How a Partially Fulfilled Advent Becomes a Stumbling Stone
Some Jews in Antioch Pisidia did not accept Paul’s gospel message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ as Messiah, demonstrating what Simeon had accurately prophesied about the mixed reception a new covenant journey of faith, made accessible now through Christ to every new believer, would receive.
This is why Paul refers to the cross as an offense and a stumbling block unto the Jews (2 Cor. 5:7; 1 Cor. 1:23).
Many Jews in the first century thought that all God had to do was repair their political/economic situation according to their understanding and expectations for the coming messiah, and then all would be well. They were already mistakenly self-righteous and saw no need for further spiritual reformation in their lives. They were spiritually blind to the coming of a more broadly accessible new covenant adventure of faith available to both Jews and Gentiles alike.
Because their religious experience was limited to rituals and ceremonies only, and not a living and vibrant life of faith following God, they could not imagine a new covenant expanding to encompass the Gentile world, based upon the ancient prophecies surrounding Abraham the father of faith.
The direct and intimate participation of God in the events and circumstances of the lives of people of faith on a universal scale is made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth during His first advent as Messiah.
This is what Paul and Barnabas preached in Antioch Pisidia.
God wants to give us a tailor-made adventure of faith, because in doing so He gives us a revelation of Himself. Unless God shakes up our world, in the unconventionally biblical way of interjecting Himself into the course of our lives to match on some level the experiences of the people of faith recorded in the Bible, we cannot experience the power of God’s presence working through us.
This salvation entrance through the cross of Christ leading into an unconventional adventure of faith, previewed long before in the life of Abraham, was just as desperately needed in an ongoing basis in the first-century as it still is today in our own twenty-first century.
Paul was God’s chosen mouthpiece based in large part upon the huge gulf between the true and the false in Paul’s own past experience in mistakenly persecuting the early church. The outpouring of God’s forgiving grace upon Paul at Damascus translated perfectly into the gospel outreach to the equally misguided polytheistic pagan culture of the Greco-Roman world.
Paul’s new covenant message contained a very large dose of giving up our old misguided way for God’s correct new way. Back then as today, this was not clearly apparent, understood, or welcomed by everyone in Antioch Pisidia.
By contrast, the few Gentile “God-fearers” listening to Paul’s opening message in the synagogue in Antioch Pisidia (recorded in Acts 13) about Jesus the crucified and risen Savior for the remission of sin, had no vested interest in the political and economic fortunes of the small and obscure Roman-occupied nation of Israel.
To the Gentiles…convicted of their sin nature through the Holy Spirit preaching of Paul…the immediate concern was not the restoration of Israel, but the restoration of their lost souls.
This same condition persists to our day. Many Jews today reject Jesus of Nazareth as a viable candidate for messiah, based solely upon a mistaken belief that He failed to fulfill the Old Testament messianic prophesies regarding the setting up of a glorious earthly rule and reign in Jerusalem, to end disease, evil, suffering, and sin in our present world. Many of the Jews in the first- century were deeply disappointed in Jesus of Nazareth because they mistakenly combined all of the promises and expectations of the biblical messianic prophesies into one single, first-century advent (Isa. 9:6-7).
Many of the Jews of that day did not comprehend, accept, or practice personalized belief in God as patterned in the Old Testament examples of journeys-of-faith based upon God’s intimate participation in our lives, in contrast to their more familiar experience of pursuing righteousness by the works of the law according to their own self-directed religious observances (Jn. 5:42; Rom. 10:3).
Paul’s message of deliverance from the bondage of self-sovereignty through the liberty of the cross of Jesus Christ was just as foreign sounding to some of the Jews in the first-century…as it is to worldly-minded people today.
As recorded in the Old Testament, God asked Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Samuel, Gideon, Esther and Mordecai, Elijah, and Daniel, to name a few, to do the difficult and hard thing, often at the risk of their lives.
If Jesus had commenced His full reign in Jerusalem in the first-century, without any personal sacrifice of His own, He would have assumed an elevated position of power…on top of the backs of other people’s self-sacrifices.
With the benefit of clear hindsight today, the basic management principle of leading by example should have been obvious to the Jewish scholars, theologians, and rulers in first-century Israel as they attempted to interpret messianic prophecy. But this true spiritual insight requires a personal experience following God equivalent to the positive journeys of faith recorded in the Bible, to be able to see and understand this fundamental leadership-based prerequisite.
The first advent of the messiah had to conform to the Psalms 22 and Isaiah 53 picture of a suffering servant, according to the universally recognized virtue of a leader never asking people to do something they themselves would not do.
Jesus setting up His earthly reign in Jerusalem in the first-century would have been disappointingly inconsistent with what God had been doing in Israel through the lives of people of faith, during the previous two thousand years.
Jesus beginning His reign prior to experiencing the cross would have been below the high standards God sets for Himself, and below the high standards God had asked of people up to that point in time.
Jesus was about to ask his disciples over the next two thousand years to also do the hard and difficult thing…often again at the risk of their lives.
Perfect divine virtue required Jesus Christ to go before us in this aspect of choosing the hard and difficult way for the advancement of truth.
Most of the people in Israel missed this logical separation of the two advents of the messiah, because they themselves were not personally engaged in a biblical journey of faith following God’s lead that might have illuminated this basic leadership principle.