Public Debates 2

I want to attempt in this essay to articulate what it is about the nature of skeptical unbelief that can boil-down and decompose into the self-interest of autonomous individualism…the life apart from God lived in self-sovereignty…that is the core ideology of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…and conversely…what is so critically important about the nature of faith and trust in the God of the Bible…that places such a high value in connecting personally with God within the biblical narrative stories of faith…that demonstrate biblical faith in action…which is the fundamental characteristic of the Bible…the underlying issue of the existence of God debated in public forums.

I would like here to build and expand upon what has already been said in the previous essays…on the delicate balance between belief and unbelief.

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead…it is succinctly and brilliantly recorded in John 11:45-48:

45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.

46 But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.

47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.

48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

This narrative story of Jesus…leading up to His rejection and crucifixion…tells us that there was no overlapping middle-ground between letting Jesus “thus alone”…or the huge extreme on the other side of the spectrum of accusing Jesus of the capital offences of blasphemy before the Jewish Sanhedrin court and political treason before the Roman authorities…resulting in His execution on the cross.

Were these religious leaders acting for the good of the nation of Israel in removing Jesus from the scene…or were they acting out of the most worldly, self-centered self-interest?

Like the scriptural example of the resurrected Jesus not walking down Main Street and into the Temple…even though Jesus moved freely and openly amongst these religious leaders during His time of public ministry…sharing His message and outreach to them as well as to the general populace…Jesus does not appear to compromise in the slightest regarding the components of faith and trust in Him.

Jesus gives not the slightest hint of surrendering His status and position as the Son of God and eternal King in order to reach a common-ground conciliation regarding self-sovereignty versus God-sovereignty…of giving-in on principle to these religious leaders in the biblically critical point of self-governance as opposed to God-governance (Jn. 5:36-47)…even though…and by God’s deliberate intention…this principled stand leads to the cross of Calvary.

This tells us that the importance of the components of faith and trust within a personal relationship…are non-negotiable elements that reside at the peak…the pinnacle…the apex of moral reasoning and righteous character.

Paul writes about the faith component in a relationship with God…in Hebrews 11:6…”But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

Skeptical unbelief cannot enter into a biblical-quality journey of faith today, following the leading of Jesus Christ…through communication in the Spirit through the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13)…because the atheist does not believe at the outset that God even exists.

The atheist is no more likely to pick up their cross to follow Jesus…than they are to enter into a contractual business agreement with a fictitious and non-existent person.

This explains in part the inability in Christian versus atheist public debates of reaching a common middle-ground of overlapping engagement on the issues…or any semblance of an overwhelming resolution to the specific topic being debated…because the fundamental natures of the worldviews of belief and unbelief are so far apart…they themselves in relation to each other are non-overlapping.

This explains in part why the two people debating the issues in a Christian apologetics public debate…often appear to be talking past one another…each person capably presenting their side but being miles apart in terms of finding common ground.

The contention in this essay is that this reality is by the deliberate and creative intention of God…in order to expose through the dimensions of time and space the un-admirable and non-commendable outcomes of going our own way (Isa. 53:6) both in this current life and in the eternal heavens where God is King and Ruler.

The combination of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…with the complete absence of a happy center between the two opposing sides of belief and unbelief…having a huge hole between these two worldviews…cannot plausibly be the product of human literary invention.

This cannot be over-stated.

Finally, once a person gets past the huge gulf between unbelief and belief…and enters into faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God as our Savior and the Lord of our lives…the equally important question then arises as to why faith is often so difficult and that it must be “tested” and refined within a God-composed adventure of faith life-script (Jas. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 1:7)…as previewed for us today in the biblical narrative stories of faith.

Once a person is spiritually born-again (Jn. 3:1-21) and receives salvation and eternal life…the journey is just beginning as the new believer steps into their God-composed journey of faith…designed individually and specifically for them…to create a context of life events and circumstances that will produce a personal relationship with God…based upon mutual faith and trust in each other…God-ward toward us…and us-ward toward God.

The delicate balance between belief and unbelief takes us up to the pinnacle of moral reasoning…because mutual faith and trust are critical components within personal relationships.

Going our own way in autonomous rebellion is at the heart of the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden…Satan in the spiritual form of a talking serpent calling into question the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God’s character in His setting of parameters of do’s and don’ts regarding the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…slandering God by inferring that God’s motivations were suspect.

Atheists and skeptical critics can choke on the idea of a past angel of God…Satan… transforming himself into the spiritual/holographic form of a beautiful serpent possessing enticing speech…but the issues at stake in this classic confrontation in the Garden of Eden are simply too profound and way too complex in their spot-on application to human nature…to be the mere product of human literary fiction writing…to be mythology…in the composition of the first book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible…our modern Old Testament…in ancient times around 1,450 B.C.

