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.
- 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.
- 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.
How Can We Endure This Type Of Life?
- 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
- 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?
We help fellow believers being persecuted through remembering them and loving them as ourselves. As believers, we identify with the body of Christ, thus we are to show empathy when other believers are being persecuted for righteousness sake. All believers are to find their comfort in “the God of all comfort” and comfort others with the comfort we ourselves received from God.
We Should Remember Believers That Are Persecuted
- We should remember believers that are persecuted for Jesus’ sake. The Hebrew believers were told to “remember” the persecuted because they were “also in the body”—this has two possible understandings: (1) Identification—we are to remember believers that suffer adversity (cruel and mistreated, etc.) because we also identify as part of the body of Christ with them—we are all part of the family of God. If someone in the body of Christ is persecuted for Jesus’ sake, then if we were in their same situation, we would also possibly be persecuted for the same reason because we identify with the same Lord Jesus and with the same mission. Persecution shouldn’t separate believers or cause division but it should unify us. (2) Empathy—we are to remember believers that are “in bonds, as bound with them” because we are also in a human body and can understand their feelings and share in their pain. Either way, we are to be active in remembering the persecuted and we do that through loving them as ourselves. Below are some examples:
Remember: Hebrews 13:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:4; Identification: 1 Corinthians 12:26; Empathy: 1 Peter 3:8; Romans 12:14
- The Hebrews—The Jewish believers were already remembering the persecuted. Not only did they endure persecution and have a great confidence in God, but they also they had “compassion” on those in prison.
- Obadiah—When Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah hid a hundred men of the Lord’s prophets by fifties in caves, and fed them with bread and water.
Kings 18:13; Romans 12:13
- Ebed-melech the Ethiopian—When Ebed-melech heard that they put Jeremiah the prophet in the dungeon—(which was like a cistern for storing liquids), he went to the king to plead his case because he was afraid that he would die in there. This was risky move by him, but he was granted permissions to take thirty men to go rescue him.
Jeremiah 38:7-13; 39:15-18
- We should remember believers that are persecuted for Jesus’ sake because they are Jesus’ representatives. Jesus told His apostles that anyone who receives them also receives Him and thus receives God. They are official representatives of Jesus, therefore those who receive them should do so with the same respect due to those whom they are representing. Thus, those who receive a prophet or righteous man will also be partakers in their reward because they were a helper in the work. Therefore, there is incentive to receive and help the man of God. But also, anyone who serves a believer without the reputation like that of a prophet or a righteous man, but is just a disciple, will also be rewarded. Below are some examples:
Matthew 10:40-42; 2 Corinthians 5:20
- A Great Woman and Her Husband—When Elisha the prophet and a holy man of God went through Shunem, a women there would urge him to eat some food. Thus, eating at this families home became a normal habit for him when he visited this town. Then the women and her husband decided to build a chamber (upper room) on the roof of their house with a bed, a table, a stool and a candlestick. That way they could provide a place for him to stay whenever he came to them.
2 Kings 4:8-11
- Ahikam the son of Shaphan—Jeremiah and Urijah were both prophets that prophesied against the city of Jerusalem in obedience to the Lord. Urijah was apprehended and killed by Jehoiakim the king, but the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan (a government official) was with Jeremiah, so that he was not handed over to the people to be put to death. So Ahikam used his influence to support Jeremiah even when it was dangerous to do so.
Jeremiah 26:10-11, 20-24
We Should Find Comfort In “The God Of All Comfort”
Psalm 94:19; 56:8-9
- God comforts us in our tribulation (affliction). God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—He allowed Jesus to suffer on the cross, but used it for a greater purpose. God is the Father of mercies—He has great compassion on the suffering. God is the God of all comfort—He is the One who can give true consolation in times of suffering. We are persecuted because of Jesus, but our consolation also comes from Him. If persecution abounds, so does the consolation that He gives us. Thus, the comfort that is needed is never-ending and is given to us by a merciful God through His Son Jesus.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4a, 5; (Psalm 23:4; 86:17; James 5:11)
- God comforts us in our tribulation so that we can comfort those who are in any trouble. As we go through tribulations, sufferings, affliction, or trouble, God is working in our lives and as we trust in Him for strength, we learn what true comfort is. Thus, we are able to comfort others with the comfort we ourselves received from God.
