A basic fundamental question for all Spirit-born Christians to ponder…that relates to political and cultural issues at the deepest level…is why doesn’t Paul…after he is stoned nearly to death in Antioch Pisidia (Acts 14:19-20)…according to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…according to worldly normal expectations and aspirations as a bona-fide Christian evangelist…become offended at Jesus Christ and the harsh way this missionary trip is starting out…and give-up?
As Paul experiences being beaten along with Silas in the city of Philippi (Acts 16:16-24)…this would be an experience as contrary to our modern expectations within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking for the future writer of divinely inspired New Testament letters to the early churches…a man who today has colleges, cathedrals, and hospitals named after him.
Why didn’t Paul get offended at Jesus Christ…and this unconventionally difficult and challenging God-composed adventure of faith…and quit…at this point?
When Paul goes back to Jerusalem for the last time in his life…and is violently rejected by the populace (Acts 22:22) and then nearly “pulled to pieces” in the Sanhedrin council (Acts 23:10…Jesus once again appears to Paul (Acts 23:11) to assure him that he is still on the correct path in his adventure of faith calling as a missionary evangelist.
Paul then enters into a period of time where he is under Roman arrest and thus protection as a prisoner…to the point that he feels compelled to explain and defend his unconventional position as a Christian leader in prison to the early churches and to friends…who naturally would question such a condition according to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking (Acts 26:31; Eph. 6:20; Phil. 1:7, 12-18; Col. 4:3; 2 Tim. 1:16-17).
Paul cannot write his “prison” and “pastoral” epistles in the New Testament if he is offended…if he is mad at God for how his life is going.
The answer to the question of why Paul is not offended according to worldly conventional thinking and aspiration…and why he does not quit…is a broad answer but is two-fold for this blog post.
First, to simply say that Jesus Christ forewarned Paul ahead of time regarding difficulties and hardships that Paul would face out on the road as a missionary evangelist…is too shallow and too easy of an answer…although it is one factor.
The top-most factor that motivates the apostle Paul to push forward against all obstacles and obstructions in opposition to the gospel message…coming from worldly conventional political, social, cultural, and religious power structures (Eph. 6:12)…is that Paul saw Jesus Christ the Messiah and King in the proverbial light on the road to Damascus.
This reality resets…re-boots…how Paul from that day forward views purpose and meaning in life. Like the disciples who physically saw the risen Jesus…a new world where Jesus Christ is risen from the dead…changes everything.
For Paul…meeting Jesus as Messiah and Lord on the road to Damascus…forever changes the paradigm and boundaries of reality. It discards forever the normative rules of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking he was raised and educated in as a young Pharisee taught under Gamaliel in Jerusalem in the strictest Jewish tradition.
As Paul walks through his God-composed journey of faith life-script to be the missionary evangelist to the first-century Greco-Roman world…he keeps his focus on the reality of his first encounter with Jesus as Messiah and King…at Damascus…always balanced against the hardships and challenges he is experiencing. The future promise of the reality of Jesus as Savior, Son of God, King, and Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6) far outweighs the current struggles against spiritual opposition, untruth, and our own foibles and fallibility (Rom. 8:18).
The second answer to why Paul does not give-up and quit…which forms one of the most powerful apologetic validations of the Bible…elucidating a concept so foreign to any other worldview and as fundamentally opposed to self-sovereignty and self-rulership as is imaginable…is simply that when God calls us into a challenging life-script…by definition and necessity above and outside of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking (Isa. 53:6, 55:8-9)…He is placing faith in us that we can with His help and Holy Spirit assistance step-up and come through into victory.
This same reality does not exist anywhere even remotely within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…which is based upon self-reliance and proving oneself using our innate, in-built talents and abilities…all within our own control.