This delicate balance between belief and unbelief…makes a subtle case for the divine origin of the Bible and of Christianity…because this issue of faith and trust…that goes both ways between people and God…is the central through-line of the biblical narrative stories of faith…which is inaccessible and incomprehensible to people choosing to be skeptical unbelievers living in self-sovereignty…but which is the priceless gift of God to believers through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross…prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34 to occur for new covenant Christians…knowing God personally from the least to the greatest.

Public Debates 1

When a world-renowned atheist comes into a public debate with an equally well-known and respected Christian apologist…to debate topics such as Does God Exist?…or Is God Great?…or Is God a Delusion?…the atheist enters into the debate auditorium thinking they can win…and whether they actually win or lose the debate…they leave still thinking they are right.

The idea that the issues in these public debates cannot arrive at a conclusive ending…cannot be so overwhelmingly convincing one way or the other towards a consensus conclusion…for the audience listening to the debate…as well as for the two antagonists…in an absolute resolution to the specific topic being debated…in my opinion is not only an amazing reality worthy of further thoughtful analysis…but in a subtle and counter-intuitive way is itself a positive evidence for the theistic viewpoint.

This again dives right into the complexity and integrated coherence of information question…regarding its origin and source…being clearly too complicated for material particles and fields of energy to produce…and way too complicated for human literary invention to conceive of…or to set in motion a program of the delicate balance in the area of belief and unbelief…that could stand the test of time for literally thousands of years.

From the Christian perspective…this superbly ingenious reality of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…has a divine origin at least as ancient as the existence of “the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8)…allowed to actualize into human experience through divine foresight and foreknowledge…and adjusted and fine-tuned over the course of human history…for the highest and best reasons imaginable…at the pinnacle of moral reasoning.

It is not a blundering miscalculation…it is not a glaring oversight by God the Father, Jesus the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit…to not make the most of the resurrection of Jesus by having Him walk openly down the middle of Main Street in Jerusalem and straight into the Temple…on Tuesday or Wednesday of the first week following His resurrection.

This would be a golden opportunity to empirically demonstrate the divine status of Jesus Christ as Messiah and Savior…beyond any debatable doubt in the future.

Yet instead God skillfully moderates and calibrates the extent of the physical appearances of the risen Jesus…so as to leave just enough of a personal witness of His resurrection and Godhood to inaugurate and sustain the exponential growth of the early Christian church…and for His followers to write the New Testament…yet at the same time enables the space for the unbelief of the religious elites and a portion of the populace in Israel…to continue in skeptical unbelief in Jesus Christ…as Messiah…that coalesced and solidified in the Jewish community and in the secular Gentile world in the first-century…and is still debated up to this day.

That this delicate balance between belief and unbelief would continue down the centuries to our current time…with brilliant antagonists squaring off in public debate today over the very question that Jesus posed to His disciples two thousand years ago: “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Mt. 16:13) coupled with the follow-up question: “But whom say ye that I am?” (Mt. 16:15)…which from the Christian viewpoint are arguably the two most important questions in all of history…still out there and fully in play…and in the opinion of this writer defies humanistic explanation as to the precise longevity of this delicate balance.

Daniel 12:9-10 tells us that this delicate balance of belief and unbelief will continue to the end of time on this earth:

9 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.

10 Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.

In Matthew 24:14 Jesus says: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all of the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come”…by which we can infer that the world at the end of time is still in need of evangelical persuasion…that the world is still on the fence in terms of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…as to who Jesus Christ is.

Revelation 12:11 gives us a window into the high cost of discipleship in the last days in fulfilling this calling to take the gospel of the kingdom to all of the world…before the end: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the power of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

The fundamental divide that partially explains skeptical unbelief…is that atheists think that Christianity is a man-made religion.  Skeptical unbelief universally downgrades all religions into the horizontally flat category of fictionally created gods and mythologies.

This overarching mindset creates an impassible gulf…an unreachable chasm to cross from skeptical unbelief to belief…because the starting premise for the atheist is that the Bible is an elaborate fiction concocted out of the religious imagination of men…which then renders all of the tenets of the Bible…even the cross and salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ…as being mute, insignificant, and untrue.

The starting premise of atheism…that there is no God…thereby undermines the credibility of the Bible at the outset…creating this non-overlapping separation between the two worldviews that prevents a “meeting of the minds” between atheists and Christian apologists in debate…because no meaningful dialogue can occur when atheists think the arguments and evidences of the opposing side are universally invalid to begin with.