2 Corinthians 1:4b
- Paul and Timothy understood this truth. They knew that their affliction and comfort would be used for the “consolation and salvation” of the Corinthian church—meaning they knew that the comfort they experienced through persecution would function to help the church to also know how to have comfort and perseverance when they patiently endured the same types of sufferings. It would also confirm the gospel because they weren’t unashamed of it—causing them to endure in the comfort of their salvation until they are fully saved out of this world. There is hope for all believers because if you partake of the sufferings, you will also partake of the consolation.
2 Corinthians 1:6-7; (Romans 1:16)
- Paul and Timothy exemplified this truth. They didn’t want their brethren to be unaware of the trouble and affliction they had when they were in Asia. Something had happened to them that is was beyond their control and it threatened to end their lives. It felt that everything had fallen apart and they were sentenced to death. But all of this was done so that they would not trust in themselves, but in God who raises the dead. God delivered them from this deadly event. They believe that He will even deliver them again because they set their hope and trust in Him.
2 Corinthians 1:8-10
- Prayer is a way we can comfort other believers in persecution. Paul told them that they could help through prayer. If God would answer their requests for them (“gift bestowed”) by the prayers of many, then thanks may be given to God by many on their behalf.
2 Corinthians 1:11; (Romans 12:12; Hebrews 4:16)
- God’s Word is a way we can comfort other believers in persecution. The Psalmist said that His comfort in His affliction was that God’s Word—His promises—gives him life (quickened). We are to think upon and obey God’s Words and take comfort in them—not forgetting them or forsaking them in the midst of persecution.
Psalm 56:10-11; 119:50-52, 76, 81-88
- Who should we remember?
- Why should we remember them?
- What are some examples of helping God’s people?
- Where do believers find true comfort?
- How can we comfort others?
Enduring persecution is part of God’s plan to evangelize the world, thus, we endure the persecuted life by: following Paul’s example; resting in the all sufficient grace of God; knowing there is a better and greater reward; and allowing God to avenge the persecuted.
We Endure By Following Paul’s Example
- Enduring the persecuted life was exemplified by Paul. Paul and the apostles lived “the persecuted life”—meaning they were constantly under siege from different types of suffering because of the gospel—“as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God”. It was as if they were on exhibit in a Roman arena where men are sentenced to death. It was a life that seemed foolish, weak and despised—but it was the will of God because it was founded on the truth of God. Paul even goes on to describe their life (His and probably Sosthenes’ life) at that time. They were hungry, thirsty, naked (poorly dressed), buffeted (beat or punched), homeless (no certain dwelling place) and laboured by working with their own hands (financially support themselves and others). There were made as “the filth of the world” (like scummy water) and “the offscouring of all things” (like dirty scrapings). But Paul didn’t allow all of this to defeat him, instead He tells us what he did to endure the persecuted life and then urges us to be followers of him.
1 Corinthians 1:1; 4:1, 9-16
- “Being reviled, we bless”—endure verbal abuse with verbal blessings—to respond with truth, kindness and a godly disposition.
- “Being persecuted, we suffer it”—endure harassment and attacks by bearing it—to patiently and tolerantly suffer it even though it is really unpleasant and difficult.
- “Being defamed, we intreat”—endure slander with entreatment—answer kindly in truth and love any false accusations brought against us or the gospel.
We Endure By Resting In The All Sufficient Grace Of God
- Our infirmities, His strength: Paul gladly boasted in his infirmities because of the sufficiency of Jesus’ grace. Jesus’ strength is made perfect in weakness. Thus, Paul was wanting the power of Jesus to rest upon him. He realized that when he is weak, then he is strong through Jesus. Thus, for the sake of Jesus, he learned to be content with or take delight in infirmities, reproaches, necessities (hardships), persecutions, and distresses.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
- Our weakness, His power: As believers, we have “treasure” in earthen vessels. The treasure that we possess is “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”. The earthen vessels or jars of clay represents our human weakness. Thus, God works through us who have received His salvation to show that the excellency and all-surpassing power belongs to Him and not to us. Paul was constantly being persecuted because he was always bearing in the body the death of Jesus—meaning that because he was being persecuted for Jesus’ sake. Through this suffering “the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body”—meaning that it would serve as a witness to others of Jesus. He evens says that they were always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake—meaning that believers are always going to face the potential of death if they live boldly for Jesus and try to reach the world with the gospel (like Paul and the other Apostles did). Through this risk of death “the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh”—meaning that we are willing to put our lives at risk of death so that others might receive life. God’s grace gives us the faith to say the following:
2 Corinthians 4:6-12
- “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed”—endure difficulties and suffering with hope in God knowing that He provides grace for us in the time of need.
