Bible students know from Paul’s own testimony that he was well educated. “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel” (Act 22:3 NKJV). Luke also has this comment concerning Gamaliel, “Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people” (Act 5:34 NKJV) and from the SDA Commentary we learn:
“Gamaliel was the grandson of the famous Hillel (see Vol. V, p. 97), and a renowned teacher and prominent Pharisee in his own right. The mantle of Hillel appears to have fallen upon his shoulders, and he exercised leadership in his party from about A.D. 25 to 50. There seems little basis for the claim that he was one of four presidents of the Great Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, since the supreme office was always held by the high priest in the times prior to A.D. 70 (see v. 27). But there is no doubt that he was an influential man and greatly honored by the Jews. He was the first to receive the title of Rabban. This indicates the esteem in which his countrymen held him. Jewish tradition reveals him as the ideal Pharisee, a worthy representative of Hillel’s school, which was more tolerant and less legalistic than the opposing school of Shammai” (6 BC 184).
So Paul was schooled by one of the best of Jewish teachers, and he demonstrated the superiority of his education at Athens when he faced the philosophers in that center of learning.
While Paul testified to his education by man, he also claimed God as his source, “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:11-12 NKJV).
The question is how did Jesus reveal the gospel to Paul?
As we read Galatians we begin to see that Paul’s defense of his gospel basically comes from two places – the personal experience of his congregations and from Scripture. We also see this in his other letter (Romans) dealing with the same basic issue of how a person is saved.
The Holy Spirit seems to work differently with different people. While some get visions, others are led to Scripture and yet others, such as Luke, were helped in compiling testimony and obtaining information from other sources. For Paul it was an eye opener during which the Holy Spirit opened up Paul’s vast store of knowledge gained through his education at Jerusalem, making sense of the whole thing in the light of the cross. It was much like Jesus did to His disciples after His resurrection. The knowledge was there; it only needed to be put together correctly like a picture puzzle. In fact Jesus prophesied that, “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26 NKJV). I believe that, for Paul, it was more of a Bible study in which the Spirit guided him from Scripture to Scripture as he first sought to confirm Jesus as the Messiah and then to understand the gospel in the context of all of God’s revelation.
Paul must have asked why the Messiah had to die and what relationship it had to both the covenant at Sinai and the everlasting covenant. So the Holy Spirit’s instruction had to include an understanding of the sanctuary services and what it all symbolized. All of this was already in the Scriptures and only needed to be interpreted through the Holy Spirit’s illumination.