The Divine Origin of the Bible

“If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your 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)

God is the architect of one of the most unlikely of creations…the delicate balance of belief and unbelief in our current environment…a concept briefly revisited here from a previous essay…from a slightly different angle.

Balancing belief and unbelief in our world, so that one does not overpower the other…is one of the great spiritual engineering feats in all of human history…yet one we do not normally recognize or attribute to God.

The delicate balance of belief and unbelief is also surprisingly calibrated…landing midway in the rare zone of falling just beyond the reach of human inventive imagination and contrivance…but also falling just short of the demarcation line of fully revealing its supernatural origin, along with the carefully hidden requirement for periodic, fine-tuned adjustments.

The most unlikely of creations, because most of us would assume that the God of the Bible…a personal God we can get to know intimately through a journey of faith (Jer. 31:34)…would take every opportunity to tip-the-scale in favor of belief over unbelief…in terms of factually persuasive, irrefutable evidence in nature and through divine revelation…in favor of belief in His existence.

But this is not the case within the human decision-making zone of belief and unbelief.

The delicate balance of belief and unbelief…the ability to freely engage with God in a fully-scripted adventure of dynamic faith having the risk, from our perspective, of possible success or failure in-the-moment…or to freely push God away in skeptical unbelief to entirely go our own way…is a true masterpiece of creative ingenuity precisely because of its balanced neutrality in this area of unforced belief or unbelief.

As stated elsewhere in this book…on Tuesday or Wednesday of the first week after His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus Christ could have added to His already busy agenda…to openly walk down Main Street in Jerusalem and right into the Temple sanctuary, in clear view of everyone (Lk. 24:13-32; 36-43; Jn. 20:19-20), validating forever thereafter…without any doubt…His claim to be the divine Son of God.  Like Thomas (Jn. 20:26-28), people could touch his hands and the wound in His side…and believe based on the factual evidence (Jn. 20:29).

But then the delicate balance of belief and unbelief would also immediately disappear…forever thereafter.  Recognition of Jesus Christ as “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6) would not be an open option that could go in either of the two opposing directions of belief and unbelief…but instead would be a strictly obvious fact like the daily occurrence of the rising sun, or that two-plus-two equals four.

This balance of belief and unbelief offers compelling evidence for the divine origin of the biblical message of redemptive salvation by grace through faith, because the mere existence of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…that is the prerequisite foundation for the exercise of faith…is so transparently neutralso free of the taint of coercive human bias weighted in favor of one direction or the other…that it could never be mistaken as the imperfect conceptual product of human literary invention.

The delicate balance of belief and unbelief in our current environment has a supernatural origin…because a humanistic explanation for its creative ingenuity…and its functionally balanced longevity over time…is nonsensical.

The existence of the delicate balance between belief and unbelief…of willfully entering into a risked-filled adventure of biblical faith wherein God displaces our ways with His higher ways…opposed to pushing God away and going our own way according to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…is a transcendent reality that could only come from the divinely imaginative mind of God…way beyond the initial set-up capacity of humans to invent, adjust, and sustain over its 4,200 year history beginning with Abraham.

Timeless Foresight Needs Explaining 2

Darwinian macroevolution assumes…by definition…zero intelligent design through foresight…no architectural and engineering design through premeditated forethought…because to allow design into the mix also invites a supernatural God into human scientific investigation…which is anathema to the materialistic worldview.

Yet the one and only area in human experience where we do exercise extremely accurate, pinpoint timeless foresight…is in the design and assembly of complex systems…in manufactured products…in computer software applications…in the construction of commercial buildings and residential houses…and in storyline scripts for movies, television, and fiction and non-fiction books…for examples.

People are by nature prolific intelligent designers…and can see ahead in time to visualize the final outcomes of human created things.

How does this square with Darwin’s tree-of-life based upon common descent…linked by an unbroken hypothetical chain of ancestors…when in-the-moment animal instinct shows no signs whatsoever of being able to go beyond the strict limitations of time…shows no capacity to step-up into the cognitive, creative freedom of timeless foresight.

Bee hives, beaver dams, and spider webs are produced by instinct…not by deliberative, free-thinking, creative contemplation.

This creates a huge gap between human beings and the rest of the natural living world…a gap that is unbridgeable by materialistic processes…by any stretch of the imagination.

Human beings can design and manufacture an automobile…a physically tangible thing… that functionally operates for years and often for hundreds of thousands of miles of driving…using the future-looking vision of timeless foresight and foreknowledge.

But a young man and woman…getting married at age 20…cannot see ten or twenty years ahead into the future…of either the husband or the wife or both…entering into extra-marital affairs…sadly and tragically ending the marriage.