- “We are perplexed, but not in despair”——endure doubts and confusion with faith in God knowing He gives you the needed emotional and mental composure to endure.
- “Persecuted, but not forsaken”——endure harassment and attacks with confidence in His presence, He will never leave us or abandoned us.
- “Cast down, but not destroyed”—endure being thrown down with victory—we are never defeated because we have the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
John 16:33; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57
We Endure By Knowing There Is A Better And Greater Reward
- Believers who endure the persecuted life will be rewarded. Jesus promises a great reward in heaven for those who are persecuted. Also, the Hebrew believers knew they had a better and an enduring substance in heaven—eternal salvation. When they first believed they endured a lot of persecutions. Then Paul encourages them that they are to continue in this “confidence”—their relationship with Jesus—and not cast it away because of continuing persecution because there is a great reward for them. To do this we need to patiently do the will of God, and in the end we will receive the promise of eternal life. As believers, we live by faith to the saving of the soul.
Luke 6:22-23; Hebrews 10:32-39; 11:23-28
- Our persecution is noticed by Jesus and rewarded. Jesus praises the church Smyrna for: enduring tribulation—being persecuted because of their faith in Jesus; enduring blasphemy—being accused of doing wrong and slandered by unbelieving Jews; enduring poverty—being financially poor, most likely due to following Jesus. Jesus warns that more persecution is coming. They will be cast into prison for “ten days” and may even face death. He advises them to “fear not” and to be “faithful unto death.” A reward for enduring this type of persecution is the “the crown of life,” which probably refers to eternal life or a literal crown, either way it would be a just reward from Jesus Himself.
James 1:12; Revelation 2:9-10
We Endure By Allowing God To Avenge The Persecuted
- God will avenge the persecuted and the martyrs. We don’t have to avenge ourselves, but rather leave it to the wrath of God. In Revelation, the souls of the tribulation martyrs—those that were “slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held” are described. They were killed because they were faithful to the Bible and boldly proclaiming Jesus in spite of the opposition to the message they preached. They cried out from under the altar and asked God when He was going to avenge their blood. They were told to rest for a little season because there were other believers who would also be martyred like they were. But afterwards, He is coming to judge and avenge their blood.
Romans 12:17-19; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10; Revelation 6:9-11
- How did Paul exemplify the persecuted life?
- Why did Paul gladly boast in his infirmities?
- God’s grace gives us the faith to say what?
- We endure persecution because we know what?
- We should allow God to avenge who?
After persecution we need to (1) learn how to respond appropriately—without retaliation so that we may be children of our Father who is in heaven; (2) rejoice because we are counted worthy to suffer for Jesus and blessed by God; (3) at all cost, refrain not from boldly living for Jesus.
Respond Appropriately And Don’t Retaliate Inappropriately
Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-28
- We are not to retaliate against those who persecute us. The Bible says that we are not to “render evil for evil unto any man” but instead we are to always strive to “follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” Also, the Bible says, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord,” thus we don’t have to avenge ourselves, but rather leave it to the wrath of God. Jesus and the Apostles help us to understand how we are to appropriately respond to persecution without inappropriately retaliating against it.
Romans 12:17-19; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10
- Respond with love. We are to love our enemies—those who hate us and wish to hurt us. God demonstrated His love to us in that while we were His enemies Jesus died for us. Jesus was hated, persecuted and crucified, but He only responded with love.
- Respond with blessings. We are to bless them that curse us. We are not to respond with the same negative manners of speaking that invoke harm and evil to a person, but instead we are to use positive manners of speaking that invoke favor, kindness and ultimately God’s blessings—of which the greatest blessing is to know Jesus.
- Respond with doing good. We are to do good to them that hate us. We are not to respond with the same kind of great dislike and aversion towards our persecutors, but instead we are to act and behave in a way that treats them well and in a proper manner. Our behavior helps us win people over to Jesus. We should be willing to adapt that we might “by all means save some”.
