Tag Archives: Persecution

How Can We Be Bold In The Face Of Persecution?

Boldness has the idea of speaking freely or outspoken, being daring and confident. It’s characterized by expressing fearlessness in the face of danger. We are to pray for boldness and depend on the Holy Spirit to empower us to stare into the face of fear as we boldly speak the Word of His glorious grace, knowing that no matter what happens nothing will separate us from the love of God.
Boldness: Proverbs 28:1; 30:30; Slothfulness: Proverbs 22:13; 26:13

Boldness Resides to Speaking, Confidence, And Fearlessness

  • Boldness is the trait of being willing to take risks and being willing to be candid, sincere, truthful, and forthright in our behavior (works, speech, attitude). In the New Testament “boldness” is often connected with speaking. But in the book of Acts “boldness” is almost always connected with “speaking and preaching” the Word of God. We learn two basic and important applications: (1) It takes boldness to speak the word of God because there is a risk of persecution for everyone that does. (2) It takes boldness to speak the Word of God because we have to be honest and straightforward with people about their sinful condition and their need to repent and believe in Jesus. Thus, to “be bold” means to openly, clearly, and freely speak the Word of God in spite of prohibiting or unfavorable circumstances (persecution, human law, etc).
    John 7:26; Acts 4:13; 13:46; 18:26; 19:8
  • Boldness is not only connected with “speaking” but it is also connected with “confidence”. Confidence is the feeling and conviction of firm trust in someone or something. Thus, the core of confidence is trust—to strongly rely on—but trust is only as useful as its object—the person or thing you put your trust in. Thus, a person can boldly speak about (“B”) because they have confidence in (“A”). For example, Paul, Timothy, and Silas said, “We were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God”—meaning they (“B”) dared to tell them the gospel of God in the face of strong opposition and unfavorable circumstances because of (“A”) their confidence in God. Also, in the book of Acts, sometimes when they were boldly speaking the Word of God, it also tells us “in the name of whom” they spoke or who they had their confidence in to speak so openly on the subject they did. Their confidence was in the Lord Jesus.
    Hebrews 13:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:2; Acts 9:27, 29; 14:3
  • Boldness is also characterized by “fearlessness”. Paul said that, “Many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Paul is saying that his boldness which led to persecution served to advance the gospel. Everyone knew that he was in chains for Christ. His imprisonment caused the believers to become confident in the Lord and bold to speak the Word of God without fear. This verse not only connects boldness with speaking and confidence but it adds “without fear” meaning the brethren were more daring. They were now more willing to take risks. The verse evens says, “Much more bold”—meaning that they were overcoming their fear. Fear is a natural reaction to danger, but as believers were are not called to react, but act—take intended action as opposed to responding in an unintended manner.
    Mark 15:43; Philippians 1:12-14

Boldness Relies On Prayer And The Holy Spirit
John 15:18-16:33

  • When Peter and John were released after being arrested, they returned to the other believers and told them everything that happened. Then they lifted their voices together to God in prayer and thanksgiving. This prayer helps us understand that not only did they have confidence in God and who He was, saying, “Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is,” but they relied on prayer and the Holy Spirit for boldness.
    Acts 4:23-31
    • They prayed for boldness in the face of persecution—“Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word”. We also need to pray for boldness. Before and after persecution, we need to pray that God would grant us the boldness need to faithfully proclaim His Word. We are to pray like the believers in Acts and like Paul in Ephesians—that whenever we speak, words may be given to us so that we will boldly open our mouths and fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. Paul was an ambassador of the gospel in bonds because of the gospel and he is asking that they pray that he may speak boldly, as he ought to speak. Thus, we also need to pray that we may declare it fearlessly, as we should.
      Ephesians 6:19-20
    • They needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit to speak the word of God boldly—“they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” We also need to depend on the Holy Spirit for boldness. Confidently and fearlessly speaking the gospel in the face of persecution is a work of the Holy Spirit. He empowers us not only to boldly live out our faith but also to boldly speak forth the gospel message even when that could mean potential danger for us.

Boldness Rests In The Love Of God
Romans 8:31-39

  • We can be bold because: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” God was willing to let His own Son, Jesus, die for us to redeem us. If we are in Christ, we know that God is for us. If He gave us Jesus (the greatest gift), He will also graciously give us all things we need (lesser gifts). He made us righteous, thus no on can bring a charge against us. Jesus died, rose again and now He is interceding for us at the right hand of God, thus no one can condemn us.
    Exodus 3:11-12; Isaiah 41:10; Haggai 1:12-15
  • We can be bold because: “Nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. We might have to endure persecution, tribulation, hardships, famine, nakedness, danger, or the sword—but none of these things will separate us from the love of Christ. We are to be convinced that neither death, life, angels, principalities (demons, rulers), powers, things present, things to come, height, depth, nor anything else in all of creation will be able to separate us from God’s love in Christ. We are secured in His infinite, unchanging, incredible, and sacrificial love.
    (Paul’s Persecutions: 1 Corinthians 4:11-13; 2 Corinthians 11:23-28)
  • We can be bold because: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” The scriptures says that, “For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” So even if they martyr us for Jesus’ sake, we are never separated from or will loose God’s love. We have utterly defeated sin, death, and evil through the love of God. We have the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Psalm 44:22; 1 Corinthians 15:57; Colossians 2:13-15; Ephesians 1:20-21; 1 John 4:4; 5:4

Review Questions

  • What does it mean that boldness resides in speaking?
  • What does it mean that boldness resides in confidence?
  • What does it mean that boldness resides in fearlessness?
  • Boldness relies on what?
  • Boldness rests in what?

