:26-28), As was the case in Damascus, Saul boldly preached the Gospel in Jerusalem and contended with the Hellenists who wanted to kill him (Acts 9:29).
It was then that Saul’s brothers in Christ hurried him to Caesarea and then sent him to Tarsus for his own protection (Acts 9:30; Galatians 1:20). Syria and Cilicia included Saul’s hometown of Tarsus. He remained in this region for a number of years (Galatians 1:22-24).
Dr. John MacArthur comments that, “He was preaching in that region for several years. When word of revival in that area reached Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas (see Acts 11:20–26). Paul stayed on in that region as a pastor in the church at Antioch. With Barnabas, they went from there on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:1–3), and afterward returned to Antioch (Acts 14:26) from where they were sent to the Jerusalem Council (Acts 14:26–15:4).”
Like Moses in the dessert of Midian (Exodus 3:1; Acts 7:30-34), so too did Saul remain in Syria and Cilicia while remaining relatively unknown to the church in Jerusalem. Not to worry. God knew what Saul was doing (Philippians 2:12-13). He also knows and has a purpose for you, even when you remain relatively unknown. You’re not unknown to the Lord. Silent years do not have to be unproductive years.
Soli deo Gloria!