Paul was involved in persecuting the church for perhaps a year or two when Jesus appeared to him on the way to Damascus and called him. It seems that Paul was instrumental in the death of Stephen (Acts 7:58-59), so it is almost like poetic justice that he should be the one who would later preach the same Gospel that got Stephen killed. The Gospel has always been Jesus crucified and risen from the dead, but what made Stephen’s Gospel different from that of Peter was to whom it was preached. Stephen preached that the Temple was not necessary and God blesses others besides the Jews. It was this same Gospel that Paul began to preach and that to the gentiles.
Acts 9:19-20 seems to imply immediately after Paul was healed of blindness that he began preaching the Gospel, confounding the Jewish authorities at Damascus, but this is not so. Paul says in Galatians that he left Damascus and spent 3 years in Arabia and then returned to Damascus. It was at this time he confounded the Jews, proving Jesus was the Christ. He was so zealous that the Jewish authorities at Damascus discussed how they might kill him. Indeed, their appointees waited for Paul to come into the street so they could seize him. Not only so, but it seems Paul got himself into trouble while in Arabia, because in 2Corinthians 11:32 Paul relates how the king of Arabia was waiting for him at the gates of Damascus. So Paul escaped both the Jews and the king when the brethren put him in a basket and let him down from a window the city wall (Acts 9:25; 2Corinthians 11:33).
Afterward, Paul tried to join himself with the apostles at Jerusalem, but no one but Barnabas would trust him. He spent a few days with Peter, after Barnabas vouched for Paul, but in the end he returned to his hometown of Tarsus. He remained there until Barnabas sought him for the ministry of the Gospel to the gentiles, perhaps a year or so later.
Such was the beginning of the ministry of perhaps the greatest missionary in church history. Certainly, there was none like him, and much of the New Testament was written by him, more than any other single author. Today, he is still reviled by many who claim he preached a different Gospel than Jesus. This, of course, is not so, and as I continue in Acts I hope to answer any arguments that would imply Paul was a traitorous heretic who did not remain within the apostolic church. I think the key to seeing Paul’s Gospel was no different than Peter’s is the fact that he merely took up the “baton” that was dropped by Stephen at his death. Certainly no one would claim Stephen’s Gospel, as it concerned Christ, was different from Peter’s. Stephen was simply more liberal concerning to whom the Gospel should be preached. He was killed for that, and Paul was defamed, persecuted and hunted down for implementing the very Gospel that Stephen preached to the Sanhedrin in Acts 7.