Where Is Our Loyalty In The Face Of Persecution?

Our loyalty in the face of persecution is in Jesus. He is the ultimate authority in our lives. As believers, we pledge our allegiance to Him above all else and strive to remain loyal to Him in all situations—even the hard ones, in spite of the outcome.

Believers Know That Jesus Wields The Ultimate Authority

  • All Power: As believers we live out our lives and fulfill God’s mission in this world under His authority. Jesus’ authority supersedes all other authority structures and governments. After Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to the disciples and told them that, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth”—absolute and sovereign authority. From this position of authority, He commanded them to go into the world and make disciples of all nations. Thus, the church has been God’s active witness in the world since then. And since then, as they have fulfilled this command, Jesus has gone with them, and will continue to do so through the entire process until the end of the world.
    Matthew 28:18-20; John 20:19-23
  • Counting the cost: Thus, as the church goes forth in their local communities and sends missionaries around the world making disciples, there will be individuals, communities, governments, and nations that reject Jesus’ authority and persecute those who come in His name. But we have a declaration from the King of kings and the Lord of lords to go forth into every part of the world where there are people to reach with the gospel of Jesus—there is no where we can’t go carrying the good news. But this will come at a cost because even though all people need the gospel, they aren’t always welcoming to it. Thus, to obey the command of Jesus we have to be willing to endure persecution if necessary. For example: God tells His prophet to go into a land with a hostile government. He gave him a specific duty to do (sacrifice) for his protection against the government (undercover) in order to carry out his ultimate mission (anointing). So the choice is left to the believers: obey God and possibly suffer persecution because of it or disobey God.
    1 Samuel 16:1-13
  • The Apostles’ Example: The Jewish leaders questioned Peter and John, saying: “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, told them very clearly that His authority was “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” and He continued to tell them that, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” They understood that they were going in the authority of Jesus, were eager to declare He was the ultimate authority and willing to suffer for it if need be.
    Acts 3:11, 25; 4:1-12

Believers Pledge Their Allegiance To Jesus Above All Else

  • Believers pledge their allegiance to God over man to fulfill His mandate. When the Jewish leaders saw the boldness of Peter and John they commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus so that it wouldn’t spread further among the people. They had to choose who to obey: God or man? They responded by saying they, “Cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” They were released and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Then as the apostles were doing many signs, wonders and teaching they were arrested again and asked, “Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name?” Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
    Acts 4:13-31; 5:12-42
  • Believers should obey the government but ultimately pledged their allegiance to Jesus. God has ordained the authority of the government so that mankind will have order and be protected from evildoers and their unjust causes. God has also ordained the authority of the government to be in accordance to His will. No government is autonomous, but they are all under the sovereign rule of God. No government has the right to make a law that is contrary to the commands of God. Therefore, if the government is carrying out the function that God has established for them to do, we who are under their authority should be subject to them (even though they are not perfect). Only when the authorities over us are commanding us to do something that is contrary to what God has commanded or prevents us from obeying God, should we choose not to obey.
    Romans 13:1-4; Proverbs 21:1

Believers Exercise Abiding Loyalty In Hard Situations

  • Our loyalty to Jesus will be tested. The wicked will test to see if we truly pledge our allegiance to Him or if we will renounce Him. There are numerous situation in which this can happen, but we are going to look at the following two Old Testament examples that encourage us to exercise abiding loyalty in hard situations.
    • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego remained loyal to the true God when they were commanded to worship an idol. King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold and commanded all the people, nations, and languages to worship the idol when the music was played. Whoever would not worship the idol when the music was played would be cast into a burning fiery furnace within the same hour. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego only worshipped the true God, thus they refused to obey the kings order to worship the idol. Instead, they made a very calculated risk and told the king that, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us…”—meaning they believed that God could deliver them from being persecuted. Then they said, “But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods…”—meaning that even if God chose not to deliver them from being persecuted they wouldn’t worship the false gods or idols. The three men were cast into the fire but God did a miracle and delivered them. This caused the King to repent and bless the true God.
      Daniel 3:1-30
    • Daniel remained loyal to praying to God even when it was made illegal. Certain government officials were jealous of Daniel and tried to find something against Daniel to tell the king, but they could find no fault, so they said, “We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” They knew He was faithful and loyal to God. So they tricked the king into making a law that would force Daniel to have to choose between his loyalties: the king or the living God. Daniel remained loyal to God and was cast into the lion’s den because of it. But God delivered Him and the king made a decree, that in every dominion of his kingdom people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.
      Daniel 6:1-28
  • Abiding loyalty means that we pledge our allegiance to Jesus even if we don’t know the result. Every believer will receive different types and degrees of persecution. King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, planing to persecute them. He killed James the brother of John with the sword. Then he proceeded further to take Peter also, but the Lord had delivered him out of the prison. Why did God deliver Peter and not James? We don’t know but both men exercised abiding loyalty to Jesus.
    Acts12:1-17; Romans 1:16; (Another example, Jeremiah was delivered but Urijah was killed: Jeremiah 26:10-11, 20-24)

Review Questions

  • What kind of authority does Jesus have?
  • Should believers obey God or man? Why?
  • What are the two Old Testament examples of “loyalty” being tested?
  • What were the different outcomes of James and Peter? Were both loyal?
  • Believers should pledge their loyalty to whom above all else?

Who Is Promised To Be Persecuted?

