First, let's look at Paul's timeline: 1. Converted on Damascus road; 2. Trip to Arabia; 3. Return to Damascus; 4. Three years later to Jerusalem; 5. To Syria Province and Cilicia; 6. FOURTEEN YEARS LATER-back to Jerusalem! This was a hard run course for Paul, demonstrating that he was no fly-by-night, he was learning directly from God- 2 Corinthians 12 v 2-and now able to talk at an equal level with the leaders of the Church and had the same authority as them, standing up against the Judaizers and propagating that the freedom Christ brings is real not illusory!
Certain characteristics of Paul are clear here:
1. He was a man who gave authority its due respect. It would have been easy for him to go his own way, but he went and talked with leaders of the Church and the groups worked together. When you have been a Christian for some time, it is simple to think that you can stop attending church, maybe form a house group of people you get on with, I would say that this is a big mistake: the beauty of church is that you mingle with those you wouldn't naturally get on with and, particularly in the preaching, God can says things to you which generally you would not be willing to hear.
2. He was a man who refused to be overawed, he sought the approval not of other people, but of God. Fortunately the days are gone when church leaders are six feet above criticism. However, Paul treated others with respect and that is what we are all called to do to every human we meet, especially those fellow believers.
3. He was a man who was aware that he had been given a special task and he wouldn't let any form of discouragement deter him from fulfilling it. As James declared: 'Do not waver, for the person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind'.
We see here also that Paul opens the window into the inner workings and struggles of the early Church and we will look more at that tomorrow.