We cannot foresee our kids going off to college and falling-in with the wrong crowd…becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs.

We cannot see into our future…contracting a deadly disease that takes our life before reaching the age of 40 or 50.

There is an old axiom that applies here: “If we don’t know where we are going…then any road will take us there.”

We know precisely where we want to go when we design an automobile, a new house, or a computer software application.  We know where we want to go when we start-out to write a murder mystery, biography, or technical book.

But the capacity for timeless foresight for human beings stops at a certain point…and this is another area that argues for the participation of an intelligent designer God…and for the over-the-top brilliance of creative imagination in terms of intent and impact…in the targeted crafting of the dimension of time in service to mankind.

Time as we currently know it…creates the singularly unique context for the exploration and discovery of a fuller understanding of good and evil…which would not be possible if the other two legs of the three-legged stool were added…of timeless foresight and absolute goodness.

I do not think an answer to the question of why God cannot create human beings who possess divine timeless foresight and foreknowledge…and possess the divine attribute of absolute moral perfection…exists in this present world.  This might involve the impossibly unachievable goal of creating billions of junior level, divine gods…like the impossibility of creating square circles, or one-ended sticks, or married bachelors, or making two-plus-two equal five.

But only premeditated intention…the thoughtful choice-making between multiple possible realities…could produce something as well-defined…having a targeted function…as precise as “time.”

Trial-and-error, hit-and-miss, accidental dumb-luck, fall-into-place on its own, or some form of directional self-assembly…could not plausibly be the explanation for the fine-tuned essence of time.

Time is an intelligently designed thing…a created reality for a definite purpose.

 

The biblical narrative stories of faith simply cannot happen if people possess timeless foresight.

God created time…not having the feature of divinely timeless foresight…to enable people to enter into a personal relationship with God that actualizes through highly specified events and circumstances spread-out over time…which would otherwise not be possible within the split-second durations of timeless foresight.

Hebrews 11:1 in the New Testament defines biblical faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Because God’s personal participation adds the two missing ingredients of timeless foresight and absolute goodness into the life-scripts He writes for the biblical narrative stories of faith…and for walks of faith for today’s Spirit-led Christians…this further explains the meaning of Hebrews 11:6…”But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

This incredible feature of time…purposely lacking timeless foresight…tells us something vital about the real truth about God…that He would craft time in such a way as to enable human beings to enter into the new covenant relationship with God the Creator of the universe…every believer knowing God from the least to the greatest (Jer. 31:31-34).

Timeless Foresight Needs Explaining 1

Animal instinct in the natural living world does not possess…does not exhibit…timeless foresight.

The reality of life is experienced in-the-moment…for absolutely every living organism…including humans.

A leopard on the African savanna plains…resting comfortably in the noonday shade…hidden up underneath the canopy inside a large tree…cannot thoughtfully plan several hours ahead-in-time until the evening sunset at 8 o’clock…when the leopard knows through timeless foresight that its unsuspecting prey a gazelle will conveniently stop to graze directly below this tree…because a leopard does not possess timeless foresight.

Within the program of natural instinct…constrained and channeled into the narrow, forward march of time…the leopard hunts its prey in-the-moment.

Hypothetically, human beings possessing timeless foresight combined with the knowledge of good and evil…yet lacking a third component of absolute moral goodness…would potentially be perfectly successful criminals in being able to plan perfect robberies…except for the police who would also possess the timeless foresight to be able to anticipate the robbery and take perfect steps to prevent it…when the future moment in time came.

If humans possessed timeless foresight…of knowing in advance future outcomes…then gambling in casinos or at race tracks, entering into a lawsuit against another person, and reading a murder mystery book or a romance novel…would no longer have purpose and meaning…because the outcomes…the endings…would already be known ahead of time.

Lack of timeless foresight is one reason why we like reading murder mystery books, spy thrillers, and romance novels…because we do not know the outcomes…unless we cheat, turn the pages to the end of the book, and take a sneak-peek at the story ending…which I confess I have done sometimes…when the story is so suspenseful I cannot wait to see how it will end.

Motion pictures capture our attention for two hours in the movie theater because they condense the events of a larger story like The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars…down into a two-hour long feature film…reducing the story down to as short a time-period as we can achieve yet still tell the full story…a two-hour movie typically being as close to zero-duration timeless foresight as we can go.

We have to watch the entire movie from start-to-finish…for two hours…because we do not possess timeless foresight to be able to take-in the whole movie in a split-second flash of time.