There is a promise for everyone who will live godly in Christ Jesus to suffer persecution. Everyone involved in preaching the gospel will suffer persecution. All believers can expect to suffer persecution because Jesus died to redeem us from the curse of the law but not from the cross—which means suffering for Jesus’ sake

Everyone Who Will Live Godly In Christ Jesus

  • Paul’s Prescription: After Paul recounts to his disciple Timothy how Jesus had delivered him from certain persecutions and afflictions, he tells him that, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Thus, Paul was saying they every believer can expect to suffer some degree of persecution, because every genuine believer should be striving to live godly lives in Christ Jesus.
    2 Timothy 3:10-13
    • “In Christ Jesus”—To be “in Christ” means that you have repented of your sins and put your faith in Jesus. You are identifying, associating, affiliating, uniting and standing with Jesus and all that He stands for. We have a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ and we love Him, believe in Him, and rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
      1 Peter 1:3-9
    • “Live godly”—Godliness is to have the right attitudes, actions and beliefs. It means that we are living out our faith according to the will of God in all areas: doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, and patience. Our manner of life is characterized by seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
      1 Timothy 4:7-10; Matthew 6:33
  • Suffering for Jesus is part of God’s will for the life of every believer. Paul says that God has gracious given to us that, “In the behalf of Christ” or for the sake of Christ we should “not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake”. This means that no only has God given us the ability and opportunity to believe in Him, but He has also given us the ability and opportunity to suffer for Him. Suffering for Jesus is part of God’s plan for us.
    Philippians 1:29

Everyone That Is Sent Forth To Preach The Gospel

  • Paul’s Example: Before Paul told Timothy the prescription for persecution, He recounted His own personal experiences with persecution. Thus, he exemplified what it looked like to suffer persecution for living godly in Christ Jesus. Paul was a man that lived on mission. When he was at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra he endured persecutions and afflictions. The one common denominator that Paul had in each of those cities where he was persecuted was “preaching the gospel”. Thus, one aspect of “living godly in Christ Jesus” is to be preaching the message of Jesus.
    2 Timothy 3:10-11; (Antioch: Acts 13:14-45; Iconium: Acts 14:1-5; Lystra: Acts 14:6-19)
  • Jesus’ Warning: As Jesus sent out His disciples out on their first preaching mission, He tells them that He is sending them out “as sheep in the midst of wolves”. The disciple easily understood what this meant. In this scenario the sheep is the one in danger. Wolves attack sheep. Wolves kill sheep. Wolves eat sheep. His disciples already have determined enemies. They are being sent on a mission in a dangerous environment.
    Matthew 10:5-7; 16-17
  • The Disciples’ Example: The gospel is made up of words and these words have to be spoken. As we speak these words, some will believe and their lives will be forever changed, but others will retaliate against us. This is what happened as the disciples and church was on mission in the book of Acts. They taught the people and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. They taught in the name of Jesus. They stood in the temple and taught the people. They filled Jerusalem with their doctrine. They preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. They preached the gospel boldly in different cities in the name of Jesus. They stood up in the crowds and congregations and spoke boldly in the Lord. They reasoned with people out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom they preach unto them, is Christ. They turned the world upside down.
    Acts 4:1-4; 17-31; 5:17-42; 6:8-7:60; 9:20-29; 9:29-31; 13:14-52; 14:1-6; 14:19-22; 17:1-9; 21:26-40; 23:12
  • The Church: There was great persecution against the church at Jerusalem that caused the people to scatter and Christians were being taken out of their house and being put into prison because they were the church of the Lord Jesus Christ and preached in His name. Thus, they were scattered everywhere and used the opportunity to spread the gospel everywhere. (Stephen is connected to this church.)
    Acts 8:1-4

Jesus Died To Redeem Us From The Curse But Not The Cross
Curse: Galatians 3:13; Colossians 2:14-15; Cross: Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23

  • Jesus died to redeem us from the curse of the law but not from the cross—meaning suffering for Jesus’ sake. But what does it mean if you are a believer and you haven’t suffered any persecution? First, know that everyone person will experience differing kinds of persecution—some will be mocked and others will be jailed. So just because you haven’t been persecuted in the same manner as someone else doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Second, you need to ask some questions: (1) Are you “in Christ”? (2) Are you living godly? (3) Are you preaching the gospel?
  • Are you willing to be persecuted for Jesus’ sake? If not, maybe you need to be reminded of the following two warnings in the Bible:
    • The Stony Places: The Word of the kingdom goes forth and a person hears it and receives it joyfully without hesitation but it doesn’t take root and thus it can only last temporarily. When tribulation and persecution (times of testing) come about because of the Word of the kingdom, this person just as quickly is offended by it and rejects it. He does not care to take up his cross and follow Christ anymore. Heaven sounded good but persecution doesn’t is his attitude. Your faithfulness during persecution will tell what kind of ground you are.
      Matthew 13:5-6, 20-21
    • False Teachers: Paul reviews the problem of the hypocritical false teachers in the midst of the Galatian churches. They are teaching them to be circumcised as a requirement for salvation with the motivation to live comfortable lives that avoid persecution from those who find “the cross of Christ” intolerant and offensive. False teachers avoid persecution instead of being loyal and embracing the suffering for Jesus.
      Galatians 6:12; 1 Corinthians 1:18

Review Questions

  • What is Paul’s prescription?
  • Is suffering for Jesus part of God’s will for the life of every believer? Why?
  • What was the one common denominator that Paul had for being persecuted?
  • What was Jesus’ warning?
  • What are some question you need to ask if you aren’t suffering for Jesus’ sake?

What Should Define Biblical Persecution?