Romans 12:20-21; Right behavior helps converts others: 1 Corinthians 9:22; 1 Peter 3:1-2
- Respond with prayer. We are to pray for them which despitefully use us (verbal abuse) and persecute us (physical abuse). We are not to respond by using verbal or physical abuse, but instead we are to passionately call out to the Lord in prayer. Remember: before, in the midst of, and after persecution, we are still “on mission”—we desire to see even our persecutors repent and believe in Jesus. Prayer is powerful and we have three strong examples that hep us understand this point: (1) Jesus prayed for those who crucified Him; (2) Stephen prayed for those who stoned him to death. (3) Paul prayed for the Jews who beat him with 39 stripes five times.
(1) Luke 23:34; (2) Acts 7:60; (3) 2 Corinthians 11:24; Romans 10:1
- Our motivation to respond appropriately to persecution is so that we are like our Father in Heaven. He is our Father and we are His children—thus we need to act like it. We are to be living the victorious Christian life—a life that is radically being transformed into the very character of God. God, our Father, is a merciful, gracious and good God. He makes the sun to rise on the good and evil. He also sends rain to the just and the unjust. We are to do more good than sinners do. If we only greet other believers and ignore unbelievers, what change has taken place in our lives. There is no reward for loving those who already love you, anyone can do this, but there is reward for loving those who don’t love you. This is a growing process to be more and more like our Father. The standard is to be perfect like God. Thus, persecution and our right response to it helps make us more like Him.
Rejoice Because You Are Counted Worthy And Blessed
- Respond with rejoicing because you are counted worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name. The apostles were arrested and put into prison, but an angel set them free. Then they were arrested again and brought before the authorities to be questioned. They were being persecuted for teaching in Jesus’ name. Peter even taught Jesus to the authorities when they questioned Him. This only made them more mad and they wanted to kill them. But a man named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, stood up and advised them to not kill them. They heeded his advice. So they beat the disciples, charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. After being persecuted, the Bible says that, “They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” We should rejoice if we are counted worthy.
Acts 5:17-38; 39-41; Colossians 1:24; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5
- Respond with rejoicing because, as a believer, the kingdom of heaven is yours. Blessed are believers who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake—those who receive any form of action that punishes them for being a believer or obeying God’s will. We are blessed when, for Jesus sake, men revile, persecute or says all manner of evil against us falsely. We are blessed because the kingdom of heaven is ours—we will be saved and God rules in our hearts and lives. We can rejoice and be exceeding glad because great is our reward in heaven. Thus, we can rejoice because true happiness is found in a real relationship with God—no matter the cost of obtaining or maintaining it, knowing that one day God will wipe away all tears from our eyes; and there will be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain. Finally, He reminds them that the prophets which were before them were also persecuted, meaning as they experience persecution they will be numbered with the people of God.
Matthew 5:10-12; Revelation 21:1-4
Refrain Not From Boldly Living For Jesus
- Respond with boldly preaching and teaching Jesus no matter the cost. Before the disciples were released, they were commanded to not speak in the name of Jesus. But they didn’t allow the persecution they suffered or the fear of future persecution to keep them from obeying God. After they were released, they Bible says, “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
- Respond by intentionally, boldly and openly living for and bearing witness of Jesus that all men through this witness might believe. Even though Jesus tells His disciples they will be persecuted, He also tells them they are “the salt of the earth”—meaning as His disciples, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, they should be willing to forsake all, endure persecution and live as peacemakers in the world. Jesus uses another metaphor to further explain this, saying they are “the light of the world”—meaning it is their responsibility as believers to shine the light of the gospel so that unbelievers can see the truth and be saved. Jesus says that a city that is set on a hill can’t be hid nor do people light a candle and put it under a bushel (basket). Finally, He concludes saying, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Thus, this is an unashamed, bold and public witness for Jesus in our words and actions.
Matthew 5:13-16; Psalm 27:1; Ephesians 5:8-9; Philippians 2:14-15; 1 Peter 2:9, 12; 4:1-2
- Should believers retaliate to persecution?
- How should believers respond appropriately to persecution?
- What is the believer’s motivation to respond appropriately to persecution?
- Why should believers rejoice when persecuted?
- After persecution, should a believer refrain from boldly living for Jesus?