The same thing occurs in reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace over a three-week period.  The interest is generated…is artistically created by the book writer…based upon the absolute certainty of the absence of timeless foresight of the book reader…as long as the book is read from front to back without skipping ahead.

Two things here we know for sure…that human beings do not possess divine timeless foresight…and that we do not possess absolute moral goodness.

All three complimentary components…the knowledge of good and evil, timeless foresight, and absolute goodness…must be in-place and functioning simultaneously for free-will, thinking life-forms like human beings to have lives that operate at the highest optimum level of perfection.

 

The knowledge of good and evil…if only timeless foresight is added to the mix…without the third component of absolute goodness…creates a nightmarish reality of competing plural foresights good and evil…in an exponentially broadened cat-and-mouse scope of interacting outcomes…having a complexity well beyond the cause/effect stability experienced in our current one-dimensional time trajectory.

But absolute goodness without the independence of free-will choice inherent within the knowledge of good and evil…not having the capacity to freely choose between the broad arrays of moral concepts…would produce the equally undesirable reality of human beings that are mere robots…rather than free-will agents capable of the higher attributes like experiencing love, friendship, honor, integrity, courage, joy, and happiness.

The third possible option of having timeless foresight alone…without the knowledge of good and evil…and without absolute moral goodness…would be a bizarre reality that is unimaginable.

Yet curiously, human beings do clearly possess one of the legs of the three-legged stool…the knowledge of good and evil…without possessing either timeless foresight or absolute moral goodness.

 

From the standpoint of illuminating the real truth about God…this indisputable fact that humans have the knowledge of good and evil…eliminates the atheistic philosophy of naturalistic materialism from consideration as a plausible explanation for this reality…because of the unanswerable question of how and why a material causation alone could produce the incredible human possession of the knowledge of good and evil…without also including the minimum two additional required components of timeless foresight and absolute moral goodness…as complimentary to the knowledge of good and evil?

Of equal power as an exclusionary argument that eliminates naturalistic materialism from consideration as the sole fundamental cause behind the natural world…is the extremely fine-tuned moderation of time narrowly advancing in a one-dimensional direction forward…yet lacking the all-important timeless foresight of invaluable worth…a reality of thoughtfully planned moderation that has brilliant intelligent design written all over it.

The Holy Spirit Will Guide You into All Truth 1

If we, as born-again Christians, are walking in the Spirit, are in the place where God wants us to be, and have our spiritual eyes and ears open, then the Holy Spirit can lead us into “all truth” (Jn 16:13) in any environment…at our widely differing secular workplaces, in our homes and social lives, and in our unique and singular Christian ministries.

The Holy Spirit can divide and separate out for us the subtle and nuanced differences between right and wrong, between good and evil, and between best practices and poor practices in every imaginable environment.

When translated into spiritual and moral application…when we take personal ownership of divinely inspired moral strategies for life through the discovery and practical use of  truths regarding the knowledge of good and evil…this will set us free for all eternity according to the scriptures (Jn 8:32-36).

The concept of the Holy Spirit leading us into all truth…with our feet firmly grounded in reality through the most rational of divinely guided, down-to-earth, real-life events and circumstances…is a central motive force within every narrative story of faith recorded in the Bible…and every contemporary Christian adventure of faith today.

It is one of the components in a biblical walk of faith that authenticates the God of the Bible as the one, true, living God intimately at work in our present broken world, on a one-to-one, personal basis (Jer. 31:31-34).

It is the concrete, rational element to our supernatural relationship with Jesus Christ that connects God to people through the authority of lived-experience.

The Holy Spirit leading people into all truth is above and beyond anything we could invent or procure on our own, which the skeptical world of unbelief looking on in ignorance from a safe distance labels as “subjective” and “relative.”

What I learned over time through the experience of trying to reform this company’s field operations…opened up for me  a better understanding of a common theme regarding discipleship shared by all of the people of faith recorded in the Bible.

What these construction company owners were unknowingly saying and thus not clearly articulating was: “create for us the new, required management control tools, for our expanded business operations, so we can take them over and implement them ourselves in a way that does not interfere with our current established routines.”

What was never openly considered or plainly spoken during my initial job interview, or during several subsequent strategy meetings over time…and thus difficult to uncover until using after-the-fact hindsight much later…was that subconsciously the construction company owners never intended to delegate power, broaden authority, or give up control.

Absent a definitive business plan for growth upfront, spelling out in detail specific areas needing change from top to bottom including their own routines and practices, they were then free to assume that the current status quo power structure would continue to be “more of the same” but on a bigger scale.

This is where the narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible shed much needed light on our individual callings as Spirit-led Christians today.

The Two Advents of the Messiah 2

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.