Biblical persecution is defined by aggression and mistreatment of God’s people because of their identification with God, proclamation about God, and submission to God. But today, we are ultimately persecuted for the sake of Jesus’ name. This means that Jesus is the provocateur of the persecution we receive, because we identify with Him, proclaim Him and submit to Him. Thus, we rejoice if we are counted worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name.
Acts 5:41

Defining Biblical Persecution

  • What is “Biblical persecution”? Persecution in its simplest form is: the wicked attacking the righteous. More specifically, it is: any hostility, harm, harassment, death or any other ill-treatment towards believers because of their identification, proclamation, and submission in relation to God or His Son Jesus.
    • Identification—to identify with, associated with and embrace Jesus and God’s people. Some will be persecuted for: believing in Jesus; associating with the local church; publicly acknowledging their allegiance to Jesus about all else.
    • Proclamation—to proclaim, preach, and teach the gospel of Jesus and the Word of God. Some will be persecuted for: sharing the gospel with others; teaching the truths of the Bible; declaring “Thus saith the Lord” even when it is anti-cultural. 
    • Submission—to submit, obey, and yield to the teachings of Jesus (thus becoming like Him and imitating Him) and submitting to the will of God above all else. Some will be persecuted for: their righteous works; obeying the will of God as revealed in the Bible; submitting to the authority of God over the authority of man.
  • How will believers be persecuted? Jesus gives His disciples some examples of persecution that they can expect. We can be expected to be hated. Some believers will be betrayed by those closest to them (parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends) and might even be betrayed by all of them at the same time. They will persecute us by laying hands on us, delivering us up the authorities, putting us in prison, bringing us before kings and rulers and even putting us to death. Other types of persecution seen through the Bible include: beating, stoning, insults, slander, mocking, financial pressure, hard labour, ostracism, intimidation, threats, imprisonment, exile, and martyrdom.
    Luke 21:12-19; John 9:22; Acts 4:21, 29; 14:19; Revelation 1:9
  • What is the purpose of persecution? (1) For those who persecute believers, they want to destroy the spread of the gospel, stop people from believing in and following Jesus or they want to cause believers to renounce their faith in Jesus. (2) For those who are the persecuted believers, it allows us to identify with Jesus (meaning we are treated like Him because we are genuine followers of His), it gives us a special opportunity to be a witness, and it produces characteristics in our life that help in our spiritual transformation.
    John 15:20-27; Luke 21:12-19; Romans 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 4:11; 12:10

Defining The Provocateur Of Persecution

  • Jesus is the provocateur of persecution—meaning that ultimately persecution is because of our relationship with Jesus. He is the ultimate and underlying reason for persecution. Jesus told His disciples they would be persecuted and hated for “His name’s sake”.
    Matthew 10:22; 24:9; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:12, 17; John 15:18-21; 1 Peter 4:14; Acts 9:16; Romans 8:36
  • Jesus gave us an example of suffering to follow. We are “called” to follow in Jesus’ steps. He suffered for us, leaving us an example to follow. To believe in Jesus is to know Him. To know Jesus is to identify with Him. To identify with Jesus means to act like Him—thus opening the door to be treated in the same manner that He was by this wicked world. Thus, we can know “the fellowship of His sufferings”. We are “joint-heirs with Christ”—meaning that we will receive the same inheritance—to be glorified together, but before that, we will “suffer with Him”.
    Romans 8:17-18; Philippians 3:8-11; 1 Peter 2:19-21; 4:13
  • Jesus is the reason we are wiling to suffer persecution. Persecution isn’t something that we seek out but it is a natural result of following Jesus. Thus, our allegiance to Jesus means that we are willing to suffer persecution for Him. Paul also exemplified this saying that he was ready not only to be imprisoned but to even die “for the name of the Lord Jesus”. Are we ready to suffer for Jesus? To what degree are we called to suffer on the behalf of Christ? Paul tells the Philippians, they were called to suffer for Jesus, “Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” They probably had heard how Paul and Silas had been seized, dragged before the authorities, attacked, beaten and thrown into jail. Today, we know all of Paul’s persecutions and sufferings. Thus, we should be willing to suffer any type of persecution, even death, for Jesus’ sake.
    Acts 16:19-40; 21:10-14; Philippians 1:30; Paul’s Persecutions: 1 Corinthians 4:11-13; 2 Corinthians 11:23-28

Clarifying Confusion About Persecution

  • Persecution is suffering, but not all suffering is persecution. Thus, there is a limit on what can be considered Biblical persecution. Consider the following: (1) Mankind lives in a fallen world and as such there is suffering that believers will have to endure, not because of their faith in Jesus or obedience to God but just because of the natural consequence of the fall. (2) Mankind sins and sin has consequences. Peter tells us not to suffer because of wrongdoings but for our right-doings—being a Christian. (3) Persecution is not punishment for sin.
    1 Peter 2:20; 4:15-16
  • When we talk about Biblical persecution, we are not talking about human rights or what many consider to be “grey area issues” (believers will apply these areas differently), but instead we are talking about the clear and unchanging mandates of the will of God with a focus on the current mandates given to the New Testament church.
  • “Direct persecution” means the reason for the suffering is very clearly expressed by the person doing the persecution. “Indirect persecution” means the reason for the suffering isn’t very clearly expressed by the person doing the persecution, but the reason for the person being persecuted is still within the acceptable definition of Biblical persecution. For example: Paul and Silas cast a demon out of a salve girl and when her owners saw that the hope of their gains was gone they seized them, brought them before the authorities where they were beat and cast into prison.
    Acts 16:16-40

Review Questions

  • What are the three reason why believers are persecuted?
  • What are some ways believers could be persecuted?
  • What is the purpose of persecution for both sides?
  • Who is the provocateur of persecution and what are its applications?
  • Is all suffering persecution? Why?