Before persecution we need to prepare our minds, emotions, hearts and intellect to be ready for suffering and be in submission to the Bible. Also, we can be prepared by having a “now” and “then” mindset—meaning that we need practice these truths “now” and make them a habitual part of our Christian lives so that they are natural actions we take when we are persecuted “then”.
Prepare Your Minds, Emotions, Hearts And Intellect To Be Ready
1 Peter 3:13-17
- Prepare your mind to know that persecution is not fair but it can be a blessing. The moral should be: the wicked is punished and the righteous is rewarded. Thus, the question should be, “If we are eager to do good and be righteous who will harm us?” But we know that this world’s morals are not aligned with God’s, so even if we do right there is a chance for us to be persecuted. But even if we suffer for righteousness’ sake, we will be happy or blessed—meaning that we are honored to be counted worthy to suffer for doing right or for being identified with Jesus. It is God’s will that we do right, even if that means to suffer for doing it. Therefore, “It is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.”
- Prepare your emotions to not fear persecution. Fear is an emotion caused by the thought or feeling of something dangerous or bad is going to happen. Fear can cause us to be paralyzed in our ministry and witness for Jesus. But we are told not to fear. We are not to fear them, their threats or their terror. We are not to let it troubled us—meaning the anticipation, anxiety and distress of living the persecuted life should not hinder us.
Isaiah 8:12; Matthew 10:28, 31; Luke 12:7, 32; John 14:1; Acts 27:24; Philippians 1:14; 2 Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 11:27; 13:6; 1 John 4:18; Revelation 2:10; (Fear Hinders: John 7:13; 9:22; 12:42-43; Galatians 2:12)
- Prepare your hearts to sanctify Jesus. The Bible says, “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts”—this means that we are to be dedicated and devoted to Jesus as the Lord of our lives; it means to reverence, honor and trust in Him even in our most difficult situations and persecutions; it means believing that He is in control and not the persecutors. Thus, we are not to have fear of men, but to have a holy confidence in Jesus’ sovereignty.
Isaiah 8:13; Matthew 10:26-33; Luke 12:4-7
- Prepare your intellect to always to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give a reason of the hope that is in us. When we are persecuted, the opportunity to be a witness for Jesus often comes suddenly and we need to be prepared to give a defense to prove our belief is reasonable and right. We are to give this answer with meekness (gentleness) and fear (respect), having a good and clear conscience (a holy life before God) so that those who speak evil of us and falsely accuse our good behavior in Christ may be put to shame—meaning their slander will be silenced and hopefully cause them to consider the true nature of the gospel.
Examples of being ready to give an answer: Acts 22:1-21; 24:10-24; 26:1-23, 25b-29
Ways To Prepare “Now” For Handling Persecution “Then”
- Now: Expect persecution; Then: Don’t be caught off guard. Persecution and suffering as a “Christian” is a normal part of following Jesus. Thus, we shouldn’t think that it is strange or be surprised as though something weird was happening to us when we have to endure it. Persecution is to be expected. Peter calls it a “fiery trial which is to try you”—meaning an ordeal that causes agony and pain like a burning sensation causes. But persecution isn’t just suffering, but it is suffering with a purpose. God allows us to be tried through it and it builds our faith.
1 Peter 4:12
- Now: Establish an attitude of joy; Then: Keep an attitude of joy. Believers are to rejoice always and Peter also reminds us that inasmuch as we partake, share and participate in the sufferings of Christ we are to rejoice. If we are suffering for Jesus then we are suffering like He did—the righteous being persecuted by the wicked. If we rejoice in His sufferings, then when Jesus’ glory is revealed—meaning at the “second coming” we may be glad also with exceeding joy. Our focus is on that victory that is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Peter 4:13; (Rejoice: Philippians 4:4; Partakers of Christ’s sufferings: Matthew 5:10-12; Galatians 6:17; Philippians 1:29; 3:10; Colossians 1:24)
- Now: Be filled with the Holy Spirit; Then: Sense God’s special blessing. Believers are to be filled with the Holy Spirit and Peter also reminds us that if we are reproached, insulted or harshly criticized “for the name of Christ,” then we are happy or blessed because “the spirit of glory and of God rests upon us”—meaning that God’s presence is with persecuted believers in a special way. Thus, through the Holy Spirit’s work in the believers life, although the persecutors might be saying evil things about God, on the believers part God is glorified.
