The calling and mission-plan for the apostle Paul is about as far from worldly conventional normalcy and thinking as is possible.
The incredible mixture of high scholastic erudition…being taught by the renowned rabbi Gamaliel in Jerusalem…and the contrary ingredient of radical humility obtained by Paul in the supernatural revelation of Jesus as the Christ…in a blinding light on the road to Damascus…producing an indispensable ingredient of humility in Paul’s evangelical mission to the polytheistic, idol-worshipping Gentiles in the Greco-Roman world of the first-century…is premeditated, advance preparation that has the end-goal of creating new Christian churches…and writing his New Testament letters…that does not exist anywhere within the contemplation of ordinary, commonplace, worldly conventional aspirations (1 Cor. 4:9-13).
None of the callings of God recorded in the Bible are on the list of things defined by worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…as things we want in life…as things that people are normally pursuing in life…with the possible exception of Ruth and Hannah.
Jesus said in The Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body than raiment?” (Mt. 6:25).
This is a commonsense Christian apologetic argument for the uniqueness of the biblical narrative stories of faith…which actualize…in some measure and on some varied level…the altogether unique concepts of The Sermon on the Mount…above and outside of…and in many cases in total contrast…to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.
These biblical narrative stories of faith would never be the product of humanistic literary invention.
How could…or would…a human literary genius invent the concept of God-sovereignty in the life-scripts of the positive people of faith recorded in the Bible?
How could any human being invent this unconventionality?
It must originate from the viewpoint…from the direction…of God alone. Any other explanation is shallow and nonsensical.
We do not see first, second, and third-graders in elementary schools out in large numbers picketing their schools on the weekends…with signs reading: “Down With Division”…or: “No More Multiplication”…or: “Forget Reading…Play Video Games”…while shouting chants of “Unfair” and “Heck No…We Won’t Go!”
Children at that young age have no idea of the importance of reading, writing, and mathematics for their upcoming adult lives.
Grown-ups set the agenda for our early childhood education…and as children we go along with this…through childlike faith placed in our parents…our teachers…and in grown-ups in general.
There exist no other practical options in childhood education. Adults are…by default…simply in the position to know more than children…to have the knowledge and the facts…in this critical area of what we need to learn as children…to get from where we are as children to where we need to get to…as we grow up into adults.
How is it that we would then assume to know anything about godliness? Godliness belongs exclusively to God. It is not found anywhere within conventional human living and thinking.
Godliness must come from top-down…not from bottom-up.
Godliness is defined and actualized through the biblical narrative stories of faith…coming from the singular perspective of God.
A surprising thing about the biblical narrative stories of faith…for the most part…is that they are not religious in nature. This should also get our attention.
The Old Testament lists 613 laws…including the Ten Commandments…and has religious observances and celebrations like the Passover. Male circumcision begins with Abraham and Isaac. The Old Testament has the animal sacrifices in the temple conducted by the priests.
The New Testament has the Lord’s Supper communion for believers…and water baptism.
But the biblical narrative stories of faith themselves are not built around anything like pilgrimages to “holy sites,” or the veneration of relics, or the sale and possession of paper documents like indulgences insuring salvation, or elaborate religious rituals like a universal practice of praying toward a geographical location every day (Dan. 6:10).
The biblical narrative stories of faith provide no opportunity for salvation through the self-effort of “good-works” and the “self-realization” of religious practices and rituals.
Through God-composed journey of faith life-scripts…God goes boldly into the realm of human life…cutting across the grain of the conventionality of our standard dreams, goals, and aspirations…according to His higher ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9).
In the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness it is recorded in Luke 4:6-8:
6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.
7 If thou therefore will worship me, all shall be thine.
8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
“Worshipping only God”…tells us that this present world still belongs to God. Worshipping only God is the correct optional choice for human beings…and it is an option we can willingly choose.
God can craft life-scripts having events and circumstances that cross-over into human life in any way that He chooses in order to set-up the context for biblical faith to actualize.
Judging from the narrative stories of faith in the Bible…this novel and innovative approach goes much deeper than the religious rituals designed for worship.
The calling of David is to become a king. Joseph’s calling is to become a governor. Abraham is called to become the “father of faith.”
Moses is called to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. Ezra is called to rebuild the temple. Nehemiah’s calling is to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem.
Jeremiah is called to stand within the gates into Jerusalem and preach the messages God gives him. The calling of Gideon is to expel the Midianite invaders. Daniel is called to be a prophet and a leader of the Jews in exile.
Peter is called to lead the early church in Jerusalem. Paul is called to preach the new gospel message to the Jews and Gentiles scattered throughout the Greco-Roman world in the first-century.
These journeys of faith inexplicably have little connection to religious practices and rituals…an odd, interesting, and transcendent feature…which looking back in hindsight we might expect to find in life-scripts leading toward “spiritual adulthood”…composed by a “grown-up” God for us…who obviously knows more about godliness than we do…and has set-out a course for life and for study for each of us…taking us through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ…through the narrow gate of Matthew 7:13-14…described in The Sermon on the Mount.