What Is The Biblical Framework For Persecution?

The Biblical framework for persecution starts at the foundation: the wicked persecute the righteous. From the fall of man until now, the wicked have been attacking the righteous. They persecuted and killed Jesus, the Righteous One, and they will continue to persecute His church, but it will never be defeated because Jesus has already secured the victory.

The Foundation: The Wicked Persecutes The Righteous

  • Foundation: In the beginning God creates mankind. He creates mankind in His image. They were created good and innocent. But He gave them a single command to obey. They had a free choice to obey or disobey God. Mankind chose to disobey God. Mankind was separated from God and was sent out of the garden. Sin, death, and evil entered into the world and was passed upon all people. Thus, mankind was living in a wicked world where there is a divide between two competing “families”—the family of God and the family of Satan. But God promised to defeat Satan and his followers (unbelievers) through the offspring of the woman (Jesus). But this doesn’t come without persecution, because although Jesus will crush Satan’s head (eternal damnation), Satan will strike His heel (suffering). From this point forward, Satan and his family desired to persecute God and His family (believers).
    Genesis 1:1, 27, 31; 2:8, 17; 3:6, 15, 24; Romans 5:12; John 8:39-47; 1 John 3:8
  • History: Thus, as we study the Bible we should see this struggle between these two “families”—it is the attack of the wicked against the righteous. And this is exactly what we find from the Old Testament throughout the New Testament. This truth is highlighted when Jesus was calling out the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy. They were saying they wouldn’t persecuted God’s family, but they were actually already scheming to kill Jesus. In fact, they were the children of those who murdered the prophets and stoned the people that were sent to Jerusalem. Jesus names the first and last martyrs of the Old Testament and says there was even more “righteous blood shed upon the earth” in between these two. Below are examples of persecution that Jesus was referring to.
    Matthew 23:29-39
    • “The blood of righteous Abel” (Cain kills Abel)—After the fall of mankind, we see the first instance of the wicked attacking the righteous. Abel brought “of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof” as an offering unto the Lord, but Cain brought some produce as an offering unto the Lord. Their different offerings symbolize different heart attitudes towards God. Thus, God only accepted Abel’s offering and rejects Cain’s offering. Abel’s actions were righteous and Cain’s wicked, thus He attacked and killed his brother. Abel was murdered for righteously obeying God.
      Genesis 4:1-12; 1 John 3:12
    • In-between examples—In the Old Testament we have other examples martyrdom and persecution amount the prophets, priest and the people of God: (1) The slaying of the 85 priest; (2) Jezebel cut off the prophets; (3) Elijah; (4) Prophets killed; (5) Elisha; (6) Hanani;(7) Micaiah; (8) Zechariah is stoned to death; (9) Mordecai and the Jews; (10) Jeremiah; (11) Uriah; (12) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; (13) Daniel in the lion’s den; (14) Amos.
      Luke 11:50-51; (1) 1 Samuel 22:1-23; (2) 1 Kings 18:3-4; Revelation 2:20; (3) 1 Kings 18:10-19:4; (4) 1 Kings 19:10,14; (5) 2 Kings 6:31; (6) 2 Chronicles 16:7-10; (7) 1 Kings 22: 5-6; 22:23-27; 2 Chronicles 18:12-26; (8) 2 Chronicles 24:20-22; (9) Ester 3:1-12; 5:14; (10) Jeremiah 1:19; 11:18-23; 15:15; 17:18; 20:1-3, 7-11; 37:15-16; 38:4-6; (11) Jeremiah 26:20-23; (12) Daniel 3:1-30; (13) Daniel 6:1-28; (14) Amos 7:10-12
    • “The blood of Zacharias son of Barachias”—By the end of the Old Testament, we have a prophet who declares God’s word and was murdered (probably stoned) between the temple and the altar. Zacharias was murdered for righteously obeying God.
      2 Chronicles 24:20-22 (“Zechariah the son of Jehoiada”—might be this person, but we aren’t sure, but really similar)
  • Continuation: Then Jesus prophesies saying that He will send “prophets, and wise men, and scribes” unto them, but that they would also “kill and crucify” some of them, “scourge” some of them in their synagogues and “persecute them from city to city”. Thus, persecution wasn’t going to just be something that happened in the Old Testament but it was going to continue into the New Testament. John the Baptist would be the first martyr of the New Testament. Jesus would be the first martyr of the church.
    Matthew 23:34; John the Baptist: Matthew 14:1-12; Jesus: Matthew 27:32-56

Jesus, The Righteous One, Was Persecuted And Killed

  • Jesus exemplified that a righteous life would be persecuted by the wicked. Jesus not only prophesied continuing persecution for God’s people, but as the Righteous One, He exemplified what it meant to bear persecution and eventually death for righteousness sake. He was plotted against, betrayed, denied, interrogated, mocked, on trail, and finally murdered on the cross. He became the first martyr of the church.
    Luke 9:21-22; 24:44-49; Acts 3:13-15; 7:51-53; Romans 15:3; Ephesians 5:25; (Jesus’ persecutions: Matthew 26:1-5, 14-16; 47-56; 58, 69-75; 27:1-31; 27:35-38; Conspiracy to kill Jesus: Mark 3:6; 11:15-18; Luke 4:28-30; John 5:16; Jesus’ Suffering had a purpose: 1 Peter 2:24-25)
  • Jesus expected His followers to deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow Him. Not only did Jesus exemplify what bearing persecution looks like, but foretold that everyone who becomes His disciples will also have to bear the persecuted life—because we are followers of the Righteous One and the wicked are still persecuting the righteous until the final day. Afflictions, trials, and persecutions are part of the Christian life and can be expected in a disciple of Christ just as evident as it was in the life of Christ.
    Luke 9:23-27; 21:12; (Even persecution from family: Matthew 10:34-39; Psalm 27:10)