1 Peter 4:14; (Be filled with the Spirit: Ephesians 5:18; For the name of Christ: Acts 4:12; 5:41; 9:15, 16; 15:26)
- Now: Unashamedly glorify God in everything; Then: Don’t be ashamed but glorify God. As believers, we are to be living the victorious Christians life today and Peter also reminds us we are to suffer “as a Christian”—meaning because of identifying with Jesus and obeying the will of God. We shouldn’t be involved in activities that cause us to endure suffering if it isn’t for the name of Christ, such as being a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a meddler (“a busybody in other men’s matters”). When we suffer for the right reason, we have nothing to be ashamed of (to feel guilt, embarrassment or remorse) but instead we are to glorify God on this behalf—that we proudly bear the name of “Christian”. Know this, often when someone persecutes us because of Jesus it verifies that we are following in His footsteps. Thus, we need to glorify God for this.
1 Peter 4:15-16; (Not Ashamed: Romans 1:16; 5:5; 2 Timothy 1:12; Glorify God: 1 Corinthians 10:31)
- Now: Understand the temporal and eternal perspectives; Then: Remember trials are temporal but God’s rewards are eternal. God judges His church (the house of God) for the purpose of purifying and cleansing it. Persecution is a type of “examination” that refines us and helps us grow. If God allows believers to be persecuted to help make us holy, then how much worse will the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?—meaning that even though enduring persecution here on this earth is hard, it far outweighs the eternal punishment and damnation in the lake of fire that unbelievers will receive. But we will receive eternal reward in God’s Kingdom with Jesus.
1 Peter 4:17-18; (Perspective: Proverbs 11:31; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 5:9-11)
- Now: Commit your works unto the Lord and trust Him with all your heart; Then: Continue to obey God’s will and entrust your life to Him. We are to commit to God with our souls for our care and protection. When we suffer according to the will of God, we are to commit our entire lives to God who is our faithful Creator—the one who gave us life, and to continue to do good. Peter also reminds us that it is better to suffer for doing good according to the will of God than for doing evil.
1 Peter 4:19; (Commit and Do Good: Proverbs 3:5-6; 16:3; Psalm 37:3; Galatians 6:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:13; Hebrews 13:16; 1 Peter 2:22-23)
- How should we prepare our minds?
- How should we prepare our emotions?
- How should we prepare our hearts?
- How should we prepare our intellect?
- What are some ways to prepare “now” for handling persecution “then”?
We can go forward in the face of persecution if we are “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”—which is a simple command for us to act properly when in hostile environments. Also, we must be committed to ceaselessly preaching the gospel. Finally, we have to be willing to go forward doing right regardless of what happens. Thus, as a result and in the midst of persecution we will glorify God and fulfill His purposes and mission.
Go Forward In Wisdom And Harmlessness
- Jesus sent His disciples forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. In this scenario the sheep is the one in danger—meaning that the persecution was imminent for the disciples. Jesus knew that persecution was going to be a reality if they obeyed His command to go and preach the Kingdom and He sent them anyway. Thus, the advice He is going to give them wouldn’t mean they were to suspend their mission if they were persecuted or even at the “chance” of being persecution. Ceasing to preach or speak in the face of persecution was never intended, but His intention was to encourage them to “go forward,” but as they did, they were to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”.
Matthew 10:16; (Context: Matthew 10:1-42)
- “Wise as serpents”—in scripture, serpents are used both in a bad and good way. Here we are told to have this good characteristic: wisdom. Snakes have to be wise because they often live in hostile environments (not many people like them). The first aspect of this wisdom is being shrewd and having a sharp sense of judgement. They pay attention, are watchful and careful. The second aspect of this “wisdom” it to cause the disciples to keep from becoming “slothful” out of the timid, cautious and circumspect characteristics that come when facing danger. Thus, in the same way, we need to have this sense of wisdom as we face persecution.
