The Suffering of Paul was not Payback…Part 1

            The statement of Jesus to Ananias in a vision in Damascus that Jesus would show Saul/Paul the suffering that would be a part of the ministry that Paul was being called into to take the gospel message to the Jews and Gentiles in the larger Greco-Roman world…was upfront knowledge for Paul’s sake of what to anticipate in this challenging calling, and not a tit-for-tat payback for the persecution Saul/Paul had waged against the early Christian church (Acts 9:15-16).

            Jesus Christ is the blemish-free and sinless Passover Lamb of God yet suffers the cross for the benefit of others…leading the way into a new and higher reality we humans could never envision or initiate in our lives. 

            This is the true calling and discipleship for all believers…to experience first-hand some measure of the divine love of God expressed through us in benefit to others…to actualize through a God-composed journey of faith life-script the greater love of laying down our lives for our friends (Jn. 15:13).

            The upcoming suffering that Jesus revealed to Paul at the time of his conversion involved the logical mechanics of how to obtain a real and genuine knowledge of good and evil, which Saul/Paul mistakenly thought he possessed when he persecuted the early Christian church, and was not the justice of payback for the harm Paul had caused.

            All of the resistance, pushback, adversity, and suffering that Paul experienced in the coming days of his evangelical outreach ministry to the Greco-Roman world…is simply and truly the reality of the research program investigating the knowledge of good and evil that would inform the inspiration for writing the New Testament letters to the early Christian churches that have helped countless Christians down to our current time.

            Saul/Paul thought he was doing God service by persecuting the aberrant Christian church, and God took this upward into a higher place through a God-composed adventure of faith life-script that eventually produced the divinely inspired truth of Paul’s New Testament letters to the churches, and the loving relationships revealed in Romans 16.

            In this regard, we do not understand sin rightly.

            2 Corinthians 4:7 reads: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (Bold and italics mine).

            Our imperfect fallen nature is the 4-wheel drive research vehicle divinely enlisted and sanctioned to take us into the real-world exploration of the knowledge of good and evil in an imperfect fallen world. 

            The God of the Bible is so brilliant He can take our fallen sinful nature and instantly flip it into a positive…that no human literary genius could imagine and no counterfeit program of self-salvation through the performance of good works could contemplate.

            Paul’s divinely orchestrated ministry occurs while he is still in his fallen condition (Rom. 7:15-25).  Paul’s frame-of-reference for the challenging journey of faith that can produce the inspiration and wisdom of his New Testament letters to the churches…is not through the vantage point of self-righteous moral perfection achieved through self-realization or supernaturally instilled by God at conversion, but instead through the humble lens of a redeemed fallen nature.

            This is unimaginable creativity…except through the insightful mind of the God of the Bible.

            When I became a Spirit-born Christian at age 18, I was not instantly transformed into a perfect moral person.

            My sins are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross past, present, and future, intentionally so that I can enter into a risk-filled adventure of faith confidently knowing upfront that my eternal salvation is not threatened or jeopardized by the certainty that my own performance will at times fall far short of perfection.

            All of the positive characters of faith in the Bible likewise proceeded through their individual callings and mission-plans while still inhabiting human natures that are imperfect.

            God was not surprised by the fall in the Garden of Eden, forcing Him unexpectedly into a reactive countermove, in response to Adam and Eve uncritically accepting the word of Satan in the spiritualized form of a beguiling talking serpent…taking and eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that God told them not to eat (Rev. 13:8).

            The timeless God of the Bible had the plan of redemptive salvation in place upfront to supply the real way into obtaining the knowledge of good and evil, that could never have been achieved with any depth or staying power through merely eating a piece of fruit.

            Our imperfect nature is the precise vehicle needed to comprehend the subtle nuances of the broad array of moral concepts in play within the knowledge of good and evil…fully expressed in action in this broken world.

            If we hunger and thirst after righteousness (Mt. 5:6) by way of the assistance of the Holy Spirit as new creations in Christ (Gal. 2:20), then Roman 8:1-4 becomes operative in our lives:

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:1).

            Our fallen nature redeemed through the cross of Christ (Jn. 3:14-15) by grace through faith, enables believers to enter into a God-composed journey of faith life-script designed specifically for us after the pattern in the biblical narrative stories of faith.

            This sophisticated research program matching our created capacity to understand the nuances of good and evil through empirical first-hand experience…is on the same high level that we can understand the technical depths of the phenomena in the natural world through analytical scientific investigation.

            The one caveat here is that a research program into the knowledge of good and evil through the lens of a redeemed fallen nature, must have the mind-set and heart attitude that our adventure of faith must be Christ-led and not self-orchestrated…as expressed in the following verses from the Bible:

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”  (Jn. 8:36).

“For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love to serve one another.” (Gal. 5:13). 

“As free, and not using you liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as servants of God.” 1 Pet. 2:16).

“If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set you affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:1-3).

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10).

            We cannot learn about good and evil any other way.  We need the vehicle of a redeemed fallen nature, as the only possible route, to be able to comprehend and assimilate the knowledge of good and evil…that will last for our benefit for an eternity in the timeless environment of heaven…and bring some measure of “peace, and good will toward men” (Lk. 2:14) through the living-out of God-composed journey of faith life-scripts here and now on earth.