The Church Will Always Be Persecuted, But Never Defeated

  • Inception: In the first mention of the church, the church is described as a “persecuted but victorious church”. Jesus says that He will build His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Thus, in a sense, Jesus is saying that the church will be attacked by the wicked, but none of these attacks will overcome it—even the worst of attacks “the gates of hell” (murder, death, martyrdom). The “gates of hell” resemble the place that holds the human soul prisoner at death. This means that the “power of death” will not overpower the church. Death is strong, its gates hold the dead within and people do not come back from it. But Jesus will overcome death by His resurrection from the dead and pave the way for all members of the church to do the same. Thus, Jesus is the church’s Foundation, Builder, Owner, Victor and He declares that even though His church will be persecuted, He will triumphantly build His church in this world—it will never be overpowered or cease to exist because of persecution or martyrdom.
    Matthew 16:18; 1 John 4:4
  • Established: After the local church was started and established they went forward fulfilling the great commission by making disciples of all nations—and they also started to be persecuted. After Jesus, Stephen would become the next person in the church to be martyred—he was the first martyr of the disciples (Christians). James was the first martyred among the apostles. Peter and Paul were also two notable men who were persecuted in the New Testament Church. Thus, persecution and suffering is part of God’s plan to accomplish His will in evangelizing the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    Acts 7:54-60; 14:22; Stephen: Acts 6:8-7:60; James: Acts 12:1-2; Peter: Acts 12:3-5; Paul: 1 Corinthians 4:11-13; 2 Corinthians 11:23-28
  • Victorious: Jesus didn’t want them to worry or live in fear but to have peace. Even though in this wicked world believers and the church will have tribulation, we are to be of “good cheer”—meaning to have confidence in Jesus because He has “overcome the world”. God has given us the victory through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
    John 16:33; Romans 5:17; 1 Corinthians 15:56-58; 2 Corinthians 5:21

Review Questions

  • What is the foundational principle of persecution?
  • What is the basic history of persecution in the Bible?
  • Does persecution continue in the New Testament? Why?
  • Who is the Righteous One? What happened to Him?
  • Will the church be persecuted and defeated?

November 2014 Prayer Letter

We were excited last month about the decision to merge the churches together, our new building, and how everything in the ministry was going, then the police showed up at the church on a Wednesday morning. Since then we have had a whirlwind of emotions and many decisions to make. Each step we have taken, the Lord has given us wisdom. We praise Him for help in a time of need!

The Police: Only one of the young Chinese men was at the church when the police came this time, but they asked many questions, took some of our information and asked for a follow-up visit. After that followup visit, the police told one of the young men that we could keep having services like normal. We were thankful for this, but were still unsure of the decision since they didn’t know the identity of the foreigners involved. I stepped down as the pastor hoping that would help with any issues of foreigner involvement and had the young men teach in my place for a week.

After praying and thinking about what to do, we decided that the “new” location was going to be a problem because of neighbors and our noise level. We decided to look for a commercial space and the Lord open up a door at the first place we went to. We rented a new place and have met there since. The surrounding neighbors in our new location are businesses who usually don’t work on Sunday. This should help with causing problems with the neighbors.

The Move: Everyone was disheartened at first because we didn’t know what the plan was going to be. We spent about two weeks renovating our new building and taking the church in a new direction, doing things nicer than we have ever done them. It seems the Lord has His hand in all this because each time the police come we find a new, better and bigger location.

Giving Opportunities: We have been through a lot in just the couple of months since we have been back. We are using all of our support each month and would like to raise more. We are thankful for those who have recently partnered with us. Also, there are several one-time giving opportunities to help this young persecuted church: rent, extra chairs, renovations, and reimbursing the confiscated funds. You can contact me directly for more details. We couldn’t do what we do without you!

Church Organization: We officially organized into a local Baptist church. We had a great organization service where several of our people became founding members of the church, signing the church charter. Praise the Lord for continuing to work even through all the troubles!

Thank you for being a part of our team, Project China, with your prayers and financial support!

At a Crossroads – Direction Known

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I want to thank everyone for praying for us over the past week and a half. It has been a stressful and trying time. Through prayer, counsel and open doors we finally know the direction we are going.

First, we plan on staying in the city and continuing our ministry here. Our actual identities are not known. We don’t see a direct threat. With the information they do know; they could eventually find out who we are if they truly were wanting to know, but they haven’t seemed to pursue it at this time.

Second, we moved the church from the residential location to a commercial location. The new location means I can be involved back in the services of the church immediately. I preached both services this past Sunday. Also, before renting this new location we asked all the surrounding businesses if our services on Sunday would be a problem for them and they all said, “no.” (Renting commercial space has its benefits… planning to write more about the benefits of this in the future. The one downside is the extra cost.)

Third, for political reasons, I will still not be the official pastor of the church but will do many of the functions of a pastor until the church has one. (This is more of a word game that, hopefully, will help us with future run-ins with the police.)

Summary: The church has moved to a new commercial location that will, hopefully, help meet its needs and allow for future growth. We will continue to lead the church and train up young men as the Lord allows. We are moving forward trusting the Lord!

(We could be wrong about all these decisions.)

P.S. We have some different projects and that we are working on and if you are interested in helping the local church here with any of these financially, let me know and I can give you more details.

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At a Crossroads – Weekend Update!