(Compare to prudence: Proverbs 12:16, 23; 13:16; 14:8, 15, 18; 15:5; 16:21; 18:15; 22:3; 27:12)
- “Harmless as doves”—doves have no real defense or offense. They don’t fight back when attacked. They aren’t seeking to hurt others, take advantage of others, nor are they attacking others. They easily put themselves in danger so that is seems silly or stupid. A dove is vulnerable. It isn’t fearful nor does it hide. As a messenger of the gospel “harm” shouldn’t be characteristic of who we are. Though people will mock, hate and hurt us because of the gospel, we shouldn’t fight back. They might harm us, but we don’t harm them. To apply this to our lives we have to understand that God uses suffering for the advancement of the gospel. Our suffering is a testimony to the grace of God.
Go Forward Ceaselessly Proclaiming The Gospel
- Go forward speaking the gospel and do not be silent. As believers we are sent forth preaching the gospel and when we are persecuted for Jesus’ sake, we should continue being witnesses to them. In the face of persecution we should always be proclaiming the gospel message, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak through us. Jesus said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace”. Also, after Paul was arrested He used this opportunity to preach the gospel. Never cease preaching.
Matthew 10:18-20; Acts 18:9-11; 21:27-26:32
- Go forward speaking the gospel and if needed flee to another location. Jesus tells His disciples that when people persecute them in a certain city they were allowed to flee to another city. We should be aware and alert to the danger that could happen and if needed move to another location as long as we keep on preaching the gospel. We are permitted to leave a city because of persecution but we shouldn’t stop preaching the gospel. Thus, the task is more important than the location—even if the location can’t be changed.
- Go forward speaking the gospel and if persecuted keep speaking the gospel. Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city and left there supposing he was dead. But when the disciples stood round about him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe and preached the gospel there. Even after being stoned and left for dead, Paul was faithful to preaching the gospel.
Go Forward Doing Right Regardless Of What Happens
1 Peter 4:1-2
- Go forward obeying God even if persecution is inevitable. Paul was told by a prophet that the Jews at Jerusalem would bind him and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles when He went up to Jerusalem. When the believers heard this, they pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. But he would not be persuaded by them, saying, “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Finally, they said, “The will of the Lord be done.” Paul was willing to go forward knowing that persecution was inevitable.
- Go forward serving God even if it is against the law. When Daniel knew that the writing was signed (that said if anyone prayed to any god or man, except the king, during the next thirty days they would be thrown into the lion’s den) he went into his house and prayed just as he had done before the law was passed. He did what He had always done: he prayed with his windows open toward Jerusalem in his upper room; he did this three times each day—kneeling, praying and giving thanks before his God. He didn’t allow fear to keep Him from obeying God even though it had become illegal.
Daniel 6:10; (Daniel’s obedience to prayer: 1 Kings 8:35-36; 44-50; Psalms 55:16-17)
- Go forward by faith and not fear. After spying out the land, Caleb stilled the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and posses it; for we are well able to overcome it”. Then the other men that went up with Caleb to spy out the land disagreed with him and said, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we”. The other men were focused on the facts and looking at all the reasons why it couldn’t be done. They had a list of fearful reasons. This caused them to fear and caused the children of Israel to fear and doubt the promises of God. But Caleb had a mindset of faith. His report wasn’t focused on the giants but on God. All the same conditions were true, all the same giants were in the land just as the other men reported, but Caleb had faith that God was going to bring the victory.
Numbers 13:30-31; 14:7-9, 14, 24; Examples of faith: Hebrews 11:23-28, 32-40
- Go forward assembling together with the local church and not forsaking it. Some of the Hebrews were habitually abandoning and neglecting the local gathering of the church. This was wrong. The reasons why some stopped assembling together isn’t given, but whether it was because of persecution and the fear of gathering publicly and being identified with Jesus and His church or another reason, they risked abandoning the faith over time by not assembling. We assemble because we need to exhort (encourage) one another—especially to: draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith; hold fast the profession of our faith (hope) without wavering; and consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works. Thus if we need this at normal times, how much more in times of persecution and as we are living out His mission in this world. This is a nonnegotiable.
Hebrews 10:19-25; Matthew 12:30; Acts 2:42; 14:19-23 (Persecution in Hebrews 10:32-34; 12:3-4, 12-14; 13:3)
- What was the environment like that Jesus was sending His disciples into?
- What does being “wise as serpents” mean?
- What does being “harmless as doves” mean?
- What does ceaselessly preaching the gospel mean?
- What are some principles of doing right regardless of what happens?
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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?
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 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.
- 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)
- 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?
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.
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.)
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
- 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?
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.
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.
- 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?