Character Trait No. 17
Definition: Purposing to accomplish God’s best regardless of the opposition.
“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (I Cor. 2:2)
Paul was certainly determined to accomplish God’s best – to bring the gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ to the entire world, regardless of the severe opposition he faced. This message, God’s ability to perfect fallen man, was opposed every step of the way, by both the Jews and the Greeks. It was foolishness to the Greeks, and blasphemy to the Jews. The Jews believed that since Jesus had been hung on a tree, God cursed him. (Dt. 21:23) The cross was a total necessity for man’s salvation from sin. Jesus said “It has been finished – completed, perfected or ended - when dying on the cross. (Jn. 19:30) Christ had to endure the hostility of sinful men, and set His face towards Jerusalem. Christ’s crucifixion was prophesied in Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, and Zechariah 12:10. Nevertheless the Jews refused to accept Christ’s death as anything more than the just execution of a blasphemous liar. Anyone preaching that Christ actually died according to God’s predetermined plan for all the world’s iniquities was smeared with a similar brush - as another lying blasphemer also deserving of death. To preach Christ and the cross was to virtually sign one’s own death warrant, unless God intervened.
So dedicated were the Jews to stamping out this “heresy” that they pursued Paul halfway around the world in order to kill him. Once over forty Jews bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink until they murdered him! (Acts23:21) In such circumstances Paul needed great determination to continue preaching that the Jews had illegally murdered Jesus:
“Brethren, sons of Abraham’s family, and those among you who fear God, to us the word...For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither them nor the utterances of the prophets which are heard every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning Him. And although they found no (legal) ground for putting Him to death, they asked Pilate that he be executed. (Acts 13:26-28)
In effect, Paul was accusing the leaders of Israel (the Sanhedrin) of illegally murdering their own God when He came down to earth as the Messiah. Jesus was innocent! He wasn’t given a fair trial. All of his legal rights had been ignored on the night of His betrayal. Not to mention Christ’s own miracles that he performed or the many prophecies that he fulfilled. This shocking expose had to be covered up.
It is important that we understand how obsessed Paul’s opposition was to resisting him from accomplishing his best. His apostolic, divinely inspired “best” was that Christ’s grace and power through the gospel would perfect men. Conversely this also logically meant that all other religious and philosophical systems had failed to “deliver the goods.” Any time that our best is better than others are, envy and jealously arise. No one likes admitting that they’ve failed. Thus out of envy they killed Jesus, the perfect man. The Jewish leaders and their cherished Old Testament could not perfect them or their followers:
- “Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood...what need was there for another priest according to the order of Melchizedek? (Hb.11:11)
- “For on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness for the law made nothing perfect, and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope...” (Heb. 7:19)
- “For if the 1st covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.” (Heb. 8:7)
- “...Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshipper perfect in conscience.” (Heb. 9:9)
- “And all these...did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” (Heb. 11:39-40)
Read Romans 2, as Paul indicts the Jews as equally bad sinners as the Gentiles:
“..if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God...you therefore who teach another, do you not teach yourself? ‘FOR THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU’, just As it is written.” (Rom. 2:17,21,24)
The law-proclaiming Jewish teachers couldn’t practice what they themselves preached. Imagine how you’d feel if you were told that all the stuff that you’d been teaching was mere “rubbish” compared to some new teaching? (Phil 3:3f) Furthermore, that your country had failed to honor and obey God and was marked for impending total destruction? (As the Romans permanently destroyed old Israel in AD 70)
Christ came to bring an end to the cherished Jewish system. He called it an “old cloth” and “old wineskins”. (Mk. 2:22-23) And he called their teachers “hypocrites”, “false shepherds” and “blind guides”. Or worse, a “brood of vipers”! All these “harsh, judgmental” statements, and all by some brash young carpenter’s son from nowhere, the bush country of Galilee. Blind, prejudiced fanatical religious & nationalistic fervent hatred met such teaching. Just like zealous Moslem radicals today being told that Mohammed got some things very wrong and was deceived and a deceiver. Violent angry mobs of self-righteous men would stone, burn and murder such a horrible blasphemer who dared insult their prophet in any Moslem controlled area. (Such as in northern Nigeria) Likewise, Paul faced such fearsome attacks when preaching Christ. The cross was seen as an attempt to blame the Jews for murder and failure of their way of life. TRADITION! Culture! Our customs! The cross signified the need to repent of one’s own culture and religion and start over fresh a completely new way of life.
Christ calls men from their cultures into His kingdom life. He provides the means to real spiritual perfection in this life. All religions including the Hindus and the Moslems teach that we will be perfected - after death. Only Jesus claimed to bring victorious moral perfection in this life by the power of His Spirit given to dwell within the heart of every Christian. Any religious leadership that cannot provide this “service” through their example and teachings is not giving them the “best” that God gives. Thus they are failing. Good shepherds lead their flocks to Christ and the abundant life.
The Jewish leaders viewed with contempt the common “unwashed” masses, and said that they were “born entirely in sins” – (thus they were the first Calvinists) – and saw no hope for the tax collectors and sinners except condemnation and harsh judgement. Thus they treated them harshly, like goat drivers with canes, whips and chains, and the people feared them.
Today, a message of a perfect conscience & character change as Walter Scott preached in the 1800’s jars the ears of bankrupt church leaders and is often being met with hostile scorn.
- How can any man born of woman be perfected, since he’s conceived and born in sin?
- Doesn’t born again not only symbolically point out to a legal and figurative event rather than a real fundamental change in a person’s makeup? (But, I don’t feel any different”.)
- Isn’t man’s body entirely animal and hopelessly degraded?
Despite these and many other objections raised, we must consider though, doesn’t the Word say that our bodies are temples of God? The cross represents the ability of any man to repent and die to sin by being nailed to it with Christ in immersion. The old man is gone, forever! Then His resurrection shows the power available to those who believe, to be perfected in the New Covenant.
In conclusion, determination is the resolve to accomplish our best despite whatever opposition. And opposition will certainly rise up from jealous men who have been defeated by sin and are blindly leading the blind down Pharisaical, hypocritical paths of legalism &/or libertinism. When we promote our hope of being blameless, completely holy and righteous, in spirit, soul and body until Christ comes (I Thess. 5:23) to these vipers, they’ll unleash all the powers of hell against you – like the Jews did to Jesus and Paul.
We’ve not even had time or space to mention the Greek opposition to Paul’s determination to know nothing but Christ. That will have to await another lesson. Until then, realize that you will need a great amount of determination if you want to “know nothing but Jesus Christ” in this dark world, and purpose to be perfect like Your heavenly Father is perfect.
GOOD, BETTER, BEST,
I’LL NEVER REST,
‘TIL MY GOOD IS BETTER,
AND MY BETTER IS BEST...
AND MY BEST IS PERFECT!