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As you probably already read, the police did not come over the weekend nor have they come for a second time. The church boldly had it’s normal services. There were no interruptions. Thank you for praying!


OVER THE WEEKEND

With that being said here is a run down of the events for this weekend:

Friday: I met with the guys who are in training and we decided that it was best that I resign the church as the active pastor. Even if I end of staying in the city and going back to work at the church, this would allow the church members to honestly say they don’t have a foreigner as a pastor. So Friday evening, I sent the church members the following letter of resignation:

Dear Church,

I have been honored to be your pastor. I have seen many of you grow in the faith. Some of you I helped believe the gospel. Some of you I baptized. Some of you I helped understand the bible. Some of you I trained to preach. Together we planted a real local church.

The time has come for me to resign as the pastor of the church. The law in China doesn’t allow me as a foreigner to be your pastor. I know that we ought to obey God rather than men, and I hope that we will always do that. The Bible also gives examples of preachers moving on to other cities if they receive persecution. My continued leadership and attendance at the church will cause more problems for the church. If I resign, you shouldn’t experience those problems and can continue to build the church without hinderance.

I am praying that God will send you a pastor to help lead and guide you. I will help the church in every way possible, but I will no longer be the pastor of the church. Therefore, if the police ask if the church has a foreigner as a pastor, you can truthfully answer, “No.”

Whoever the pastor is, I will commit to training him and helping him to lead you, in the same way that I did.

I love you. Keep serving Jesus and building His church because He is worthy.

Also, two of the young men committed to leading the church and to continue the preaching and teaching until the church has a fulltime pastor (hopefully one of them with time).

Saturday: I left town and one of the guys from the church went to the police station to fulfill part of the request of the officers who came the Wednesday before. They wanted to know what we believe and wanted every who attends information. We obviously aren’t willing to give that information of everyone who attends, but we are willing to explain to them exactly what we believe. So that is what they did. At the end of their meeting, the church was given permissions to keep having services.

Saturday: The church had services with no interruptions. I was not at either of the services but in another city.


A COUPLE QUESTIONS

What does this mean? I don’t know. We are taking each day a step at a time.

But didn’t they give the church permission? Yes and no. The officer who he talked to said they could keep studying. Is there an underlying purpose for this, I hope not. But the local police station’s job is more to keep the unity among neighbors and to keep problems from arising. They don’t carry guns and they aren’t very intimidating. So the question is, what are they going to do with the information they attained? If they are required to file a report to the religious bureau, then we could have problems. That is what we are waiting to see. The religious bureau specializes in raiding the house churches and it is their job to keep the religious situation in China under control. Therefore, even if the local police don’t really care about the church, there is a good chance the religious bureau will if they find out.

What do they know about you? The local police station acquired more information about us from the talks, but nothing that gives away our identity yet. We are still praying for wisdom about our next step. Now, we are returning to our city and will continue training as we try to figure this out.

Next Step? As of now, we aren’t planning on attending any of the services but will be looking into doing something else for my family for the time being.

We still need your prayers.

Thank you.

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Questions: Persecution, Boldness, Fear

The following are questions that I sent in to Austin Gardner to be answered on his “Leadership with Vision” podcast. He answers these questions in the podcast below:

Answers Podcast #1: Persecution

 

Answers Podcast #2: Missions In Creative Access Countries

 

Answers Podcast #3: The 007 Missionary And Tent Making Ministry

 

Answers Podcast #4: Boldness In The Mission Field

 


Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions that I send you. Your answers are always a tremendous help to me as I try to think things through. This time I want to ask you questions concerning the topics of persecution, fear, and boldness. I think this is an appropriate topic at this time since two of our friends were recently deported from a closed country. I think their example can help me, and others think through how missions in closed countries can be done.

Persecution
What is bible persecution? What is not considered persecution? Is persecution only real if it includes violence? Should we avoid persecution? Should we seek persecution? What are reasons that people will suffer persecution?

Closed Countries
Should missionaries work in closed countries? What are some respectable ways for missionaries to enter closed countries?

What about tent-making in a closed country?

Sometimes working in a closed country is financially advantageous and easy way to obtain a visa but takes up a lot of your time, whereas, going in as a tourist (or a non-working visa) cost lots of money, visas are harder to get, and usually multiple border runs are required but you have more free time, which do you think is best? Why?

Caution
What caution needs to be taken into consideration when going to a closed country as a missionary? I know that you and I have both heard and experienced many things concerning the caution one should take, what areas do you think there needs to be caution and what areas are overemphasized or wrong?

What do you think about a missionary to closed countries use of media (prayer letters, prayer cards, internet, email, social media, etc.)?

How can one be cautious and yet wise? How can he be cautious yet bold? How can he be cautious yet obedient?

Should one speak in code? Should one say, “J” instead of Jesus so people do not know whom he is talking about? Should one shy away from using “Bible Words” so that people will not discover that he is a Christian?

Should one encourage national believers to just “believe in their hearts” but conform to the world on the outside so people won’t persecute them? Should believers hide that they are Christians? Should one deny Christ to avoid persecution? How much can one deny before crossing the line of denying the faith?

Should we not tell people we are ministers of the gospel, pastors, missionaries, etc.?

Fear
How afraid should a missionary be to go to a closed country? Is fear a biblical concept? How do we keep fear out of out lives? What causes people to fear? How does people’s “concerns” often cause fear in missionaries?

Fear is usually a battle of the mind and heart, what can we do to overcome fear? What if I live in a scary place? What if all the other missionaries I am around are scared and it rubs off on me, what should I do?

