Pledge Your Allegiance: A Lesson In Persecution

When you read the Bible it seems that all of us are called to live the life of the persecuted. But what determines why one would be persecuted? Paul pledged his allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ and was constantly persecuted because he constantly preached the Gospel—no matter the cost.

What Did Paul Mean About Being Miserable?
1 Corinthians 15:12-19

  • What did Paul mean when he said, “We are of all men most miserable?” Paul is addressing the false teaching that there wasn’t a resurrection, and he gives several points for a person to consider if Christ is not risen: our preaching is in vain; our faith is in vain; we would be false witnesses of God; there would be no resurrection of the dead; we are still in our sins; those who are already dead in Christ are perished. But then He also says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” Meaning if we lived for only one purpose, one hope in life—that of the Lord Jesus—and we find out it isn’t true then we lived a very miserable life.
  • But what would be our response if the resurrection wasn’t true? Would it be the same as Paul’s? Or would we say: (1) “If it wasn’t true, at least I lived a comfortable and content life with a few mistakes.” (2) “If it wasn’t true, at least I learned how to live my best life now and store up riches.” (3) “If it wasn’t true, at least I raised my children in a moral place and we lived good lives.” I’m afraid there wouldn’t be many “miserable” people because we are not “all in” for Jesus.
  • Why was Paul’s response to the idea of the resurrection not being true that of being “miserable?” Paul said we are of all men most miserable if there was no resurrection because he lived a life of suffering—and if there was no resurrection His life of suffering was lived in vain. He held nothing back. We are also called to live a life of suffering. We are called to salvation but also to suffer. What kind of suffering? The same that we see and hear to be in Paul. That’s why he said we would be “miserable.”
    Philippians 1:29-30; Paul’s Persecutions: 1 Corinthians 4:11-13; 2 Corinthians 11:23-28

Why Was Paul Persecuted?
2 Timothy 3:11-12

  • Paul names three cities in which he suffered persecution. A look at these three cities where he was persecuted gives us one common denominator why Paul was persecuted in varying degrees: preaching the Gospel. Thus, those who live “godly” in Christ Jesus are those who preach the Gospel. Not only was he preaching the gospel but he was preaching it to the world. He wasn’t just preaching it in the safety of the church building or in a Sunday school class but to the heathen. He preached where he was told not too.
  • Paul’s example in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra:
    • Antioch: Paul preached to the Jews starting in the Old Testament and then preached the gospel. After the message was done, many of the Gentiles couldn’t wait until the next Sabbath day to hear more about this message. Many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas. The next Sabbath day came and almost the whole city came together and the Jews saw the multitude and were filled with envy and spoke against Paul contradicting and blaspheming.
      Acts 13:14-45
    • Iconium: He spoke to the Jews and Greeks in the synagogue and a great multitude believed. The unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and made them think evil thoughts against the believers. Paul and Barnabas continued to speak boldly in the Lord and they did many signs and wonders. The city was divided, half with the Jews and half with the Apostles. The non-believing Jews and Gentiles got together with there rulers and planned an assault to use them despitefully and stone them. They fled to the next city and continued to preach the Gospel.
      Acts 14:1-5
    • Lystra: Paul and Barnabas fled into this city to escape being stoned in Iconium. They preached the Gospel. They healed the impotent man in his feet being a cripple from his mother’s womb. The people of the city saw the miracle that they did and they started treating them as if they were god’s come down from heaven. When Paul and Barnabas heard this they were very upset and ripped their clothes and ran among the people crying that they were just men and preached the truth. They were preaching to a non-Jewish crowd and therefore started at creation. The people restrained and did not offer sacrifices to them. The Jews who had persecuted them in Antioch and Iconium came to Lystra and persuaded the people against them and they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city thinking he was dead. But Paul stood up and went on preaching the gospel.
      Acts 14:6-23

How Can We Endure This Type Of Life?
Luke 9:21-23

  • Self-Denial: As a disciple it means you are willing to say no to what you want, desire, and/or need for the sake of the gospel and following Christ. You are willing to share the gospel in spite of what people think about you. You must die to wanting to always be accept by your peers and know rejection is a way of life.
  • Take Up Your Cross Daily: As a disciple it means from the point of Salvation on, you are daily dyeing to yourself and plans and willing to bear “your cross” or God’s plan for your life. Just as suffering was part of God’s plan for the redemption of man, suffering is part of God’s plan to take the gospel to the world. 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.
  • Following Christ: As a disciple it means you are willing to do anything He may ask of you to the point of death. You pledge your allegiance to the King of kings. Will you follow Christ in-spite of: (1) family and friends—we will be persecuted and hated for His name sake and this might include being persecuted by those closets to you; (2) government—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego followed God instead of the government and were willing to follow God if He delivered them (“If it be so”) and even if He didn’t (“but if not”); (3) death—Steven was the first to be persecuted after Jesus in the church and he was a layman. Where is your allegiance?
    (1) Luke 21:16-17; (2) Daniel 3:16-18; (3) Acts 7:54-60

Review Questions

  • What did Paul mean about his “miserable” comment?
  • Why was Paul persecuted?
  • What happened in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra?
  • What three things can we do to endure this type of life?
  • Where is your allegiance?

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