Boldness
What is biblical boldness? What does it mean to be bold with the gospel? What does boldness in a closed country look like? What are bible examples of boldness that are instructive to us today?

When ministering in the country, what are nonnegotiable? What are things we should do no matter the cost? What things are just methods that can change from country to country?

Serpents and Doves
Many people justify the way they do things using Matthew 10:16, can you give your thoughts about what you think this verse means? What is the context? What does it mean to be wise as a serpent? What does it mean to be harmless as a dove? What would the disciples of thought after hearing Jesus say this to them?

Encouragement
What are ways to encourage those going to closed countries and not discourage them? What are ways to encourage those going through persecution? What are ways to encourage your church if they were being persecuted? What are ways to encourage missionary wives?

Deportation
Once a person is deported from the country for preaching the gospel, what should he do next? Should he stop being in the ministry? Should he look for opportunities in the States? Should he find a group of people who speak the same language as his previous country and try to reach them? Should he choose a new country and learn a new language? Should he find a country that speaks the same language? Should he try to find alternative ways to re-enter the country he was deported from? Should he try to establish a border ministry so the people he was training can come there and get more training?

At a Crossroads – Prayer Needed!

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We are at a crossroads in the ministry. We have some hard decisions to make in the very near future, and we would like to ask for your prayer so we can continue to move forward wisely.

Here is the situation: This past Wednesday morning one of the guys who is training to possibly be a pastor in the future went to the church to study. When he arrived, there were five policemen waiting at the door of the church. Two were in uniform and three were not. They asked about the church, and they all entered together. The looked around asked some questions, told him that they church needs to register with the government, and took a few things small things that had information about the church on them. The police were nice, never said that we had to stop having services, didn’t confiscate anything and their main objection was that we are not registered.

Now, we have seen this situation played out many times. This could lead to a bigger raid by the religious bureau (which is what happened at our other church location when they confiscated the money, took people in for questioning, and told them they couldn’t have services) or it could just be a slap on the hand with no immediate consequences.

I was not there and so they don’t know me, but they do know that there is foreigner leadership in the church. Because of this, I have to believe they will not or can not agree to this and will make a reappearance at the church trying to catch us in the act of leading the church. Also, I was told by another Chinese pastor that the government is currently putting more effort into looking for house churches with foreigner involvement.

Why did they come? Most likely, it was a neighbor that called the police and reported us. I was going to write in the weekly mind dump, that I never got around to, to pray as we are in a new neighborhood, and there is always a chance of a neighbor not liking us or what we are doing. It just so happens, that this seemed to be the case. We think a little old lady reported us (you know the kind that thinks they are the neighborhood watch dog).

Anyways, this is the second time the police have come to one of the churches in our city. Both times I was absent, but they know my Chinese name and that I am involved, but that is it. They don’t actually know who I am.

So this leads us to the question, what is our next step? This is where we need prayer and wisdom.

We can conclude that being caught leading a church will most likely lead to deportation. This is a risk we are willing to take when we first move into a city because there is no church and no men trained, therefore it is our only option if we are wanting to start new local churches in China. But once we have some men trained, should our role change, and if so how? Can we take less risk once we have the ministry going, to stay and work in a training position, but not be the pastor of a church?

Also, currently, in China, the main problem in house churches seems to be foreign leadership. Our friends who were deported left churches who are still meeting at the same locations, same times and continue on without any major problems from the authorities.

So my thinking, at this time, is that if I remove myself from the church, then they can continue on in the same location without any major problems. I am not a threat to the Chinese being thrown in jail, but a threat to myself being deported from the country.

So we are at a crossroads. Here are the different ideas we have come up with:

  • If none of the men that we have been training are willing to step up and lead the church, then we can continue leading the church like normal and let things take its natural course.
  • Abandon the ministry for the sake of being able to stay in the country and start over. (I don’t think this is right and believe I would risk deportation before I abandoned them.)
  • Stop having services for several months and then start-up again when things cool down. (I don’t think this is right either)
  • One of the men that we are training will step up, be the pastor of the church and I will no longer attend regularly or be the pastor of the church, but move into a training position and give the majority of my time to training him and others who want to be pastors. This would allow them to report to the police that in accordance to registration requirements, they no longer have a foreigner as pastor. (What would my family do about going to church in this scenario?)
  • If none of the men that we have been training are willing to step up and lead the church, then we could find another young man who is finishing his training from another ministry to step into the position of pastor and I could continue in the city training him and others that are interested. Possibly, start another church in a different part of the city.
  • We could move the location of the church and chance it in another neighborhood. I would still be the pastor.
  • One of the men that we are training will step up, be the pastor of the church, and I move to Taiwan then make regular trips into the country to continue their training. I would start a church in Taiwan and have a border ministry for the mainland.
  • One of the men that we are training will step up, be the pastor of the church and I move to another city in China and start something new, but also make trips back to this city for continued training.
  • Any combination of the above ideas. (Note: We have guys that are in training, but not are fully ready like we would want.)

The hard part seems to be that if we continue like normal, that it will end in deportation sooner than later, so if that is true, what changes can we make to be effective, but also protect our ability to enter the country for training. Otherwise, if we are deported, we will be limited to training over Skype.

I told the guys here that it would be wise for us to go ahead and make plans now that would protect our ability to stay in the country and continue training, otherwise I could be deported and they would be completely on their own.

It seems that we have been given the opportunity to make a decision for our future. We are assuredly gathering their needs to be changes. Our strategy needs to evolve with the current actions and attitudes of the government toward true Biblical churches.

I asked the guys what we should do and they said, “keep meeting together as a church” so they will continue going forward, but what is our next specific role in all this? We need your prayers.

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